Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP Vice-Chancellor and President with Mr Michael Wilson, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division of DFAT during the HLC.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), as long–standing strategic partners, discussed and agreed on a way forward for laying the foundation for the new USP-Australia Partnership for the period 2019-2024, at a successful bilateral High Level Consultation (HLC) held in Canberra on 19 March 2018.
The objective of the HLC was for USP and DFAT to discuss implementation of the current USP-Australia Partnership and agree on a process to plan for strategic engagements under the new Partnership Agreement aligning with the timeframe for the University’s new Strategic Plan 2019-2024.
The HLC was chaired by Mr Michael Wilson, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division, who welcomed the USP delegation led by Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP.
Mr Wilson said Australia values its partnership with USP and looks forward to working in close collaboration with the University in areas of education, labour mobility and other development priorities in the region, which is in line with Australia’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, which calls for increased engagement in the Pacific.
He further mentioned that such a bilateral High Level Consultation is timely for DFAT to discuss with a vital regional organisation the strategic priorities under the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and how best, as partners, USP and Australia can assist in the achievement of the broader regional agenda.
Professor Chandra thanked Mr Wilson and DFAT Officials for the warm welcome and said that the University comes to this HLC at the back of a string trajectory in the partnership with good outcomes for development in the region.
“The relationship between USP and Australia, the University’s development partner since its establishment in 1968, has matured and evolved into more strategic level engagements with DFAT and also with other Australian national institutions,” he stated.
This, he said, is an enabler for the University and Australia to work more cohesively in areas of mutual interest where funds and resources can be channeled for sustainable use and benefit to the Pacific people through quality education and research.
Professor Chandra noted that this is an important year for the University as it celebrates 50 years of its existence. This is not only a significant achievement for the University, but also its close development partners like Australia and New Zealand, that have been the strongest pillars of support since the institution’s establishment.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President and Mr Michael Wilson, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Development Policy Division of DFAT with DFAT officials and members of the USP delegation after the HLC.
Professor Chandra gave an overview of USP’s achievement in 2017, namely surpassing the Strategic Plan Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of achieving international accreditations; exceeding the target for the number of ranked publications and A and A* publications; registration of patents; success of the Lecture Capture System; and USP continuing to take the lead in Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Working Group (WG) and CROP Human Resource Development (HRD) WG, among others. Achievements and challenges towards objectives of the Partnership were also highlighted.
Mr Wilson noted the eighty-one per cent (81%) achievement against agreed KPIs under the current Strategic Plan despite key challenges pertaining to the University’s efforts towards implementing the current Strategic Plan (2013-2018).
Professor Chandra then outlined USP’s 2018 priorities, including an update on the development of the new Strategic Plan (NSP) 2019 -2024 since the last HLC. Australia noted this recognising that the priorities inform the framework for the development of the new USP-Australia Partnership Agreement. Furthermore, Australia noted the progress on the development of the NSP 2019-2024 and the way forward.
DFAT provided an update on Australia’s new aid policy framework for the Pacific, which emphasises on the priority related to skills and jobs, which is also of mutual interest to the University. This aligns with the priorities to be outlined in a new Pacific Education and Skills Development Agenda (PESDA) being developed by DFAT; and the Regional Education Framework being developed by the Pacific Heads of Education Systems (PHES).
The Investment Concept Note (ICN) for the development of new Partnership Arrangements was reviewed and revised prior to its approval by DFAT. The next step will be to develop the Investment Design Document (IDD) that will pave the way forward for the Partnership Agreement and New Grant Funding Agreement, which are expected to be signed by the end of this year. The USP-DFAT Joint Work Group is providing oversight on the processes guiding the development of the new Partnership 2019-2024 that will include an agreed focus on strengthening the quality of teacher preparation, strongly aligned with the Regional Education Framework (REF).
Professor Chandra concluded by assuring DFAT that the University will work closely with them on the implementation of its Strategic Plan during this final year and delivery of the other priorities that supports planning and effective delivery of the NSP 2019-2024.
“With Australian Government support, USP has achieved many good outcomes and we look forward to the finalsiation and signing of the new Partnership Agreement and Grant Funding Arrangement as part of the Joint Working Group mechanism,” he added.
In acknowledging the visit by the USP Delegation, Mr Wilson wished the University well with the final year of implementing the USP Strategic Plan 2013-2018. He also highlighted the critical importance for the upcoming two new trienniums through the new strategic planning process and the medium and long-term plans pertaining to the University Governance Committee (UGC).
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