Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP and Mr Sunil Sharma, Chair of the UGC, with Committee members at the Laucala Campus.
The University Grants Committee (UGC) of The University of the South Pacific (USP) held its triennial meeting 2019-2021 at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre, Laucala Campus from 16 to 19 July 2018.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP welcomed all members to the meeting and extended a special welcome to Mr Sunil Sharma, the new UGC Chair, who has an extensive background in finance for more than 30 years.
Professor Chandra noted that the University is now in its final year of implementation of its Strategic Plan (2013-2018) and so far has achieved 82% of its strategic plan deliverables.
“The Strategic Plan is visionary and ambitious and in 2012 set out an agenda of reform that would challenge even the well-resourced and developed of universities,” he said.
In the Committee’s presentation at the conclusion of the week-long meeting, Professor Barney Glover, the UGC member representative from Australia and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney, highlighted the Committee’s commendation for the University’s high-level of achievement in relation to the key deliverables within its Strategic Plan, as compared to benchmark universities.
“The UGC commends the University for reaching its 50th anniversary and for being a successful model for regional cooperation and engagement. The Committee commended USP for expanding its role as a development partner, beyond the role of a higher education institution, in the region,” he stated.
Professor Glover said the Committee noted that the University is seeking WSCUC accreditation through the first accreditation visit (SAV1).
“If successful this should open opportunities for member countries that are former US territories to access funding opportunities from the US, for example the Marshall Islands and this could also potentially strengthen FSM’s case to join as a USP member country in the future,” he said.
The UGC, he added, also applauds the University for achieving a high number of internationally accredited and recognised programmes, and more importantly its commitment to maintaining and expanding this area in the new Strategic Plan 2019-2024.
This achievement he noted clearly recognises the growing quality of USP programmes and sets it apart from all other universities in the region.
USP has also been commended for its achievement of eight (8) Patents and innovations developed around it, and further encouraged the University to continue this pursuit with more strength and vigour.
Furthermore, the University has been lauded for establishing faculty and campus advisory boards to enhance the industry and regional relevance of programmes.
“We further encourage the University to continue to embed the development of ‘soft skills’ within all courses - in particular team work, problem solving, critical thinking, digital literacy, communication and presentation capability - in consultation with advisory boards,” Professor Glover said.
USP has also been commended for the significant improvement of Student Support, activeness of Research Support, Activities and Partnerships, significant progress in the area of ICT Services provision across the University and the region, effective debt recovery strategies and standardising best practices in Project Management systems.
The UGC has also made a number of recommendations including one for having a mid-term review meeting to be convened before the regional Finance Minister’s meeting in 2020. The meeting over two days should focus on progress reporting and review of financial performance.
In his concluding remarks, the Chair, Mr Sharma thanked the members of the UGC for their presence and contribution to the successful conclusion of the meeting. He thanked Professor Barney Glover for substantially guiding the Committee because of his previous experience.
“I thank the Vice Chancellor and President for his very clear submission and responses during the week and acknowledged SMT members who met the Committee and made very good presentations and provided responses and other staff (Planning and Quality and Finance) for the papers and facilitation of the meeting,” Mr Sharma said
On the Commendations and Recommendations, the Chair emphasised that UGC appreciates the excellent work that have been done under the current triennium. With exception of HR and few other areas, the University has done well.
“Recommendations made are to ensure that important areas where good work is being done can be further enhanced going into the next triennium,” Mr Sharma added.
He further highlighted the excellent relations that USP has with development partners particularly with Australia and New Zealand that have provided core budget support ever since the establishment of the University and it is heartening to note that support will continue and funding under new Partnerships will be finalised before the end of this year by both.
Mr Sharma also acknowledged that the development of new SP is fairly advanced and UGC looks forward to its finalisation at the next Council meeting.
The next step is to forward the outcomes of UGC to the Chair of Finance Ministers for endorsement of Ministers of Finance.
The UGC, among other things, examines the academic and financial effectiveness of the University. Committee members are representatives of Ministries of Finance of the member countries and a representative each from Australia and New Zealand while Japan is the official observer.
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