The Director-General of ADB's Pacific Department, Mr Xianbin Yao and the Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Rajesh Chandra at the loan signing ceremony.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) today signed the first loan agreement for a US$19 million loan package to help USP upgrade its regional campuses and ensure that students have access to innovative distance and e-learning.
For ADB, this is the first highly concessional Asian Development Fund (ADF) loan to a regional institution, and USP’s first development loan.
“The Pacific’s population is young, and desperate for high-quality education that will prepare them for better jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. With the right education and training, they can be the critical drivers of development for the region,” said ADB's Pacific Department Director-General, Mr Xianbin Yao at the signing ceremony held at USP’s Laucala campus.
By supporting USP to implement its strategic plans, ADB believes that higher education will become more accessible for many students in the region, especially for those who live in remote islands in the Pacific.
“USP’s innovative use of communication technology for distance and flexible learning is critical to reach students across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean in delivering a range of higher education programmes,” Mr Xianbin Yao explained.
Present at the signing were senior members of the University staff including the Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra, and the Chair Designate of USP Council, Mr Ikbal Jannif, as well as representatives of ADB and government officials from Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Republic of Marshall Islands, India and other USP member countries.
“The loan is a commitment by the University to enhance the success of its students by improving learning environments and teaching facilities, and supporting on-campus learning to further strengthen pan-Pacific consciousness across all of its campuses,” Professor Chandra stated.
Both Professor Chandra and Mr Xianbin Yao believe that the loan agreement creates a platform for greater collaboration on resource and knowledge sharing between the two organisations in creating sustainable development for Pacific Island Countries (PICs).
“It was a significant decision for USP to borrow funds for its development and we are very pleased to have ADB as our partner. I hope our relationship will not stop at financing, but instead expand to broader partnership in jointly helping the socio-economic development of the Pacific region,” the Vice-Chancellor added.
The US$19 million loan package will comprise four separate components to be implemented over eight years. The first component of the loan, amounting to US$2.6 million, is guaranteed by the Government of Kiribati, and will support civil works and ICT connectivity in the Kiribati campus. This will include the construction of additional classrooms, an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) studio, and student and administrative facilities at the new Kiribati campus.
In the Solomon Islands, the investment of US$9.75m will see the construction of a new campus which is purpose designed to include modern teaching facilities, computer labs, lecture theatres, a library, two science labs, a medical centre, student canteen and other offices and needed amenities.
Further investments from the loan will be made towards the construction of a Regional House for student accommodation at the main Laucala campus in Suva. This investment will cater for students from other Pacific countries and overseas, particularly women with families.
USP will also be expanding the ICT infrastructure at the regional campuses as well. Investment in the area of ICT will allow member country campuses to benefit more from state-of-the-art facilities at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre in Laucala and be part of the knowledge network.