Over the past 30 years, thousands of Cook Islanders have enrolled in USP courses and many have gained qualifications at certificate, diploma, degree and postgraduate degree levels. Of a total resident Cook Islands population of just over 7000 adults, over 140 currently hold undergraduate or postgraduate degrees from the University.
The USP Cook Islands centre was officially established in 1975 under the directorship of Mr. Neville Pearson and housed at the Public Health building in Tupapa, Rarotonga.
At this time the Centre was linked to the main USP campus at Laucala using the Peacesat satellite service.
The current campus buildings were opened at Takamoa in 1979.
At the end of 1981, Mr. John Herrmann assumed the position of Director, holding the post for the following 21 years. The present Director assumed duties in August 2002.
New technologies & distance learning
USPNet and other new technologies, together with the increased use of face-to- face teaching (summer and winter schools), plus online and video broadcast courses have allowed students to complete their degree programme more quickly, without the need to leave home. Currently around 350 Cook Islands students enrol in distance courses each semester (over 700 a year). The main areas of study are Accounting, Management, Primary Education, Economics, Policing, Law, etc.
The Centre pursues an active programme of pre-degree summer schools in the outer islands designed to help develop the next generation of university students. A significant number of outer islands primary teachers have been enrolled in the University's Bachelor of Education (Primary) course in an attempt to increase education standards across the nation.
Cook islands graduates
Around 80% of Cook Islands USP graduates have remained in-country and contribute significantly to Cook Islands development. Around 20% have proceeded overseas for postgraduate studies at Universities as far afield as Harvard University, the Australian National University, the University of Pennsylvania and ISS Netherlands.
The Centre has a 15 workstation computer library with 'always -on' internet and email access and audio and video conferencing facilities. The campus includes a small science laboratory and bookshop. A library and resource centre are housed in the adjoining Cook Islands Library/Museum building. The campus is developing an active artists programme and developing a small arts and sculpture collection reflective of the Cook Islands and its region.
A new campus is in the early stage of development on a 16 acre site gifted to the University by Papa Tangaroa Kainuku and Mama Ngamata Fuller. The new campus will incorporate an international study abroad program based around Pacific Arts, Pacific Studies and Pacific Natural Resource Management. At the core of the new campus will be a Cook Islands 'are vananga (house of learning) designed to record, develop and transmit knowledge of Cook Islands language, philosophy, science, and technology.