Dr Mahendra Reddy, Minister for Education giving his keynote address.
Fiji’s Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts and National Archives Dr Mahendra Reddy opened the new Engineering laboratory at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala campus on 5 October, 2016.
In his keynote address, Dr Reddy commended the School of Engineering and Physics (SEP) and USP for this huge achievement saying the University has grown substantially.
Head of the School of Engineering & Physics Professor Maurizio Cirrincione tours the Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy inside the new lab.
“We are now seeing USP being able to compete with other universities around the world and it is a good signal because we want our graduates to be relevant in the international market. We also have the ability to attract some of the best and brightest minds across the globe,” Dr Reddy said.
He said there are a number of interesting developments that have occurred in Engineering at USP including the accreditation of the Engineering programme by the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ).
“Government expects this from a good university - we want all our programmes to be recognised internationally and it is not only about the mobility of students but having quality students,” he stated.
Dr Reddy said the fact that the new Engineering lab has met the full infrastructure requirement for a four-year degree programme, is a great achievement.
He emphasised that Government will not “shy away” from investing in education.
“I want to assure you that if you come up with a proposal for a one-off capital investment that will raise USP’s profile further and does not duplicate what they are doing at the national university, we are happy to provide that money in the forthcoming budget,” Dr Reddy said.
According to Dr Reddy, the importance of tertiary education has the full support of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet.
“We have bigger agendas and we want our universities and our national university to support us to maintain that leadership status we have in the Pacific region,” he said.
“We want USP to take the lead in all aspects of education in the entire region and we are willing to invest and allocate resources for this,” he added.
Dr Reddy mentioned that the Engineering programme, which has been benchmarked to international standards and the new laboratory will ensure that
USP’s graduates are equivalent to those of other international universities.
This he said, also means that USP can attract international students in a bigger way.
“We have the potential, if our programmes, teaching and infrastructure are equivalent to international standards, then we can attract international students in greater numbers,” he emphasised.
“With the free education scheme, affordability is not an issue so it is time now we fill the gaps we have in our labour market with respect to qualified engineers,” he added.
Furthermore, he said that with the establishment of a full laboratory and with the accreditation, USP will be able to establish good partnership with International universities and attract more Professors.
This he said, will be of great benefit in terms of doing joint research and attracting external international funding.
“We are about to establish a National Research Council which can also be used to leverage external funding and we are happy to get good proposals and submit it to donors,” he announced.
Dr Reddy said the link between USP and the industry is vital, adding that opportunities can be explored further.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, said the lab is part of the University’s commitment to excellence in Engineering education.
“A decision was made for this significant investment to give assurance to IPENZ that USP is prepared for the long haul - to make the necessary investment to sustain and expand the programme and ensure that we have the environment to innovate,” Professor Chandra said.
He said he is confident that students and staff will use the new facility and hope that the SEP will register more patents and convert them into either community-use type of devices and services or commercialise them for a longer-term commercial benefit.
“It is indeed a great privilege for the Honourable Minister to be present and further develop a cooperative relationship between the aspirations of the Government and what USP can do,” he said.
Dr Anjeela Jokhan, Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, said the project was a huge one and required a lot of commitment.
She said it was also exciting because finally there is now a facility for final year students in which they can grow and develop in.
“It is satisfying to see students critically thinking and developing their own level of articulation when producing something,” he said.
Dr Jokhan added it is important that the industry realised that they could use the facility with USP “to solve your engineering problems which can then take shape in very valuable outcomes for the industry and students as well”.
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