Speech by Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President, USP at the Naming of the Australian Funded Lecture Theatre, Monday 31 August, 2015 from 12.30 to 2.00pm at the Lecture Theatre Foyer
1. Greetings and Acknowledgement
The Australian Minister for Education and Training, Honorable Christopher Pyne MP
H.E Ms Margaret Twomey, Australian High Commissioner to Fiji
Representatives from the Australian Delegation
Mr Iowane Naiveli, Acting Deputy Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Audit and Risk Committee
Ms Fay Yee, Chair of Finance and Investments Committee
Ms Denise O'Brien, Chief Executive Officer for APTC
Members of the Senior Management Team
Staff and Students of The University of the South Pacific
Ladies and Gentlemen
2. On behalf of the University, I extend a very warm welcome to you all and a very special welcome to Honorable Christopher Pyne, Minister for Education and Training of the Government of Australia and his delegation to the University.
3. I note that this is Minister Pyne’s first visit to USP and I hope Ho. Minister that you will visit us again as we are very keen to demonstrate that the University delivers excellent value for the generous support provided by the Government and people of Australia since its establishment in 1968.
4. Some significant examples of such support by the Government of Australia include funding support for the current Strategic Plan (2013-2018), the previous Strategic Plan (2010-2012), the construction of the current University Library in 1988, the construction of the lecture theatre complex in 1998 (commonly known as AusAID lecture theatre), provision of scholarships for regional students to study at USP and funding of various projects, including the development of the Banner system and establishment of direct internet connection between USP with the Australian Academic Research Network (USP-AARNet). This generous assistance has been extremely useful and important reflection of Australia’s confidence in USP.
5. Ladies and Gentlemen, USP and Australia both firmly believe that a better future for all Pacific Islanders can be created through appropriate and high quality education and human resource development and through regional co-operation and integration.
6. The USP Strategic Plan (2013-2018), developed in consultation with member countries and a range of stakeholders including Australia, clearly maps the steps that are needed to create a better university by 2018.
7. Hon. Minister, Australia is a valuable partner of USP in its aspiration to transform itself into an institution of excellence by 2018, which also marks our 50th year anniversary.
8. Under the current partnership, Australia has provided funding worth AUD49 million for three and a half years, covering 2014-2017. This grant is greater than any grant awarded to USP in its history. This partnership was launched on 28 April, 2014 by Senator Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Government of Australia.
9. In addition to direct assistance to the University, the Australian Awards Pacific Scholarships Scheme assists more than 300 regional students annually to study at USP. Over the life of this scheme, thousands of students have returned to their countries with the knowledge and skills needed to contribute to the development of their countries.
10. Besides this, we are delighted to host Australian students under the New Colombo Plan, which was launched by the Australian Foreign Minister Hon. Julie Bishop, when she visited the USP Cook Islands Campus on 31 March, 2015. We hosted 2 students under the New Colombo plan last semester and 1 one student this semester and hope to host many more in future.
11. The Honourable Minister might also be aware that on 31 October 2014, Hon. Julie Bishop launched the partnership between USP and the Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC), along with opening of the Pacific Fusion Training Restaurant and Kitchen. You will get to taste some of the food prepared by the students.
12. USP seeks to be widely recognised as offering education that is just as good as that offered by Universities in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and USA—but more relevant and cost effective, and one that keeps most of the graduates in the region.
13. With about 44,000 alumni, the University represents an excellent network for regional co-operaton and national development. Every year now, we produce upwards of about 2,650 high quality graduates who will go on to make significant contributions to their countries, to the region and the world at large. This makes the University one of the key institutions for regional co-operation, development and integration.
14. Ladies and gentlemen let me now talk about this lecture theatre built in 1998 and officially opened by the then Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honorable Alexander Downer, MP.
15. As you walk into the lecture theatres, you might not notice, but there is a small plaque on the ground where as acting Vice-Chancellor then I had the privilege on 20th August 1997 of joining Honourable Alexander Down in enclosing a time capsule during the ground-breaking ceremony for the theatres to be opened on the 50th anniversary of the University in 2018. I therefore have more than a passing interest in these lecture theatres.
16. With the recent rebranding of the foreign aid arm of the Australian Government from AusAID to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), we are pleased that the Honorable Minister will unveil a name for the lecture theatre that represents a landmark for USP-Australia partnership.
17. The complex comprising two lecture theatres and a performance space was a gift from the people of Australia to the communities of the South Pacific. The total construction cost for this complex was FJD 3.3m. This generous gift has been serving thousands of Pacific students since 1998, enhancing their learning and teaching experiences at the University.
18. Ladies and gentlemen, both Australia and USP have keen interest in the Framework for Pacific Regionalism, which our leaders have mandated member countries and Council of the Regional Original Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) agencies to work together in its implementation.
19. USP has dual roles –as a tertiary education provider as well as a member of CROP with lead responsibilities for human resource development and ICTs. The University is committed to supporting the Secretary-General of PIFS and working with fellow CROP agencies to address a number of areas identified as priorities in the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
20. One of the unique features of the University is that it is owned by 12 member countries having campus in all countries. By the virtue of USP’s physical presence in member countries it is a very good example of Pacific regionalism, which was recognised and acknowledged by the Pacific Plan Review Team and of course a strong advocate of regional co-operation and integration.
21. In conclusion, I wish to express the University community’s sincere appreciation to the Government and the people of Australia for their unfailing support to USP—and to assure the Australian Government and all stakeholders of USP that the University will continue its transformation to deliver excellent, high quality and relevant higher education, research outcomes, and public advice—and work closely with national tertiary institutions to ensure the development of an integrated, well-articulated tertiary ecosystem that meets the needs of our countries for smart societies and economies.
22. We look forward to further enhancing our partnership with Australia in areas of mutual interest to effectively meet the growing higher education, research and public policy needs of the Pacific region and to help in the implementation of the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism..
Introduction of the Minister
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my honour and privilege to introduce the Hon Minister.
• In 1993, at the age of 25, Hon Pyne was elected to the House of Representatives for the seat of Sturt. I am sure that this would have been a world record for being elected into parliament.
• Hon. Pyne is the Minister for Education and Training and Leader of the House of Representatives.
• In his time in Parliament he has been shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training, Manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, Minister for Ageing, Parliamentary Secretary for Health as well as Parliamentary Secretary for Family and Community Services.
• As Parliamentary Secretary for Health he founded “headspace: the Youth Mental Health Foundation” in July 2006.
• Hon. Pyne is the author of “A Letter to my Children”, published in 2015.
• Before entering Parliament, the Hon. Minister practiced as a solicitor and was a senior member of the Liberal Party, serving on both the Federal Executive (1990-91) and the South Australian State Executive (1988 92 and from 2010 to present).
• The Minister has written for The Adelaide Advertiser, The Melbourne Herald Sun, The Age The Sunday Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Adelaide Review, The Australian Financial Review and The Australian newspapers, as well as The Bulletin magazine. He regularly appears on radio and television as a commentator and advocate. From 1993 – 2004 he published his own issues journal, Options.
• Hon. Pyne is a member of many community, social and sporting groups in his electorate, and is a strong supporter of the Adelaide Crows and the mighty Redlegs Football Club!
These, Ladies and Gentlemen, are just a few of Honourable Pyne’s many and distinguished achievements.
It is now my distinct honor and privilege to invite the Honorable Minister to address us and launch the naming of the Australian funded lecture theatres.