The Head of MFAT delegation Mr. Jonathan Kings, Deputy Secretary, Pacific and Development Group (2nd from left) and Professor Rajesh Chandra, VC&P, USP with members of the University's delegation.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), New Zealand, hosted a High Level Consultation (HLC) with The University of the South Pacific (USP) in Wellington on 26 April, 2017.
The HLC with New Zealand is an annual bilateral event to deliberate on strategic level discussions between the two long-standing partners as well as discuss progress and challenges of the University towards the implementation of its Strategic Plan (2013-2018).
The four-member delegation from USP, led by Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President had positive discussions with senior MFAT officials led by Mr. Jonathan Kings, Deputy Secretary, Pacific and Development Group, on strategic issues relating to Regional Education and Skills Development; Regionalism and Partnership; Performance and Accountability; and the New Zealand-USP Partnership.
In welcoming the USP delegation, Mr. Kings said New Zealand is comfortable with USP’s strategic positioning within the regional architecture as a provider of quality higher education and enabler of regional integration.
Mr. Kings added that the University plays a key role in fostering regionalism by implementing the priorities of the regional leaders through the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and its cooperation with other regional agencies under the Council of the Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) mechanism.
“USP also contributes towards improving standards of education in the Pacific as a premier education and research institute,” said Mr. Kings.
Professor Chandra thanked Mr. Kings for this important and strategic consultation and acknowledged the presence of senior MFAT officials including those from Suva, adding that their regular consultations have proven valuable in the past.
Professor Chandra stated that the HLCs are valuable as it creates a platform for frank discussions by partners ensuring a strengthened and enduring partnership and engagement.
Amongst the general strategic level discussions, Mr. Kings confirmed that the Government of New Zealand has approved a total of up to NZD 6m for the upgrade of the USPNet, which has been designed to enhance current USPNet satellite equipment, networking and communications systems across all of USP's regional campuses.
Mr. Kings mentioned that ICT is a key priority for both New Zealand and the University and as such, the approval of the USPNet project will further leverage ICT related efforts in the region.
Professor Chandra said that “the University is gratified by New Zealand’s support to the USP Net project, the completion of which is expected to coincide with the University’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 2018.”
He added that the upgrades to the USPNet not only mitigates the risk of interruptions to the University’s communications system, but also sustains the satellite for the next fifteen years, setting the platform for better learning and teaching experience for students across the region. He further stated that this assistance will have a highly positive impact in the area of higher education for USP's member countries.
The USPNet project represents a strategic investment by New Zealand into ICT development in the Pacific. USP is hoping other development partners will make similar contributions to mark the University’s 50th anniversary in 2018.
Mr. Kings said that “New Zealand’s confidence in the University continues to grow as its achievements against the Strategic Plan are progressing well and it is encouraged by USP’s initiative outside the scope of the Strategic Plan to achieve excellence.”
The University delegation later met with the technical team at MFAT’s Pacific and Development Group (PDG) to discuss the way forward pertaining to the implementation of the USPNet project.
The current USP-New Zealand Partnership which ends in 2018, has completed the first year of implementation and it was noted that there are good outcomes emerging from this partnership.
MFAT team also noted the achievements and key challenges pertaining to the University’s efforts in implementing the current Strategic Plan and the University’s efforts towards improving teacher quality in view of addressing literacy and numeracy in the region was also noted.
Professor Chandra thanked MFAT for the warm hospitality adding that USP will continue to engage with them for strategic insights and guidance. He confirmed the University’s commitment to working very closely and in a timely manner with New Zealand to complete the USPNet project to mark USP’s 50th Anniversary in 2018.
“With New Zealand Government support, USP has achieved many good outcomes and we look forward to the continued collaboration and assistance over the course of the implementation for the remainder of the Strategic Plan period,” he added.
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