Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President and Mr Daniel Sloper, DFAT's First Assistant Secretary with DFAT officials and members of USP delegation after the HLC in Canberra
The University of the South Pacific
(USP) and the Government of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) concluded a successful High Level Consultation (HLC) on Tuesday, 11 April, 2017 in Canberra.
This HLC with Australia is an annual bilateral event to deliberate on strategic level engagements between the two long-standing partners as well as discuss progress and challenges of the University towards implementation of its Strategic Plan.
The five-member delegation from USP, led by Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President had fruitful discussions with senior DFAT officials on the status of the current Strategic Plan (2013 – 2018) implementation; the USP-Australia Partnership; funding and priorities for the balance of the current partnership; planning for the new partnership post March 2019; USP’s 50th Anniversary; and Australia’s commitment to stepping-up its engagement in the Pacific.
Mr. Daniel Sloper, First Assistant Secretary of DFAT’s Pacific Division, welcomed the delegation and acknowledged the University as a key strategic partner for Australia, given its role in delivering quality tertiary education and its active engagement in the Council of the Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP). Australia is keen to collaborate with USP to leverage the partnership to help address regional development challenges; and to support implementation of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.
Professor Chandra thanked Mr. Sloper for the warm words of welcome and acknowledged the presence of senior DFAT officials including from Suva- adding that their regular consultation have proven valuable in the past. Furthermore, he acknowledged the presence of Dr Robert Christie, Assistant Secretary, Aid Effectiveness and Advice Branch (AEB) who led the DFAT delegation for Australia-USP-New Zealand HLC held in Suva on 16 November 2016. Professor Chandra said that his contribution to the meeting was valuable and enabled frank discussions between the tripartite partners.
Professor Chandra mentioned that the strong growing relationship between the University and Australia is a crucial plank through which the USP is further able to effectively contribute towards the development of the Pacific region through quality education, research and regional engagement.
USP provided an update on the progress towards the objectives of the Partnership, its achievements and key challenges faced during the implementation of the Strategic Plan. USP also clarified its process to develop its new Strategic Plan post 2018 and a new Partnership with Australia. It was noted that while some of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) have tracked very well, there are certain initiatives faced with challenges and the University is striving towards addressing these in the remaining period of the current SP life.
Australia noted the achievements and key challenges pertaining to the University’s efforts towards implementing the current Strategic Plan and confirmed that the funding for the remaining duration of the current partnership is secured and a new Grant Agreement Deed will be finalised and signed before 30 June 2017 to support pending initiatives in the SP till 31 March 2019.
Discussions during the meeting highlighted funding and priorities for the current partnership, key issues and engagement for the new partnership, possible ideas, particularly on quality of teacher education, innovation, implications regarding the step up in Australian engagement in the region and other strategic engagement activities in addition to the HLC.
It was reaffirmed that quality teacher education is a key priority for Australia and the Pacific leaders. Therefore, DFAT is interested in collectively assessing with the University on how best the quality of teacher education in the region can be enhanced via innovative means.
It was agreed between both partners that a Working Group will be established in order to steer the work around delivering quality teacher education for the Pacific. The Working Group will identify concrete actions and plans as to how this goal can be achieved.
The establishment of the Working Group will enable the transformation of the relationship between DFAT and USP from that of the funder and recipient to a more collaborative one that allows for greater strategic engagement in leveraging quality teacher education.
Professor Chandra stated that ‘the University is committed towards working with DFAT for the establishment of the Working Group to ensuring quality teacher education, however, it is important that this is agreed as a mandate for the University by the Ministers in ensuring that the efforts by USP and DFAT are aligned to national government efforts in this regard’.
Professor Chandra thanked DFAT for the assurance that Australia’s funding is secured for the remainder of the current partnership in support of SP implementation. He reiterated that the new SP will be constructed through a wide consultation with key stakeholders, including Australia, to identify its core priority areas.
He acknowledged the long standing partnership between USP and Australia and mentioned that USP is fully committed towards implementing its responsibilities under the Partnership Agreement. The University is pleased with the outcomes of the HLC as it adds value to the partnership.
The next tripartite HLC between USP, Australia and New Zealand will be held in Suva in November 2017.
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