OPENING ADDRESS OF THE HONOURABLE JIOJI KONROTE MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, PRODUCTIVITY AND INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC OPEN DAY
[Friday, 7 August 2015]
Welcome and Introduction
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Richard Coll, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Learning, Teaching and Student Support, University of the South Pacific, (USP) Deans of the Three Faculties, Heads of Schools, and the Senior Management Team, my fellow Government Ministers, Your Excellencies and Heads of the Diplomatic Corps, Heads of International and Regional Organisations, Senior Government Officials, Principals, Teachers and Students, Sponsors for the Open Day, Members of the staff and Friends.
Ni sa Bula Vinaka, Namaste, As-Salamu Alaykum; Gud fala mone go long iu, Malo tau ma’u e pongipongi ni, Manuia le taeao, Ko na Mauri and a very Good Morning to you all!
Minister’s Opening Remarks
I deem it a great honour and pleasure indeed for me to be here with you today as The University of the South Pacific (USP) showcases its excellent facilities within its peaceful environment but more importantly, its wide-ranging and quality academic programmes which are available within the institution.
Let me extend a warm welcome to all our distinguished guests, including prospective students who are here to find out more about USP.
I believe that this year’s Open Day theme: “USP – Shaping Your Future” captures the essence of the role of USP in providing opportunities for higher education and various pathways for students into the world of higher education. For the prospective students, what you see, hear and learn during this year’s UPS Open Day should help you in making the right choice – a choice that should hopefully shape your future and prepare you for lifelong success.
General Remarks about USP
The University of the South Pacific is the place where many future leaders spend their formative years gaining intellectual exposure and leadership skills. It is the place where your first professional networks are established. I am indeed pleased and proud to say that USP has produced around 44,000 alumni, many of whom have gone forth and made significant contributions in the region and the world over.
Since its establishment in 1968, the University has become the beacon of premier tertiary education in the Pacific, and it is still growing in strength.
The University represents 12 Pacific Island nations and has campuses and centres in each of them, with Laucala being the Headquarters, Alafua Campus in Samoa hosting the School of Agriculture, and Vanuatu’s Emalus Campus hosting the School of Law. Courses are available through a range of modes including distance of flexible modes, and face-to-face learning at all its campuses.
The University currently has a total of 28,001 students (July, 2015). More than 2000 students graduate from USP every year, in various fields of study, with many graduands going on to occupy positions of importance in their home countries and abroad.
Importance of Education
Let me re-emphasise the importance of education. The global economy is increasingly knowledge-based, and for a country like Fiji as well as our Pacific Island neighbouring states, we need more knowledgeable people with intelligence, skills and tools to find solutions to the challenges that we all face. The Government of Fiji recognises the need to create a “smarter Fiji” and in this regard is very focussed in achieving one of its targeted outcomes of creating Fiji as knowledge-based society.
As such, the Government has extended free education for primary and secondary school students and to pre-school students from the beginning of the second term this year. This is a positive step towards helping parents fulfil the dreams that they have for their children.
Additionally, the Tertiary Education Loan Scheme (TELS) offered by the Government is being fully utilised by students, and will no doubt contribute to a more educated labour force in the region in years to come. TELS covers the full cost of tuitions and will not have to be repaid until after a student has graduated and received employment. The University, of course, is one of the valuable partners in supporting this Government initiative.
Government of Fiji – USP Relationship
The Government of Fiji shares an important and crucial relationship with The University of the South Pacific. We believe that USP is vital in helping the Government produce an educated workforce.
We have a number of significant collaborations with USP. Let me mention some of these:
Firstly the Fiji Government is the largest contributor among the member countries. It has supported the University from its inception and that support is growing and will be maintained in the future, e.g.
a) The partnership between the Department of Energy and the USP enabled the establishment of a biofuel testing laboratory worth F$865,000 to be based at the Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS). This allowed biofuel producers in Fiji and possibly the region to have easy access to accredited fuel testing facilities which ensures that test costs are reduced and improved turnaround times for samples to be analysed. This project benefits, not only Fiji but the wider region.
b) The Government of Fiji also supported The University of the South Pacific with the securing of funds from the Japanese Grant Aid worth F$61m for the construction of the Japan Pacific ICT Centre Building A and Building B. This has resulted in the Centre being the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) “Hub” for the Pacific region.
c) The University’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) is also working with the Ministry of Tourism towards the development of Tourism in Fiji through providing internships for recently graduating students.
d) Collaboration between PSC and USP’s Pacific TAFE, which has trained and is training a number of civil servants. This is part of the Government’s Civil Service reforms to have well qualified and professional accredited senior officers in the public service.
e) This year, a number of new partnerships have been formed between USP and offices/institutions of the Government of Fiji. These include:
- MOU between USP and The Fisheries Department (Fiji) on Fisheries Cooperation to work towards the development of the fisheries sector in Fiji through research and policy level interventions;
- MOU between USP and Fiji National University where the parties recognise that their respective missions are to contribute to education and training in Fiji through substantial opportunity for cooperation, in particular, on issues related to the design, development and delivery of educational programmes and achieve this on the basis of reciprocity and mutual benefit;
- Letter of Agreement (LOA) between USP and Fiji Maritime Academy to provide quality research and educational support to Pacific Islands Countries; and
- MOU between Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport (MoIT) and USP where the aim is to foster a collaborative relationship between Pacific Center for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD) of USP and MoIT through mutual cooperation in research data analysis on transport systems as well as the trial and testing on new designed of sustainable transport vessels. Let me add that the Government is very pleased and equally satisfied to have partnered with the University on these important areas and is most desirous to see the impact of the outcomes these partnership and arrangements will have, not only on Fiji but the region.
An event like the Open Day is very important for aspiring university students as it is your introduction to what a University environment and life will look like. Therefore, the information that you will acquire today, as prospective students will undoubtedly be useful in helping you make a very important decision in your lives, and that is, to consider The University of the South Pacific as a preferred place for your higher education needs.
Let me mention a few obvious reasons that make USP an excellent option.
a) USP’s programmes and courses are of the best quality, its support services unrivalled, and its research outputs impressive. The best indication of its impact on the region is its students and graduates. All of the learning and teaching efforts at USP ultimately produce the most capable human resources for the region.
b) The University strives for excellence in every academic undertaking to offer internationally recognised qualifications that includes the following:
- The Association of MBAs (AMBA) accredited the USP MBA programme for three years at the end of 2013.
- The University’s Bachelor of Laws degree has now been specifically recognised as a qualification ‘substantially equivalent’ to an Australian law degree by the Law Admissions Consultative Committee (LACC) of the Law Council of Australia;
- USP’s Accounting and Finance degrees were successfully re-accredited until 2018 by Certified Public Accounting (CPA) Australia;
- The University received a very encouraging response for accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) which shows that the University can hold its own against any University in the world.
- The USP’s School of Tourism & Hospitality Management Programme was awarded Associate membership of the International Centre of Excellence in Tourism and Hospitality Education (THE-ICE) in 2010.
- Bachelor of Net-centric Computing (BNC) and Bachelor of Software Engineering (BSE) have been provisionally accredited by the Australian Computer Society (ACS), which is a signatory to the Seoul Accord. A person who completes a professional level qualification is eligible to become a member of the ACS, and be granted the CT (Certified Technologist) post-nominal. They will be eligible to apply for recognition as a Certified Professional (CP) after 5 years of suitable professional ICT experience.
c) USP students enjoy some of the best facilities in a relaxing, comfortable, multi-cultural environment. You can be assured that USP offers a holistic environment that will help and motivate you towards your goals.
d) The study experience you will get here will help build lasting networks in a unique understanding of diverse Pacific cultures and the region’s politics, economics and demography.
e) By using advanced pedagogy, USP prides itself on providing excellent facilities, which are recognized as being of an exceptional standard across the Pacific region.
f) The University also offers a range of student exchange programmes, where its students are given the opportunity to travel to other countries and to experience cultures other than their own.
Emphasis of Entrepreneurship and Employability
As Minister for Employment I would like to further stress the strong link between good quality education and employability. The Government has seen that in general, people with higher levels of education have better job prospects; the difference is particularly marked between those who have attained tertiary education and those who have not. Our countries depend upon a stable supply of well-educated workers to promote economic development and USP has lived well beyond our expectation to deliver.
However, ‘employability’ of graduates should not be seen as the primary focus of higher education and I am very pleased to note that under Priority Area 1 and Objective 1 of USP’s Strategic Plan, the University is placing a lot of emphasis on “building more entrepreneurship training into curriculum.”
While we are very pleased to see our youths climbing the stairs of success within multinationals and corporate organisations, we need more entrepreneurs and job creators as well. I believe the University has the ability to instill sound business acumen that our nation needs in young people to venture out into business and this is evident in the caliber of entrepreneurs that the University has produced over time.
USP, through its Pacific TAFE section provides high quality skills based programmes and short trainings for employment opportunities, pathways for higher studies at USP and for career advancements. We are very glad that the majority of Pacific TAFE programmes service broad employability skills facets required by our industries such as communications, teamwork, problem solving and many more and therefore ensures not only the employability of skill based graduates, but that the needs of the employer is being met.
As Minister for Employment, I would like to conclude with these words of advice to you, as prospective students, you have the opportunity today to think and decide what you would really like to do in future and select the course and programmes that you would want to do that will assist in achieving your goals!
Gather as much information as possible. Carefully assess what is best for you and how the University you are choosing will help you develop your special abilities and qualities into a career.
May I wish you well and every success in your deliberations and future endeavours.
It is now with great pleasure that I declare the 2015 USP Open Day officially opened.
Thank you, Vinaka vakalevu, Dhanyavaad, God Bless!
[HON. J K KONROTE]
Major General (Ret’d)
Minister for Employment, Productivity & Industrial Relations