Office of the Vice-Chancellor



Vice-Chancellor and President's Speech: September Graduation Ceremony 2017

Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President

1. Acknowledgements

The Acting Chancellor and Chair of Council of The University of the South Pacific, Ambassador Winston Thompson;
Acting Pro Chancellor and Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, Mr. James Bosamata;
Honourable Cabinet Ministers and Senior Officials of the Solomon Islands Government;
Honourable members of parliament;
Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Police;
Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellors of SINU;
USP SI Campus Acting Director, Dr. Patricia Rodie;  
Heads of International and Regional Organizations;
Chair and Members of the SI Campus Advisory Committee; 
Graduands and their families and friends;
Distinguished guests;
Members of Staff and students; and
Ladies and Gentlemen.

2. Welcome

Welkom and a very good morning to you all. 

It gives me great pleasure to join the Acting Pro Chancellor in warmly welcoming you all to the University of the South Pacific’s Solomon Island Campus Graduation for 2017.  

I would like to especially welcome the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Mr. James Bosamata, who has kindly agreed to perform the role of Pro Chancellor at this graduation. I also extend a very special welcome to the graduands because of whom we are gathered here today. 

3. Graduation Numbers

Today, we have 228 students receiving degrees, diplomas, and certificates:   

  • 39% of all graduates are females. Comment on the overall percentage at Laucala and other graduations and the need to improve this.
  • 40 students are from Pacific TAFE, the fastest expanding unit of the University
  • About 58% of the students are graduating in undergraduate programmes.
  • 55 students, or 24 percent are graduating with Postgraduate qualifications, including 4 with the degree of Master. 
  • 223 of the 228 graduates are from Solomon Islands, 2 students are from Marshall Islands and 3 students are from Fiji. 

4. To the Graduates

To our graduates, let me say that you have done exceptionally well and I congratulate you heartily.  Today concludes the achievement of a major milestone in your life—one that will fundamentally change your life and increase the chance of lifelong success anywhere in the world.

Today, you really deserve to celebrate. You all have worked hard, sacrificed and persevered. You now join over 47, 000 USP alumni worldwide. Remember to thank those who have supported you so far, your parents & families, sponsors, lecturers and tutors without whose support you would not have reached this far. I urge you to maintain your links with your university through the Alumni network.

5. Significant Achievements 

USP is currently in the fifth year of its current Strategic Plan which aims to steer the University towards becoming an excellent institution that delivers outstanding results for the Pacific Island region with a world-wide reputation.

USP’s current enrollment stands strong at about 30,000, driven by the attraction to quality education that makes it the premier higher education institution in the region.

The University has continued its quest to improve its quality and reputation through international accreditations of its programmes. We have now achieved a total number of 24 international accreditations and 8 international recognitions, exceeding our Strategic Plan targets—and we hope to add more by the end of the SP. 

This includes Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood and Care (In-service) programme by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). The Bachelor of Arts, Social Work major has been accredited by the Australian Community Workers Association (ACWA). 

Pacific TAFE has now achieved a total of 8 international accreditations, 5 international recognitions, and 14 accreditations from the Fiji Higher Education Commission that are listed on the Pacific Qualifications Register in the areas of Commercial Cookery, Early Childhood Education & Care, Hospitality Operations, Community Development, Project Management Practice and Counselling. 

Student enrolment at the USP Solomon Campus remains high for a Campus of this size. This year, we have 4405 students enrolled at the campus, and enrolment has grown by 17 percent. This points to the increasing demand in Solomon Islands for tertiary education that is likely to continue well into the future.

USP continues to strongly focus on the priorities of member countries through its Strategic Research Themes (SRTs).     There are currently six SRT-based projects, funded by USP, involving the Solomon Islands. These are:

1.  The role of sports in forging social cohesion, peace and nation building in the Solomon Islands led by a son of Solomon Islands, Dr. Jeremy Dorovolomo;

2.  Keeping balance: the status and importance of seagrass ecosystem in the Pacific Oceanscape led by Dr. Gilianne Brodie;

3. Educational tools for children with visual disabilities according to Pacific regions’ needs: Challenges and Solutions – the Innovation led by Dr. Utkal Mehta;

4.  Study of journalists, journalism culture and climate change reporting in 12 USP-member countries led by Dr. Shailendra Singh;

5.  The Gender Gap in Learning Achievement and Transition to Science, Technology and Mathematics in Higher Education: A Study of Seven Pacific Countries led by Dr. Salanieta Bakalevu;

6. English for Deaf Sign Language Users, Still a Challenge in Pacific region? Study and Solution on ICT tool led by Dr Utkal Mehta.

Another SRT-based project involving the Solomon Islands has just been approved. Titled “Evaluating the Effectiveness of s of National Adaptation Programme of Action on Climate Change in five Pacific Least Development Countries (LDC’s) – The Case of Solomon Islands,” it is led by Dr. Morgan Wairiu, another outstanding Solomon Islander who is the Deputy Director of PACE-SD.   This project, in collaboration with the Solomon Islands National University, is multi-disciplinary and focuses on climate change impacts across all sectors including: food security, water supply and sanitation, human settlements, human health and education, awareness and information.

The University wishes to congratulate the Government of Solomon Islands for establishing the Solomon Islands Tertiary Education and Skills Authority (SITESA). I wish to assure the government that USP is fully committed to working within the policies and procedures established by SITESA, and will support it fully.

The USP SI Campus has two Centres, Gizo and Lata, that are operational. We need to reach more students in more provinces and plan to establish a Centre in each of the Provinces. 

6. Achievements of USP Solomon Islands Campus and Future Developments

The staffing gaps experienced at the Campus last year have almost been fully addressed. We now have an Accountant, and part-time employees have been appointed full-time. The only key position pending recruitment is that of the Pro-Vice Chancellor. We could not find a suitable candidate in the first round of recruitment and have therefore re-advertised the position. We hope to have this position filled in the next four months.

The overflowing waste water which had been causing the campus great discomfort has been fixed. We have also added 22 new computers to the existing number of computers for students. In order to provide for more study space and student learning support the SMI Building at Town Ground has also been secured. This new building will help greatly in providing additional space for students of a quality that is more like what USP brand requires and assures.

I am pleased that the Ministry of Education is planning to sponsor first year students to do their studies at the local campus before leaving for Laucala Campus.  100 Level Arts courses, as well as some Science courses can be done at the campus here through both the online and blended modes. The campus also offers Post Graduate programmes. The MBA and the Master of Education are two of the most popular such programmes at this campus.

The University also supports the communities, business houses, government and those citizens who may not have had the chance to go through the formal education system by providing continuing and community outreach programmes that include: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Studies in areas such as English, Mathematics, Book Keeping and Computing. These courses provide a pathway for students to get into the academic stream. The campus also offers a number of Professional Skills training in Project Management, Customer Service and Computer Skills. There are 87 untrained teachers from the Makira Ulawa Province currently undertaking the  Certificate in Teaching programme and will graduate in two years’ time. 

The Lecture Capture project was also launched successfully at the beginning of the 1st semester this year. Lecture capture enables lectures taken at Laucala, Alafua and Emalus campuses to be recorded and put on the University’s Moodle system to allow greater access to lectures the convenience and comfort of the students. Many more students at the regional campuses can now enroll in these courses. This should revolutionize regional access to courses and programmes and help greatly our intention to provide more in-country programmes.

Responding to new needs, USP began offering new programmes from second semester of this year: Diploma of Library and Information Services (Level 5); Certificate III in Small Business Development; Diploma in Pacific Vernacular Language (Cook Islands (CI) Māori); Post Graduate Diploma in Cybersecurity; Certificate III/IV in Resilience, Diploma of Early Childhood Education & Care (Level 5) and Diploma of Counselling.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Solomon Islands Campus was successfully held on 24 August, 2017. The ADB has provided a loan of US$15.4 million for the development of the new Solomon Islands Campus. In addition to this, US$1.5m grant was provided by the ADB for renewable energy that will meet 75 per cent of the energy needs of the new Campus. This has been long in the making (and waiting I might add) and we are very excited to be at this stage and look forward to an outstanding campus that has been worth waiting for. I thank the Government for its leadership and support for the new campus.

7. 50th Anniversary Preparations

In 2018, the University will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary.  I want to take this opportunity to invite all of you to be part of this historic milestone in the development of USP and the development of our region and to organize local events that mark this major milestone.

8. Thanks and Appreciation

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Solomon Islands, development partners and our friends for their continuous support. I also thank the University Council and its Committees, Senate and Senior Management, staff and students for their continued support towards transforming and reforming USP from a good to an excellent University. 

9. A Final Word

Chancellor Sir, ladies and gentlemen, a final word to the graduands – Congratulations once again. I have every confidence that each and every one of you will excel in your life and make your families, your country, and all of us proud.  

Tank you tumas and God Bless.

29 September 2017


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