Australian Department of Foreign Affairs First Secretary James O’Brien during the seminar.
The University of the South Pacific (USP), Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) convened a research-for-development seminar to mark the next steps of the USP Post-graduate Scholarship Scheme.
In his opening address at Tiko’s Floating Restaurant on 21 June 2016, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs First Secretary James O’Brien commended the programme saying it has been ongoing for the past eight years.
“This is fundamentally a capacity-building programme and certainly is money well-spent in ensuring the creation of a stronger, prosperous and more resilient Pacific,” he stated.
Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) Dr Anjeela Jokhan acknowledged Mr O Brien’s presence saying their office is always very supportive in terms of dealing with ACIAR scholarships.
Associate Professor at the School of Engineering and Physics Sushil Kumar said under this scholarship, so far there have been 90-100 percent completion rate of the Postgraduate Diploma programme, 40-50 percent for Masters and 60 per cent completion rate for PhD.
Research Programme Manager, Horticulture at the University of Sunshine Coast Dr. Richard Markham said it is a proud moment to be looking at the next phase of the scheme.
“It is particularly rewarding to know that when you do your research you are looking at a problem that has been recognised as a priority by your country or industry and that you can actually make a substantive contribution to solving it,” he further stated.
The current scholarship programme, funded by the Australian Government through ACIAR, was established in 2008.
Now in its second phase, supported at a level of AUD$450,000 per year, the scheme has so far funded a total of 83 scholarships – 40 postgraduate diplomas, 38 Masters of Science and 5 PhDs. The second phase of the scholarships will continue until 2018.
A unique feature of this scholarship scheme is that awardees conduct their thesis research in the context of an ACIAR research-for-development project in the region.
Based on this first-hand experience of problem-solving research, many of the graduates from the scheme have gone on to make tremendous contributions to their national organisations and industries – in fisheries and aquaculture, forestry and agroforestry, horticulture and agribusiness in general.
Following the signature of the second phase of the agreement between ACIAR and USP in 2015, a new intake of 12 students took up their scholarships in January 2016 – five at MSc level and seven for postgraduate diplomas.
A further 8 scholarships will be awarded during 2016, for studies commencing in January 2017.
The scholarship scheme is open to citizens of Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu and is aimed at students who seek a research career in forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and related disciplines.
For the new phase of the scheme, ACIAR, in consultation with USP, has selected the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) to support the scholarship programme.
One of Australia’s fastest growing universities, USC is based in Queensland. The University is recogniSed in Australia and internationally for its effective teaching and strong applied research programme, with a special focus on the Pacific region.
While the details of this ‘twinning scheme’ are still being finalised, it is expected to promote the exchange of experiences between the two universities and eventually offer opportunities for academic exchanges and inter-university studies.
As well as marking the launch of this new phase of the Post-graduate Scholarship Scheme, the seminar featured the work of some of the current USP research students in fisheries and aquaculture, as well as highlighting new research initiatives – in agribusiness, forestry, horticulture and livestock – that ACIAR is supporting in the region.
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