Welcome Back to the University, 2010
I wish to welcome you all back to the University and to the 2010 academic year.
I hope that you all had a good break, and are ready for another very productive, significant and challenging year for us.
Through the efforts of all our staff, Council, member governments and development partners, 2009 was extremely successful, for which I am most grateful to all of you.
In a short span of time, the University was able to develop and get its new Strategic Plan 2010-2012 approved. For the first time, the Strategic Plan was externally reviewed; involved the stakeholders in its preparation; is fully costed; has timelines for the achievements of KPIs; and has a strong implementation and monitoring mechanism.
The University was also able to move from ad-hoc yearly funding from governments to a new triennial arrangement starting from this year. The UGC Report was similarly fully costed, including the cost of Strategic Plan initiatives, and did not seek additional funding from member Governments. Our funding is now approved for the whole triennium.
Very significant and far-reaching academic reforms were either begun or completed. We made significant headway in re-organizing the academic structure to make it more cohesive, relevant and cost-effective. A large number of courses were abolished to release resources for other academic enhancements, such as student support, increased research funding, conference funding, staff development, capital expenditure, as well as enhanced support for regional campuses.
The University was able to convince development partners that it is an excellent vehicle for regional assistance, being cost-effective and sustainable, of high quality and innovative. Both the Australian and New Zealand Governments have significantly increased their support to the University, and we are about to sign three-year partnerships with them in the place of the one-year ad-hoc agreements that we had previously.
Support from Member Governments has also improved greatly, in spite of the precarious economic position of many governments. This is a result of recent work that has convinced and demonstrated to the Governments that the University is using its resources carefully and effectively.
2010 Will be an Exciting Year for USP
This year promises to be an exciting year for us - this is the first year for the implementation of the Strategic Plan. The SP will provide a clear focus for our work for the next three years. I encourage all staff and all sections to become fully familiar with the SP and its six objectives dealing with learning and teaching; student support; research and innovation; regional and international engagement; governance, management and continuous improvement; and human resources.
Quality must underpin our learning and teaching, research and innovation--and everything else we do. This is what will increasingly differentiate the USP brand from others. We will need to work hard to maintain and enhance our quality.
Staff will begin to see many benefits from the changes that the University has been making. We will also see the beginning of major initiatives that will be crucial to the University's survival and further and future development.
The Annual Plan 2010 provides for a trebling of research funding in order to significantly enhance our research performance. Staff development funding has also been doubled, and conference leave has been increased. Key new appointments are being made to strengthen staffing and to meet regional needs. Senior level academic strength is being increased to provide for adequate mentoring and staff development opportunities for younger staff.
We are also in the process of working together with the AUSPS on responding to the review of academic staff terms and conditions. The consultant has made many recommendations and observations that can fundamentally change our terms and conditions. We are committed to working with AUSPS to make a joint submission to the Council to ensure that the University continues to provide terms and conditions that are essential to the recruitment and retention of high quality staff, while being open to suggestions to do this in the most efficient and effective manner possible. An agreed mechanism for doing this is already in place and functioning. This will be an important challenge for us in 2010.
A sustained and innovative programme of staff development is being prepared for implementation from this year for all staff. This will allow for both specific as well as broad management and leadership training. Last year's leadership workshop will be followed up this year. Particular attention will be paid to providing leadership and management enhancement for Heads of Schools and Directors.
In an effort to give all staff opportunities to influence policy and suggest innovations, we will institute a system that will allow any staff member whose ideas are worthy of further development, to be invited to make presentations at meetings of the Senior Management Team.
Student support is being upgraded, with Success@USP now institutionalised. Campus life is being improved. Major renovations have been made to student hostels, and a new hostel is planned to be constructed this year.
First year student experience will be enhanced as a special initiative, with feedback systems, additional counselling, and better provision of remedial services where needed. We will also work closely with the USPSA in further developing this area.
In an effort to improve our international profile, a number of international conferences will be organised this year.
The campus is being uplifted with many initiatives, including the new Master Plan.
The Japan-Pacific ICT Centre will be completed at the end of March, and should see a demonstrable step-up in its ICT related activities. The construction of an additional multi- purpose building will also begin around May, giving USP unparalleled capacity in ICT in our region.
The new AusAID funded Pacific Centre for Public Administration (PICPA) will also begin this year, with the appointment of Director already in process. This will provide enormous opportunities for the University to serve the region with additional resources provided by the Australian government and to develop useful synergies with our undergraduate and graduate programmes in public administration.
We will most likely begin a development partnership with Korea this year, as well as with the Government of India and the ADB. The Government of India has already provided a grant of US$1 million to USP through the ADB and a Mission from ADB and the Government of India will visit us from 28 February to 3rd March. Discussions are also underway with the Government of China on a potential partnership. We have signed a MOU with UNFEM to develop capacity on gender issues with future media professionals and support for a possible establishment of a Centre for Gender Studies at USP and with UNDP to provide a framework of co-operation and facilitate collaboration between the two parties, on a non-exclusive basis, in areas of mutual interest. These represent significant expansion of our development partnership.
The USPNet is being upgraded. Some of the upgrade has been completed, which has provided servers to regional campuses to regionalize some of the USPNet functions. A new audio and video system called REACT is being installed. Final assessments are being done to move the entire USPNet platform to a new system, giving us greater reliability and flexibility. This should be completed by the end of the first semester.
The further development of flexible learning and teaching - and the conversion of entire programmes for flexible delivery will be a hall-mark of 2010.
We will also need to ensure that the USP culture is one of excellence; of service to the region; of integrity and openness; of innovation; and delivering results to our stakeholders. It is vital that we go beyond personal, sectional or national interests and embrace the call for a more cohesive University committed to giving our region the best it deserves.
Professor Rajesh Chandra
Vice-Chancellor and President