Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Vice-Chancellor's Speech for Graduation Ceremony, Laucala Campus

Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President


  • The Chancellor, the President of the Republic of Fiji, His Excellency Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote and First Lady Sarote Konrote;
  • The Pro Chancellor and Chair of Council of The University of the South Pacific, Mr. Winston Thompson and Mrs. Queenie Thompson;
  • Honourable Ministers and Senior Officials of the Fijian Government; especially acknowledge Minister of Health and Medical Services, Hon. Rosy Akbar;
  • Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps; 
  • Heads of International and Regional Organisations; 
  • Members of Council, Senate and their Committees;
  • Members of the USP Senior Management Team;
  • Graduands, their families and friends;
  • Members of staff and students; 
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome and Congratulations

Welcome, Ni Sa Bula, Namaste and a very good morning to you all. 

It gives me great pleasure to join the Pro-Chancellor in warmly welcoming you all to The University of the South Pacific’s first Laucala Campus Graduation ceremony for 2018.  

I would like to specially welcome our 24th Chancellor, His Excellency Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote to this very important occasion. Thank you Sir for gracing this occasion and making it so much more special for our graduates. A very warm welcome also to the graduands.

This year, the graduation ceremony will be held over 2 days and in 3 sessions reflecting a consistent and significant increase in the number of graduates over the years. This morning’s graduation ceremony is for the graduates from the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment and Faculty of Arts, Law and Education. Students from Pacific TAFE will graduate in the second session this afternoon while students from the Faculty of Business and Economics will graduate in the third session tomorrow morning. 

Graduation Numbers

We have 1774 students receiving certificates, diplomas and degrees in this round of graduation at Laucala, 5% more than last year. Since its establishment, the University has issued close to 60, 000 qualifications, testifying to its foundational role in the tertiary education of our member countries.

Of those graduating today, 788 or 44% are from the Faculty of Business and Economics, 345 or 20% are from the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, 300 or 17% are from the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education and 341 or 19% are from Pacific TAFE. Fifty Eight percent (58%) of those graduating are women. 341 or 19 % will graduate from Pacific TAFE, 908 or 51% students will graduate from undergraduate programmes (certificates, Diplomas and Degrees), 364 students or 21% will receive postgraduate certificates and diplomas, 143 or 8% will graduate with Master’s Degree. Five students are graduating with PhD. Students graduating from 28 countries are graduating today, including 16 non-member countries, testifying to the growing international profile and attraction of USP.

To the Graduands

To our graduates, I congratulate you heartily for reaching the milestone you have today.  What you will go away with today will help you increase the chance of lifelong success anywhere in the world.

I hope that you will stay connected to the University through the Alumni Network. You now join over 44, 000 USP alumni worldwide. 

Today, you really deserve to celebrate your hard work, sacrifice and perseverance. Remember to thank those who have supported you in your journey, your parents & families, sponsors, lecturers and tutors without whose support you would not have reached this far.

Significant Achievements

USP is now in the last year of its current Strategic Plan and the University has already achieved 81 percent of what it set out to achieve. The new Strategic Plan for 2019 – 2024 is in the process of being developed and the first draft will be presented to Council in May with the final draft being considered and approved at the November Council.  While the University has undoubtedly improved its reputation and value in the current SP—and moved closer to excellence, the new SP will ensure that the lift in vision and performance will continue to ensure that USP remains the region’s exemplar in tertiary education, premier provider of highest quality education and the innovation hub of the Pacific as well as the breeding ground of entrepreneurship. 

The University continues its quest to improve its quality and reputation through international accreditations of its programmes. We have now achieved a total number of 26 international accreditations and 10 international recognitions exceeding the SP KPIs. For a University with no international accreditation before 2013, this is a remarkable achievement.

Achievements of USP and Future Developments

Some of our students have shown remarkable achievements and received wide recognition. 

A final year law student, Ms. Priyashna Mani, is the first Pacific student to receive a medal in the Global Climate Law and Governance Legal Essay Competition 2017  jointly organised by the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law, the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law, the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at the University of Cambridge, the University of Nairobi, the CR2 at the University of Chile, the Ateneo School of Governance in Manila and others, and supported by the partners of Climate Law and Governance Day (CLGD) 2017 which includes USP. 

The University showcased six (6) innovative and exciting projects during the launch of the Young Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES) by Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji at Suva’s Grand Pacific Hotel on 11 January 2018. Final year Engineering students, Aneesh Chand and Kushal Prasad displayed their project “Design and Evaluation of EMI Sensor for Corrosion Measurements in Concrete”, where an EMI-based censor was innovated considering state-of-the-art non-destructive evaluation (NDE) methods to identify concrete corrosion. Also on display was the “Autonomous Motion Tracking Turret with Laser Illuminator”, which gives more accuracy for locating the target within the webcam range, putting a boundary box around the moving target and initialising that there is motion. The patented “Braille Eye-Slate” was on display, developed to teach basic Braille characters such as numerals and alphabets to visually impaired children. Software Engineering students, Salman Raza and Haroon Khan showcased the Morris Hedstrom (MH) APP on behalf of their group. The MH APP - a sales and promotion application built for Carpenters Fiji Group’s MH customers with the goal of empowering future innovations in providing quality services for better shopping experiences at MH stores throughout Fiji. 

A Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment student was also one of five winning entrepreneurs announced by Hon. Bainimarama. Mr Siwan Shachin Narayan aspires to launch a business to construct “tiny homes” to expand access to affordable housing options for the Fijian people. 

19-year-old Steven Taukafa, a Certificate III in Commercial Cookery student of Pacific TAFE, won the sole gold medal and first prize in the  (Junior) Category – Brunch Breakfast Live at the Moffat National Salon Culinaire competition held in Nadi in November last year. Steven competed against industry professionals and students from other institutions. Certificate III in Commercial Cookery is an internationally accredited programme with International Centre of Excellence in Tourism and Hospitality Education (THE ICE).

Some of our staff have also had wonderful achievements recently.

Mr. Sanjeet Chand, a staff of USP’s Centre for Flexible Learning (CFL) has developed an Application (App) called the Snap TopUp, which has the potential to support mobile devices. The app is available from the Google Play Store. 

Department of Literature Discipline Coordinator and now Associate Dean Learning & Teaching, Dr Matthew Hayward was awarded USP’s overall VC’s Excellence in Teaching Award Winner 2017. Dr Hayward joined USP from England in 2013 and has been an active researcher. 

Last year USP achieved its highest performance in terms of research output. The number of publications in 2017 was 211, which is 13 more than the previous high of 198 in 2016. The total number of highly ranked publications (A/A* ranked publications) in 2016 and 2017 is 157.  This has already surpassed the accumulated KPI of 131, to be achieved over the period 2016 – 2018. 

USP also played a significant role at the recent Commonwealth Ministers’ Conference, so well organized and hosted by the Fijian Government. USP prepared the main issues paper for the conference—testimony to USP’s increased international profile that it should be chosen from all the available commonwealth universities numbering more than 500 now. I had the privilege of presenting a summary of this paper to the Ministers. A number of our staff made presentations at the conference. We now have an opportunity to engage more significantly with the Commonwealth.

The University of the South Pacific has been working in a number of areas to strengthen and improve learning, teaching, research and its services that it provides to the students. 

His Excellency the President of Fiji and Chancellor of USP Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony of the model Confucius Institute-USP project at the Laucala Campus on 13 October, 2017. The USP Confucius Institute won a competition among all the Confucius Institutes in the world to be supported to become a Model institute with a grant of F$3 million. 

The University of the South Pacific (USP) is leading by example on disability inclusiveness through the launching of its newly built Disability Resource Centre (DRC) common room on 27 October 2017. The common room is a large living space that gives students with special needs a study environment as well as a platform for socialising. 

The University of the South Pacific (USP) and Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) signed a MOU on 17 November 2017 to explore mutually beneficial commercial projects at the University. USP plans to expand its commercial operations to generate future cash flows for the benefit of the students and as part of its broader strategy to diversify its income streams, the University is seeking to leverage its resources more fully. FNPF has a very high level of experience in managing property development in Fiji and they bring extensive experience to this joint venture partnership. 

The University continues to increase its support in the region with the expansion of campuses, such as in Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands and Nauru. We will open our new Nauru campus in May this year.

The University has continued its quest to provide the most modern pedagogies to our students and to harness cutting-edge, ICT leveraged learning for our students. After successfully establishing the Lecture Capture System last year, the full implementation was done from first semester this year. Lecture capture keeps recordings of lectures for students who can access it anytime. This initiative is part of the University’s continuous efforts to seek new ways of supporting and strengthening learning at USP.

50th Anniversary 

This year, the University celebrates its 50th Anniversary and I invite you all to be part of this historic event for the University and the region. The official launch of the Anniversary was held on February 5th and we will be unveiling the monument in appreciation of the contributions of Royal New Zealand Airforce to the University on March 23 at 5.00pm at the Faculty of Business and Economics. You are all cordially invited to attend.

Each of the campuses of USP in the region will have its ‘moment to shine’ as it celebrates the achievements of the campus and the University.

Thanks and Appreciation 

I wish to thank USP’s member governments, development partners and our friends for their continuous support. I also thank the University Council and its Committees, Senate and Senior Management, staff and students for their continued support towards transforming and reforming USP from a good to an excellent University. Special acknowledgement needs to be made to the staff of the University who have been working hard towards the goal of excellence.

A final word

Chancellor Sir, ladies and gentlemen, a final word to the graduands – Congratulations once again. I have every confidence that each and every one of you will excel in your life and make your families, your country, and all of us proud.

Vinaka Vakalevu, Dhanyavaad; Thank you and God Bless.

Ceremony One – 9am;
Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment & Faculty of Arts, Law and Education
22 March 2018

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