I am very pleased to extend a warm welcome back and good wishes to all members of staff for the New Year. I hope that 2015 brings you good health, success and fulfilment.
We did well last year, and 2015 looks set to be another year of remarkable achievement for the University as we approach the mid-point of our Strategic Plan and lay the foundation for the next triennium.
When we consider “achievement”, it is essential to consider both our personal accomplishments and the progress that is made by the groups, communities, and institutions of which we are a part. Let us work harmoniously together to achieve as much as possible for our member countries.
I urge you to remember that the success of USP students is the best measure of both our individual and collective achievement. Levels of student success are an indication of the quality of the total package offered to learners, including the resources, facilities, teaching, international and research opportunities, and support services. For 2015, we need to prioritize increasing our retention and graduation rates as well as increasing the level of student satisfaction with our services.
Goals for 2015
Focus on Excellence
The overriding aim of the SP is to transform the University from good to excellent on its road to becoming a great university. This year, we need to focus more sharply on excellence. Just getting something done is not good enough. Being good is also not good enough. We need to be excellent. Everything that we do needs to be excellent. Thus when drawing up new policies, when evaluating the implementation of policies, in appointing new staff, in evaluating the performance of existing staff—in all these things—we need to constantly ask if these represent cutting-edge practice; are these truly innovative; and are they transforming the University into an excellent institution.
There is little doubt in my mind that one of the best things that we have done is the priority on the accreditation of our programmes. This is an excellent path to excellence. Accreditation is what differentiates us from other providers. This is why employers value us and why we are the first choice for students. We need to give accreditation even greater priority this year.
Strategic Plan Review
The University has its own goals for 2015 under the Strategic Plan 2013-2018, and I want to draw the attention of staff to accomplishing these. Look at your respective goals as well as the overall institutional goals. We will review our Strategic Plan this year to determine what has been achieved so far. The Review will determine whether we are on track to achieve the goals we have set for our 50th Anniversary in 2018. We need to assess realistically what can and cannot be achieved, and consider how to address these. We need the commitment of everyone as we go through this exercise.
Focus on Human Resources
The University will only become excellent if we have excellent recruitment system, induction programmes, competency enhancement programmes, and staff support systems, rigorous systems for the assessment of staff performance and a robust rewards system that recognizes and rewards excellence. Equally, our quest for excellence will not succeed unless we deal appropriately with those members of staff who do not perform well and those who are not committed or loyal to the institution. Negativity undermines any institution and must be tackled strongly.
I am pleased that we will have the full SMT from mid-March onwards, although we will, sadly, lose DVC Professor John Bythell who has to return to the UK for personal and family reasons. The new DVC LTSS, Professor Richard Coll will join us on 26th January, while the new Dean of FBE will join us on 2 March. SMT and Heads of Schools are being empowered (and will be further empowered as necessary) to lead significant change. I expect to spend more time in engagements with governments, secure additional funding (and protect existing levels of funding), building my SMT, monitoring the SP outcomes, and relating more to national tertiary institutions.
There will be a further review of H R this year with the view to having an H R section fully able to ensure excellence in human resources. Bottlenecks in appointments will be removed; supervisors will be further trained to ensure that they can enhance the outcomes of people under their charge; all positions will have up-to-date job descriptions; and time management across the University will be improved. All these, combined with policy revisions and automation, should see us move to excellence.
Further Improvement of the Finance Section
A major programme of improvement in the quality of services from the Finance section is underway this year. Significant improvement in processes is underway and will be completed. Significant enhancement of automation will be accomplished. The quality and accuracy of reports will be enhanced with the acquisition and operationalization of the new reporting software as well as the development of the data warehouse. Analytical work will be enhanced with a view to better utilization of data for monitoring, evaluation and decision-making.
Upgrading of ITS and USPNet
IT and USPNet are the backbone of our operations and learning and teaching. Significant funding has been provided in recent times for improving both these. With data and software upgrades, better processes, and the acquisition of greater bandwidth, combined with more use of fibre connectivity, we expect demonstrable improvements in the efficiency of ITS and satisfaction with that and with USPNet. Significant developments and improvements are underway, led by the new VP Administration. I expect sustained improvement and satisfaction from this vital section.
I believe that we must deepen engagement with the communities which we serve so that they continue to be committed to the further and higher education that is available at USP. I would, therefore, urge all campuses to hold at least one event per semester that is free and open to the community. These events could include academic seminars, art exhibitions, cultural performances, and alumni functions. These will be determined by the Campus Directors in consultation with the relevant sections. Student involvement in these events should be highly encouraged.
Major Effort to Improve Learning and Teaching and Research at Regional Campuses
This year will see the completion of a new Campus in Kiribati by July/August; the preparatory work finalised for the construction of the new Solomon Islands campus; the renovation of the premises acquired for the new Campus in the Marshall Islands, and substantial progress on the development of the new Lautoka campus. We will continue to plan the construction of additional student accommodation and upgrade connectivity, as well as improve learning and teaching facilities.
Increasing the level, scale, visibility and impact of research is a major objective of the SP. While we are making progress in this area, we need to give this greater priority. I would like us all to focus strongly on research, and consider the inclusion of different academic areas to foster multi-disciplinary approaches, the involvement of students in research projects, the possibility of carrying out research projects at the regional campuses, and the effective and creative dissemination of research results. We must improve our research outcomes if we are to become a world-class university. We always say that the University is doing research relevant to the region—it is time now to communicate and demonstrate concretely what research we have done that the region is benefiting from or can benefit from in the near future.
Entrepreneurship is an important objective of the SP. We will need to make more progress in this area both to put the university on a more sustainable footing and to enhance the value and employability of our graduates. Within this framework, we need to ensure that innovations from research are commercialized.
This year is one that will determine our success during the next triennium as we convince the UGC and the regional Ministers of Finance about our funding requirements for 2016-2018. The funding formula is being reviewed. Funding arrangements might, therefore, change. We will need to manage that within a tight timeframe. We will need everybody’s co-operation and assistance. We need to work hard and together, and support each other. So let us build on our achievements to date and accelerate our progress on the journey to excellence.
I wish you a very positive and productive 2015.