Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Speech at the Launch of USP’s 50th Anniversary and Time Capsule Opening by Vice–Chancellor and President, Professor Rajesh Chandra

Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President

His Excellency Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konousi Konrote, President of the Republic of Fiji
Pro-Chancellor and Chair of USP Council, Mr. Winston Thompson
Minister for Education and Training of the Republic of Vanuatu, Honourable Jean Pierre Nirua;
Minister for Education, Youth and Sports, Government of Kiribati, Honourable David Collins;
Associate Minister for Education, Government of Samoa, Honourable Alaiasa M. S. Moananu;
Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency Mr. John Feakes;
Members of the University Council, Senate, Executive Committee and Finance and Investment Committee;
Excellencies and members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Heads and representatives of Regional and International Organisations;
Senior Fijian Government Officials;
Members of the USP Senior Management Team, Staff and students of the University;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen. 

Ni Sa Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

And what a Good morning it is with Fiji Sevens giving us such a magnificent gift for the launch of our 50th Anniversary Celebrations.  Fijian and Pacific magic and master of Sevens Rugby was on full display in Hamilton.  What an inspiration for all the Pacific to strive for the best in the world and to do that confidently.

It is an honour and a privilege to have His Excellency the President of Fiji Jioji Konusi Konrote, our current Chancellor as our Chief Guest to launch USP’s year-long 50th Anniversary Celebrations. We extend a very special welcome to you Sir; your presence has made this event more meaningful as Fiji has been at the forefront of the development of the University. 

I also extend a special welcome to our Ministers from Kiribati, Samoa and Vanuatu.  Honourable Ministers, your presence this morning testifies to your strong support and of the regional strength to USP

I am also very pleased to extend our welcome and gratitude to the Australian High Commissioner, Mr. John Feakes, to this very important milestone event for USP. Australia (like New Zealand) has been one of our core development partners since the inception of USP in 1968 and both countries have contributed significantly to the progress of USP.  

Ladies and gentlemen let me welcome you warmly all to this event. To be the Vice Chancellor in the 50th year of The University of the South Pacific is a great privilege. As both a former student, having spent a large part of my working career at this University, and having led the University for a decade now as Vice-Chancellor, I have been part of the ups and downs and can see the transformational change that has occurred over the past 50 years. 

I have privileged to have been an active contributor, along with many others, in a great number of initiatives that have led to USP becoming the premier University of the region that it is today.  I thank my staff at all levels who have been so supportive in my role as the Vice-Chancellor.

The University could not have come this far, and achieved so much without the assistance of our major stakeholders—and I would like to express our gratitude to our member governments and development partners, in particular Australia and New Zealand that have consistently supported USP since its inception.  

Fiji’s contribution has been very significant. When the Royal New Zealand Airforce vacated the Laucala Bay site and returned the land to the Fiji Government in the late 1960s, it was the Fijian government at that time that realised the potential this provided to the community and saw it fit to bequeath this land to the newly constituted University of the South Pacific. 

The government of Fiji as well as other member governments together with Australia and New Zealand stood by the University throughout the last half century, providing funding, assisting with land and infrastructure, and supporting our management practices, that has enabled the University to increase its footprint in all our member countries, educate over 50,000 graduates, promote regional co-operation and integration and achieve excellence. 

USP has also been supported by other nations, who are not members, that acknowledge the positive contributions made by the University for the development of the Pacific region and are therefore willing to partner with us. Often, projects have been funded by these partners and agencies and the level of cooperation provided reflects the way USP is viewed as a reliable deliverer of sustainable outcomes in the Pacific region. 

The Australian Government is a long term partner of USP and has funded several programmes and projects of the University including the Faculty of Business and Economics complex, Laucala Campus library in 1988, the Australia-Pacific Lecture Theatre (formerly known as the AusAID Lecture Theatre) in 1998  and in  2007 projects on climate change adaptation through the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, to name a few.  

The New Zealand government supported from the first years of the operations by leaving valuable buildings and other assets at Laucala Bay and continues to provide core budget and project support to this day. It has also supported the construction of student accommodation.  New Zealand has also been instrumental in the development of USPNet through co-funding the initial USPNet Satellite and is currently supporting the upgrade of USPNet scheduled for completion this year. NZ has also supported many projects in the past 5 decades.

The two development partners have since 2010 provided support to the implementation of priority areas of our Strategic Plans (2010-2012 & 2013-2018) through multi-year partnership arrangements. We are grateful to them for their continued assistance and partnership. 

The European Union has, and is continuing to work with USP on many projects, particularly in the area of climate change and good governance within the Pacific region. The EU’s partnership with USP and with our students from all over the Pacific is an important component of our broader co-operation with the Pacific. 

One specific activity worth mentioning is the support by the European Union for the EU Global Climate Change (GCCA) Project that enables implementation of climate change, adaption, and enhancing community resilience activities in the Pacific region. On the EU GCCA project specifically, a total 68 scholarships were awarded for Masters and PhD students and 59 communities were reached for purposes of capacity building and enhancing resilience to the impact of climate change. 

The United Kingdom has also supported USP during the early years of its inception. It built the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education and the Chancellery Building.   As part of this continuing support, UK agreed to a ten-year Manpower Assistance and Staff Development project in 1989. The main purpose of this project was to produce senior level technical, professional and management skills necessary for economic development and so reduce the level of regional dependence on external manpower support.  

In more recent years, the government of Japan has supported the construction of the Marine Studies Campus in 1996. Japan also funded the construction of the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre in 2010 and then later in 2012, the completion of the Japan-Pacific ICT Multi-Purpose Theatre. We are currently in discussions with JICA on its pledged support for the replacement of the USPNet hub at Laucala campus and establishment of a second hub in another member country.  

The ADB and the World Bank have both assisted USP with funding for infrastructure projects, often to improve our position as a world class provider of flexible learning throughout the Pacific region. ADB’s most notable support is through a soft loan for the establishment of the new Kiribati campus, which is completed and the current initiative for the construction of the new Solomon Islands Campus. 

The Republic of Korea has also provided support to the University through the Seed Programme for Korean Studies, and the “Renewable Energy Generation, Resource Assessment and Capacity Building” project that enabled USP to undertaking a comprehensive renewable energy capacity building initiative.

In 2012, the Government of the Peoples’ Republic of China assisted with the establishment of a Confucius Institute in Fiji at the Laucala Campus. This is currently being rebuilt to enable it to meet the growing demand for Chinese language and culture skills in the Pacific workforce.  It has also substantially funded the expansion of Emalus Campus in Port Vila. 

The United States Government has provided the University crucial support in terms of capacity and research related deliverables to assist the Pacific region. A key project of the University supported by the US is the Pacific Islands Coastal Community Adaptation project.

The Government of France has supported the University in areas such as research, language, marine biodiversity, environment, art, culture, sustainable development, climate change and renewable energy in the region. The renewable energy projects funded by France in the past have strengthened USP’s capacity to advance clean energy technologies and contribute towards the sustainable development choices of its member countries. 

Canada funded the construction of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, and provided significant assistance to the Marine Studies Programme. 

The Government of India provided the University a grant through the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the creation of the Pacific Information Superhighway. This project helped expand USP’s Information and Communication Technology network and improve connectivity across its regional campuses. They have recently provided financial assistance for the teaching of Hindi language at the University. 

Ladies and gentlemen with the support of member Governments, development partners and other stakeholders, USP today has seen a huge increase in enrolments with about 30,000 students studying in 2017. This will be   even higher in our 50th year.   The services provided to these students are supported by an increasing capital works agenda. In fact, 2018 sees the University in the midst of the largest capital expenditure programme in its history without placing a burden on member countries. 

USP prides itself on being at the cutting edge of utilising information and communications technology and innovation in the delivery of teaching activities throughout our 50 year history. From Semester 1, 2017, all new full-time students are being issued with tablets as part of the University’s new mobile platform of learning. From last year too, lectures at Laucala, Alafua and Emalus are captured and made available to all students, increasing access of regional students to higher education.

USP has provided Pacific Islanders with high quality educational opportunities, and their governments with excellent policy recommendations, technical advice and research, for five decades.  USP clearly offers more to its Member Countries now than it ever has before, delivering constantly improving value for money, educational offerings tailored to Member Countries’ priorities and the job market, and outstanding ICT facilities at purpose-built campuses and centres around the region. 

Just as USP has become the premier provider of higher education in the region, it has taken on a crucial role as a member of the Council of the Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP), proactively engaging and taking a lead role in its respective areas to find solutions to development issues that are encountered at the regional and national levels. 

As a lead agency for the CROP ICT Working Group, USP works closely with key stakeholders to ensure that all Pacific Islands Countries are able to access ICT and benefit from its use. USP also leads the CROP Human Resource Development Working Group, which considers issues such as Skills Development and Labour Mobility. 

The 50th Anniversary seeks to recognise individuals together with the partners who have supported us along what has been a wonderful journey of development for the Pacific region. But, perhaps more importantly, 2018 provides an opportunity for us to use the learnings and relationships established over the past 50 years, to achieve even greater outcomes in the future. Towards the end of our 50th Anniversary year we will be releasing our strategic plan for the next 6 year cycle. USP is confident that the next 50 years will be even more exciting than the last and it will go from an excellent to a great university.  We trust that all of you will be part of USP’s continuing journey of achievement and service.

Vinaka Vakalevu, Thank you

Monday 5 February 2018, Australia-Pacific Lecture Theatre, Laucala Campus

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