(Front row in black) Mr Winston Thompson, Pro Chancellor; Honourable Henry Puna, Chancellor and Prime Minister of Cook Islands; Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President with Alafua Campus graduates and staff of USP at the Alafua graduation ceremony.
A total of 135 students received certificates, diplomas and degrees during The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Alafua Campus graduation ceremony in Samoa on 25 November 2016. Fifty per cent (50%) of the graduates were females.
The event was attended by Honouorable Henry Puna, USP Chancellor and Prime Minister of Cook Islands and Mrs Akaiti Puna; Hon. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa; Ambassador Winston Thompson, Pro Chancellor and Chair of Council of USP and Mrs Queenie Thompson; Honorable Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio, Minister of Education of Samoa; Government Ministers and Members of Parliament; Father Eteuati Vui Lapa; USP Senior Management Team; members of the Diplomatic Corps; members of the Judiciary; members of the Clergy; Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Samoa; heads of Government Ministries; representatives of other educational institutions; members of the Alafua Campus Advisory Committee; staff and students of USP Alafua Campus; graduates and their families.
Honourable Henry Puna, Chancellor of USP, awards a graduate during the Alafua Campus graduation ceremony in Samoa.
In his keynote address, Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP Vice-Chancellor and President welcomed all the guests and especially acknowledged the presence of the Chancellor Honourable Puna.
“Sir, we realize your onerous commitments as Prime Minister and are very grateful that you have committed so much of your time to be here for this graduation and to later officiate at the Vanuatu graduation,” he remarked.
He noted that nineteen per cent (19%) of graduates received Postgraduate qualifications and eleven (11) graduated with Master’s degree. Students who graduated were from 13 countries including non-regional countries of Australia, Belize, Jamaica, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea.
Highlighting the main features of this graduation, Professor Chandra stated there has been a major increase this year in the total number of graduating students—from one hundred and eleven (111) last year to one hundred and thirty-five (135) this year.
“We are pleased with this increase and will want to maintain this increase in future years,” he said.
He further added that fifty-one (51) students graduated with Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees through the Science Teachers Accelerated Programme (STAP).
STAP began in 2014 and is one of the best joint initiatives of the Government of Samoa and USP, and shows what Governments and USP can achieve through collaboration. Sixty (60) students were given scholarships by the Samoan government to complete their BSc programme to improve the quality of teaching and educational outcomes in Samoa.
Professor Chandra acknowledged the Prime Minister of Samoa Hon. Malielegaoi; Hon. Magele Mauiliu Magele, former Minister of Education of Samoa; and Associate Professor Bibhya Sharma, Coordinator of STAP for their role in this outstanding initiative and its success.
He said this cohort-based, innovative and blended-learning programme not only achieved a very high completion rate with fifty-one (51) out of sixty (60) graduating within two and half years, but the average grades were much better than in other modes of teaching—and better than that at the Laucala Campus.
STAP, Professor Chandra noted, is also a very cost-effective method of human resource development as it has saved about 2.2 million tala for the Government of Samoa by not having to send students to Laucala Campus.
These he said, includes savings from airfares, accommodation and living expenses and a further 3.6 million tala by not having to employ replacement teachers since the STAP teachers remain in their schools and teach during their programme, hence saving a total of 5.8 million tala.
Professor Chandra congratulated all the graduates for their fantastic achievements in one of the best and most influential chapters in their lives.
“Your journey at USP has been a journey of learning, inspiration, influences, and experiences that will powerfully shape your life.
“The University has equipped you well for lifelong and outstanding success in life and work. How far you go depends on you - how you use your knowledge and skills, on your ambition, discipline and ethics and your ability to work with others.
“The main point is that now you are out of your sheltered university life—you are the master of your own destiny and only you can make the difference between sailing through life and making a truly great contribution,” he said.
Professor Chandra urged the graduates to believe in themselves, dream big, and work hard on their ambitions.
On USP’s achievements, Professor Chandra said the University now has a total of eighteen (18) international accreditations and four (4) recognitions.
“The accreditation of the University’s programmes gives students more confidence in knowing that their programmes are internationally recognised and comparable with similar programmes by other universities from around the world. Accredited programmes also improve graduate employability,” he stressed.
He also spoke of new programmes for 2017 including Master of Arts (Applied Linguistics) and Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship, among others, as a response to the needs and requirements of the region.
Professor Chandra also alluded to developments in the regional campuses, and spoke about the increasing collaboration with other institutions, including progress for the School of Agriculture and Food Technology (SAFT) and the Institute for Research, Extension and Training in Agriculture (IRETA) Farm.
Professor Chandra further highlighted a number of improvements made to the Alafua Campus this year including fire safety equipment, maintenance to classrooms and additional funding for improvements to the overall building and infrastructure of the Alafua Campus, and full wireless upgrade by the end of first semester next year.
“We are planning to give mobile devices to all first year degree students to help them have better and faster access to study materials without waiting for computers at the labs. We also hope to get connected to the new submarine fibre cable between Fiji and Samoa which is planned to be completed by September 2017,” Professor Chandra added.
“This should transform the student internet experience.”
Professor Chandra took this opportunity to extend an invitation to everyone to participate in USP’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, as the University will mark this milestone with significant events and legacies adding that it will allow the University to “celebrate our achievements and regionality, and secure our future as a world-class university that our leaders, the Pacific people, and our partners can take genuine pride in”.
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