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Honourable Henry Puna installed as the 23rd Chancellor of USP

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Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council Mr Winston Thompson installs the Prime Minister of Cook Islands Honourable Henry Puna as the 23rd USP Chancellor.

The University of the South Pacific (USP) formally installed Prime Minister of Cook Islands Honourable Henry Puna as the 23rd Chancellor of the University at the Vodafone Arena during the Laucala Campus graduation ceremony on 26 August 2016.

Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council Mr Winston Thompson warmly welcomed the new Chancellor on behalf of the University Council. He assured Honourable Puna of the full support from the USP community.

“We would also like to thank Prime Minister Puna for honouring the University in the lead up to the milestone of the 50th Anniversary in 2018,” Mr Thompson said.

Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP during Honourable Puna’s visit to the Laucala Campus on 25 August, warmly welcomed him saying it is a privilege for the University to have Honourable Puna as the new Chancellor.

“We look forward to giving you all the support in your new role and I am sure your term will be marked with significant achievements,” he said.

Professor Chandra was eager to hear about Honourable Puna’s impression and concerns about USP because “we want to respond to what the countries are trying to do for their own development and how we can fit into that.”

“Our campuses should be seen as the national University of that country, responding very much and fitting into their respective vision and development plans,” Professor Chandra said.

“And beyond the campuses, USP is part of a larger regional enterprise. USP straddles both roles - the national role and regional role in serving the member countries in their own needs and also the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) agencies,” he noted.

Honourable Puna acknowledged Professor Chandra for welcoming him. He said it is an honour and a privilege to serve in his new role as Chancellor of USP.

“It is our University, no doubt about it and my being here is the start of a year-long journey. I am conscious of the fact that a lot of important people have walked this path before me including the late Sir Geoffrey Henry from the Cook Islands so I have very big shoes to fill.

“But because it’s a family University in the sense that it belongs to all of us in the South Pacific, I am comfortable because already I feel at home,” he noted.
Honourable Puna highlighted that the USP campus in Rarotonga has been growing in leaps and bounds and “it is an institution we are very proud of”.

He mentioned that a lot of Cook Islanders are taking full advantage of the USP campus there particularly those who are looking for second chances to better their lives with education.

An issue of interest mentioned by Honourable Puna is how USP member countries financially support the University.

Professor Chandra reiterated that USP and the Cook Islands have a very strong relationship.

“Our Cook Islands campus is a small but well looked after and for the moment, adequate campus. We were pleased to have renovated it quite a bit and the campus management has been very good in keeping very good tab in what is happening to students and their concerns,” he shared.

He also confirmed that the University’s finance is in a very good position at the moment and even “probably the best it can be”.

Professor Chandra said he always felt proud telling people that in the 47 years of the University’s existence, no member country has ever reneged on their contribution.

“Our membership has been very strong, in fact we have gained one member in that Papua New Guinea has applied to join and if all goes well they will be formally admitted at the November Council,” he added.

According to Professor Chandra, PNG’s membership will dramatically change the prospects of USP positively.

He added that the 50th anniversary celebrations will be an occasion where “we will reinforce the regionality of the University”.

Honourable Puna graduated with a Bachelor of Laws Degree in 1979 from the University of Tasmania in Australia and was admitted to the bar in Canberra and Sydney in 1980.

He is a member of the Cook Islands Party and assumed office as the Prime Minister of Cook Islands in November 2010.

Honourable Puna has extensive civil service experience and has served as the Secretary for the Cook Islands Ministry of Tourism and Transport and the Ministry of Trade and Labour.

He is married to wife Akaiti Puna and has nine children.

Honourable Puna also met with USP’s Senior Management Team (SMT) and toured facilities including the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre, Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies (OCACPS) and the Marine campus.

This news item was published on 30 Aug 2016 04:21:35 pm. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email

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