Honourable Jone Usamate, Minster for Infrastructure, Transport, Disaster Management and Meteorological Services (middle) is being garlanded. To his left is Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor and President while Mr Winston Thompson, Pro-Chancellor & Chair of Council is seated at his right.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) began its Orientation Week 2019 with an official launch by Honourable Jone Usamate, Minster for Infrastructure, Transport, Disaster Management and Meteorological Services at the Laucala Campus, this morning, 28 January.
In his welcome address, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor and President thanked the new students for choosing the University and stated that they were fortunate to have such a beautiful and magnificent campus to study at, adding that “USP is on the move”.
He extended a special welcome to the Honourable Usamate for accepting the invitation to launch the event.
“Unirank has ranked us among the top 50 universities in Oceania and the top nine per cent of universities globally. And I am very hopeful that by the time you finish your degrees, we want to make sure that your degrees are worth even more it is today because our aspiration is to move up the global rankings,” he announced.
Professor Ahluwalia stated that rankings are a benchmark that indicates what the world thinks of our University, “and it is a completely independent validation of the things that we are doing here to provide our students with the best possible education and student experience”.
Orientation Week he said, is being designed to make students transition to university smooth and to prepare them for the start of classes.
“Together we are embarking on the most exciting journey of your life. Over the course of your studies, there is little doubt that you will meet and make lifelong friends and become part of a very large and vibrant USP family,” he remarked.
He commented that University life is not simply about attaining an education, but is about a fundamental opportunity to think critically and embrace new ideas and values which make USP a very special place.
“This University is fundamentally about Pacific values and it is these values that I am sure will guide you over the next few years,” he noted.
He alluded to comments made earlier at the campus by the Australian Prime Minister about being part of a vuvale.
“We are all part of a very large family and we want to make sure that by the time you leave here you become agents of development to change your community. It is about giving back to the people who have supported you to get you here. It is about being ethical, transparent and accountable,” he added.
Professor Ahluwalia said that the first week going into a new University can be quite overwhelming and to make such an experience less daunting, USP is offering a range of counselling services and social events.
In his keynote address, Hon Usamate welcomed the new students saying that what they get now is a far cry from what he was used to as a student in USP in the early 1980s.
“It is great to see young and enthusiastic faces and a warm bula vinaka to all those who travelled from aboard to be part of this event,” he said.
USP, he stated, is a premier institutional higher learning for the Pacific and must be commended for a fantastic achievement in Unirank.
Hon Usamate said it is an institution that is uniquely placed in a region of extraordinary physical, social and economic diversity and a lot of challenges in all spheres of life.
He said that with 14 campuses in 12 member countries, numerous international accreditations, flexibility and modes of study; strong employability of graduates and affordability, USP today is very good value for money for all students in the region.
“USP provides a range of comprehensive relevant academic programmes. Many of these can be pursued at campuses and in a variety of formats and via a mixture of modes. Students now have access to the Disability Resource Centre which caters specifically for the needs of students with disabilities and this is something that USP needs to be applauded for,” he said.
Hon Usamate said, “USP continues to improve its quality and reputation through international accreditations of its programmes. Today USP has achieved 27 international accreditations and 15 recognitions”.
Hon Usamate advised new students to make use of Orientation Week, adding that it will assist them to become more productive in the shortest possible time.
“Your experience here at USP can either make or break you. Everything boils down to choice. Here at USP, you have a lot more independence and greater control of your learning,” he added.
He also advised them not to become too distracted.
“Navigating through these challenges can be daunting but this is where USP’s Student Learning Support (SLS) teams come in to make your learning experience worthwhile,” Hon Usamate said.
Furthermore, Hon Usamate mentioned that the support rendered by USP’s member Governments have always been commendable, with Fiji being the largest contributor and entrusting USP to offer students the best possible education for a successful future.
“Over the past several years, the Fiji Government has successfully rolled out the Toppers Scholarship and Tertiary Education Loan Scheme (TELS) that has given every Fijian student who qualifies for tertiary education a chance to undertake tertiary education. These initiatives have been looked upon as a possible model for the rest of the Pacific,” he remarked.
He said that in the 2018-2019 Budget, a record $1 billion was allocated to education, to create a smart and prosperous Fiji, of which $123.8m was for Higher Education Institutions. This he added, is the first time ever in Fiji’s history any Government has recorded a single biggest allocation for such a crucial sector.
“And of course, this is because we believe that the future of our beloved country lies in your hands,” he emphasised.
The Honourable Minister advised that the Fiji Government has significantly increased the number of National Toppers Scholarships, with an additional 340 full time scholarships–– bringing the total from 630 up to 970.
He added that in line with the Government’s commitment to ensuring inclusivity of students with special needs, Government is also offering 20 full time dedicated scholarships under the Scholarship Scheme for Students with Special Needs.
In addition, Government has dramatically increased funding in the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme, or TELS, budget by 30 per cent, to cater for the growing number of TELS students who want to take advantage of the TELS programme. Government also doubled the parental income eligibility threshold, ensuring that many more students have access to Government funding.
“Higher educational institutions, like USP, are hubs of exchange, ideas and new ways of thinking so I fervently hope you can put this opportunity into good use. During the weeklong programme, you will begin to build a network of resources that will help you to start your USP journey on the right path,” he added.
In concluding his remarks, the Honourable Minister advised the students to be inquisitive, ask questions, get to know people, build their network and explore the world at USP.
Mr Emosi Vakarua, USP Students Association representative said orientation is the most important and exciting day in USP’s calender.
“This will be your home for the next three years or more according to your programme and surrounding you is a wonderful range of opportunities and resources and people to assist you to become all that you aspire to be,” he encouraged new students.
New students of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE) also attended a FALE orientation session following the launch.
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