Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Speech by Professor Rajesh Chandra for the graduation ceremony at the Laucala campus - 20 September 2018

1. Acknowledgements

  • The Chancellor, the President of the Republic of Kiribati, His Excellency Taneti Maamau and First Lady Teiraeng Maamau;
  • 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;
  • Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
  • Heads of Regional and International 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

2. Welcome and Congratulations

Welcome, Ni Sa Bula Vinaka, Namaste and a very good afternoon 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 second Laucala Campus Graduation ceremony for 2018.

I would like to specially welcome our 25th Chancellor, His Excellency Taneti Maamau to this very important occasion. Thank you, Sir, for gracing this occasion and making it so special for our graduates. A very warm welcome also to the Graduands.

The graduation ceremony is being held over 2 days and in 3 sessions due to the large numbers,. Today’s graduation ceremony will have students from the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education graduating in this session.

3. Graduation Numbers

We have 1321 students receiving certificates, diplomas and degrees in this round of graduation at Laucala. This is the highest number for September graduations in Laucala and is 11% 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 and in their development as noted by many leaders and ministers.

Of those graduating, 39% are from the Faculty of Business and Economics, 15% are from the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, 18% are from the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education and 28% are from Pacific TAFE. 64% of those graduating are women. 28 % will graduate from Pacific TAFE with sub-degree and pathways qualifications, 42% of students will graduate from undergraduate programmes (certificates, Diplomas and Degrees), 20% will receive postgraduate certificates and diplomas, 9% will graduate with Master’s Degree. Six students are graduating with PhD. Students from 18 countries are graduating today, including 10 non-member countries, testifying to the growing international profile and attraction of USP.

4. To the Graduands

To our graduates, I congratulate you heartily. You have reached a major milestone today. The graduate experience and qualifications that you will go away with today will help you increase the chance of lifelong success anywhere in the world.

Today, as you 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.

5. Significant Achievements

USP is in the last year of its current Strategic Plan and the University has already achieved 82 percent of what it set out to achieve. The new Strategic Plan for 2019 – 2024 is being finalized with the final draft to be presented to the November Council for its consideration and approval.

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 27 international accreditations and 15 international recognitions exceeding the Strategic Plan KPIs.

In a very significant validation of our quality system, we have now been accredited by the WASC Senior Commission on Universities and Colleges for six years. This means that USP is now amongst those American institutions that have been rigorously assessed as meeting stringent American standards. This is a very big boost to our international standing, and will enable our students to study and get jobs more easily in other countries, while helping the University recruit staff more easily and recruit more international students who bring significant income to the University.

You all graduating today, therefore, can be proud of your qualifications and confident of their international standing.

6. Achievements of USP and Future Developments

My remarks here only cover the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education as only its students are graduating this afternoon.

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

Five final-year students from The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Journalism Programme secured international professional attachments as part of their ongoing development and training. Elizabeth Osifelo from the Solomon Islands, Adi Anaseini Civavonovono and Salote Qalubau from Fiji have completed a two-week internship in Auckland, New Zealand after successfully securing a place in the Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF) Media Programme 2018.

Two other students, Koroi Tadulala and Mereoni Mili have returned from Scotland from the Future News Worldwide 2018 Conference. Tadulala and Mili were two of only three successful regional recipients out of more than 2,000 applications to secure scholarships from the Scotland British Council to attend the conference. As many as 100 participants attended this conference.

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

FALE received accreditation for the Postgraduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching from Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) UK in April 2018. The teacher education programmes; Bachelor of Education Primary and Secondary, Postgraduate Certificate in Education and Graduate Certificate in Education were recognised by the New Zealand Qualification Authority in April 2018.

The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) School of Education (SOEd) successfully completed a Curriculum Alignment Workshop at Suva’s Grand Pacific Hotel from 16 to 18 August 2018.

An event titled Rugby for Change: Celebrating Diversity with Serevi, featuring sevens legend Mr. Waisale Serevi and Mr. Rocky Khan, former All Blacks halfback saw students, staff, the media and members of the public come out in huge numbers at the Laucala Campus on 2nd August 2018. The event was a partnership with the Fiji Association of the Deaf and the New Zealand High Commission to motivate women and people with disabilities to pursue their passion for Rugby.

His Excellency Major General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote, President of Fiji, officially opened the 2018 Vaka Pasifiki Education Conference (VPEC) at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus on 5th July 2018 on the theme “It takes an island and an ocean: Rethinking Pacific Education for resilient, healthy communities”. This conference followed the VPEC 2016, marking “education for what? Re-visited.” VPEC provides an opportunity for the sharing of ideas, presentation of research and best practice, and teaching and learning in Oceania.

A total of 150 students graduated from the Conversational Chinese Language Course offered by The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Confucius Institute at the Yue Lai Hotel in Suva on 8th June 2018.


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 with complete roll-out of the Lecture Capture programme and fine-tuning it.

First year students who have paid their fees in full at the beginning of the semester receive tablets to allow them to access their course materials from anywhere on campus and do not have to wait for computers in the labs. This is supported by increase in Wi-Fi access around the campuses.

As of May this year the number of undergraduate programmes offered in flexible mode is 36 which is more than 60% of the undergraduate programmes offered in USP while 14 programmes or 30% are fully online. By 2020, a total of 27 undergraduate programmes are targeted to be provided in the online mode.

The University has planned a number of major capital projects. One of the major developments underway is the construction of the new road entrance from the Nasese end which will become the main vehicle entrance to USP. This will help ease traffic around the current road entrance and will also help align development around that area.

7. 50th Anniversary Preparations

We are now more than three-quarters of the way in celebrating our 50th Anniversary. The official launch of the Anniversary was held on 5th February. More than 30 of the planned 50 events have been held so far with the rest of the planned events to follow in the coming weeks till the end of the year. Each of the campuses of USP in the region has its ‘moment to shine’ as it celebrates the achievements of the campus and the University.

8. My Final Graudation Address in Laucala

This is the last time that I present a report to the Laucala graduation ceremony as I will retire at the end of the year. As I complete almost 39 years of service to USP—of which almost a quarter century has been spent in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office in various roles and ten and half years as the Vice-Chancellor and President—I wish to record my appreciation to the Government and people of Fiji and all the other member governments and the people of the Pacific. I have been privileged to lead the University for the last decade and to have led the development of three strategic plans of the total of only five that the University has ever had. This decade has been a decade of real transformation of the University into an internationally recognized and respected institution embedded strongly in the needs and aspirations of our member countries, and delivering exceptional value to our stakeholders. I am particularly proud of having turned the University around from its financial difficulties and having grown its reputation significantly moving from no international professional accreditations in 2008 to 27 now, 15 international recognitions and accreditation from the Western Senior Commission on Universities and Colleges of the US.

I will leave with fond memories of the University, its staff and students and the boldness of all the member countries in pursing excellence in Education and Excellence through Education. I wish the University well in maintaining its excellent achievements and momentum and lifting its performance, reputation and value to the member countries and stakeholders even higher in the future.

9. 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. I wish to acknowledge the staff of the University who have been working hard towards the goal of excellence. I extend my sincere gratitude to the Pro Chancellor and Chair of Council, Mr. Winston Thompson for his leadership of the university and for his support and guidance to me and wish him well as he takes the governance of the university forward with the transition in leadership.

10. A final word

Chancellor Sir, ladies and gentlemen, a final word to the graduands – CONGRATULATIONS once again. I have every confidence that 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.

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