Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Speech by Professor Rajesh Chandra for the graduation ceremony at the Laucala campus - 21 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 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 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.

Due to the large numbers, the graduation ceremony is being held over 2 days and in 3 sessions. Today’s graduation ceremony will have students from the Faculty of Business and Economics graduating in this session. Students from the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment and from Pacific Technical and Further Education (Pacific TAFE) graduated in the first session yesterday morning while students from the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education graduated in the second ceremony yesterday afternoon.

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. This is an exceptional level of achievement for a strategic plan, especially given that the per student funding at USP is less than half that of a typical Australian university. 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 Business and Economics as only its students are graduating in this session.

I am pleased to report that we have recently made a number of senior appointments at the Faculty. Professor Anand Chand has been appointment as Head of School for the School of Management and Public Administration, Professor Stephen Pratt has been appointed Head of School for School of Tourism and Hospitality Management and Professor Allen Matthews has been appointed as Professor of Development Studies in the School of Government, Development and International Affairs. Dr Sothea Oum has been appointed as Acting Director of Centre for Economic Policy and Modelling. This position is funded by the Asian Development Bank.

The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) School of Tourism & Hospitality Management (STHM) was successfully re-accredited by the International Centre of Excellence in Tourism and Hospitality Education (THE-ICE) in July 2018.

THE-ICE is a not-for-profit organisation that accredits programmes internationally and School of Tourism & Hospitality Management has been an accredited member since 2012.

The Faculty of Business and Economics has relaunched its flagship journal, The Journal of Pacific Studies. For the first time readers can access any article dating back to 1975. This repository has a very rich history of published work on the Pacific region.
The Japanese Government has sponsored a security awareness training program for the Pacific region and this is being implemented by the Faculty of Business and Economics through the Pacific Islands Centre for Public Administration.

The Faculty also has an Agriculture School based at Alafua Campus in Samoa which is also doing very well. This year the school has had a high number of enrollments due to increasing interest of prospective students in agricultural programs and continuing support from the governments of different Pacific island countries and its concentration on the agriculture sector. The Fijian government has been putting a lot of emphasis on the need to grow our agriculture sector.

Overall the Faculty of Business and Economics continues to attract the most number of students every year compared to the other two Faculties. Today, 512 students are graduating from the Faculty which is 54% of all the students graduating from the three Faculties in this graduation.


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.

The University is also continuously looking at supporting students in learning with ICT developments. 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 campus.

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 on a number of major capital projects, one of which currently in progress is the construction of the new road entrance from the Queen Elisabeth drive end that will become the main vehicle entrance to USP. This will help ease traffic around the current road entrance and will 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 February 5th and on March 23rd a monument was unveiled in appreciation of the contributions of Royal New Zealand Airforce to the University at the Faculty of Business and Economics. 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. 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 also 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.

9. 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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