Speech by Professor Rajesh Chandra for the graduation ceremony at the Solomon Island Campus -  Office of the Vice-Chancellor



Speech by Professor Rajesh Chandra for the graduation ceremony at the Solomon Island Campus, 29 September 2018

1. Acknowledgements

2. Welcome and Congratulations

Welkom and a very good morning to you all.

It gives me great pleasure to join the Minister of Education and Human Resources Development, Honorable John Dean Kuku in warmly welcoming the Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Finance—and one of our most distinguished alumni to the University of the South Pacific’s Solomon Island Campus Graduation for 2018. As you know, this is a very special graduation as it is occurring during the Solomon Islands Campus Moment to Shine week of our 50th anniversary that the Acting Prime Minister so graciously launched yesterday morning.

3. Graduation Numbers

For the first time we are having two graduation ceremonies for Solomon Islands. The first one was in Auki where we had about 200 students graduating. Altogether, we have 1211 students receiving certificates, diplomas and degrees in this round of graduation at Auki and the Honiara Campus out of which 1034 student will be graduating here today.

This very large number almost comparable to the September graduation at Laucala, and is due to our very successful and innovative special programme Graduate Certificate in School Leadership which has 901 students graduating, out of which 176 graduated in Auki on Tuesday 25th September and the rest are present here today to receive their certificates and are part of the first batch of this in-country project.

The Graduate Certificate in School Leadership is a programme offered as special In-country project in Solomon Islands over three years.

Since its establishment, the University has issued just over 67, 552 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. Since the establishment of USP in 1968, the total number of awards for Solomon Island students is 8,746 which is 13 percent of all qualifications granted by the University. In 2018 alone, 1,247 awards have been given so far.

Of those graduating, 74% are graduating with Graduate Certificates, 11% are graduating with Undergraduate qualifications while around 8% are graduating from Pacific TAFE. 57 students are graduating with Postgraduate Certificates, 18 are graduating with Postgraduate Diplomas, 2 with Professional Diplomas and 5 students are graduating with Masters Qualifications. 34% of those graduating are women. This is in stark contrast to the 67 percent females at the Laucala graduation a week ago, indicating the need to pay more attention to gender equality.

4. To the Graduands

I offer my warmest congratulations to the graduates. 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.

There are a very large number of students graduating with a qualification in leadership. I hope that you will all go on to make a major difference to educational outcomes in Solomon Islands as the quality of educational outcomes in SI and the rest of our member countries remains a serious concern for governments and others alike.

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 of achievement because the only comparator data we could locate showed a level of 72 percent, and because it has been achieved with per student funding of less than half that of Australian universities.

The new Strategic Plan for 2019 – 2024 is being finalized with the final draft to be submitted to the November Council for its consideration and approval. We had two consultations for Solomon Islands yesterday.

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 accepted as having the same quality as 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 Solomon Islands Campus and Future Developments

The Faculty of Science Technology and Environment is currently collaborating with the Government of Solomon Islands to bring face-to-face in-country science programmes to Solomon Islands in semester 1 next year. These include science disciplines such as Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Information Systems. This is designed to allow students to do at least the first year of their undergraduate programmes here in Solomon Islands. However, plans are being made to allow complete programmes to be offered here in Honiara.

The Faculty of Arts, Law and Education has successfully conducted a cohort based Professional Certificate in Gender Studies for Civil Servants in Honiara and plans to offer the programme to other cohort groups such as women's, groups and civil societies. Cohort based Early Childhood Education Programme is also planned. The Literacy project was launch this year and we hope many teachers and schools in SI will participate in it.

The Faculty continues to work closely with SINU in Post Graduate programmes and also in the area of collaborative research.

USP is also progressing well to establish a new school – School of Public Health in the new campus in Solomon Islands. Initial endorsement for the establishment of the School of Public Health has been done. Senate is expected to provide its approval soon before its presented to the November Council meeting.

The leadership arrangements for the regional campuses were changed in 2017 and a Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Solomon Islands has now been appointed and awaiting the completion of all immigration processes before the new PVC can start work.

We know that not everything has been well at the Solomon Islands Lawson Tama Campus this year. With the OHS issues we faced due to work not related to the USP campus and the slowness from the parties involved in supporting a resolution so that the students can continue education without being affected, has put a lot of strain on our operations. However, we have tried in our best capacity to provide services and look after our staff and students. The new sewerage septic tank is under construction and should resolve the issue of sewerage. IT Services have successfully provided WiFi access points to allow students to access internet for studies, Audio and Video installations in allocated rooms and point to point fiber links between the current Lawson Tama USP Campus and the SMI building to allow for services at the SMI building such as React, Moodle and email. Telephony installation has also been completed as well as computers in the labs which are now connected to the University network.

I am pleased that despite the delays, the plans for the new campus are now on track to deliver a campus in 2021. To enable this to happen, the University has recently spent a further US$200,000(SBD 1,595,250) to ensure that the engineering drawings are independently assessed and the new tender documents are prepared and used effectively in the tender process.

For me personally, this is something that has taken too much time to be realized given the size and importance of SI to the USP family. I led a planning mission in 2003 as the Acting Vice-Chancellor then to advance the plans for the new campus. The rest is history, but it is satisfying that it will finally happen.

I thank the Government of SI for their support and assistance in ensuring that the campus does finally get developed. We will ensure that when it is completed, it is a show case campus of the most modern pedagogy and environmental sustainability.

Research

Solomon Islands is an important focus for USP’s research and a substantial research is being conducted in and for Solomon Islands by some of our eminent researchers. The areas of USP-led researches for Solomon Islands include: Food Security, Education, Environmental Science, Climate Change, and Politics. This year 10 quality publications have already been produced.

Pacific TAFE

USP Pacific TAFE with support from both the European Union and the Solomon Islands Government delivered four (4) cohorts between 2017 and 2018. There were a total of hundred (100) participants in these cohorts out of which ninety three (93) participants have met the requirements to graduate with a Certificate IV in Project Management Practice.

Pacific TAFE will also be delivering Certificate 4 in Information Technology as well as Diploma in Information Technology in the country starting next year. Recruitment of a full time staff in Information Technology is currently underway.

General

Solomon Islands is one of the founding members of USP and it continues to support USP financially through its annual government grants. In 2017, the Solomon Islands accounted for 7.1 percent (F$2,739,358) of the total member countries’ contribution to USP. During 2013-2017, Solomon Islands student headcount enrolment made-up an average of 18.7 percent of the total student headcount at USP and had the 2nd highest share of students among member countries growing at an average 4.3 percent per year. Thus Solomon Islands receives good returns on its investment.

The 2017 Solomon Islands student’s average pass rate was higher than the USP average. From 75.0 percent in 2013, Solomon Islands student’s pass rates have improved further to 79.3 percent in 2017.

7. 50th Anniversary Preparations

We are now more than three-quarters of the way in celebrating our 50th Anniversary. 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. We have the Moment to Shine this week.

8. My Final Graduation Address in Solomon Islands.

This is the last time that I present a report to the Solomon Island graduation ceremony as I will retire at the end of the year. As I complete almost 39 years of service to USP—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 Solomon Islands, to the other member countries and the people of the Pacific. I have been privileged to lead the University for the last decade. 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 retire from the University with very fond memories of Solomon Islands. I was privileged to have taught some of the best students from Solomon Islands, one of whom went on to become a Prime Minister while many others rose through the ranks to make exceptional contributions to Solomon Islands and beyond. Solomon Islands had also nominated me for the position of Vice-Chancellor when my own country did not do that. For a person searching for acceptance as a Pacific Islander, this meant a great deal to me and represented a huge gesture from the Government for which I have remained forever grateful. More recently, Solomon Islands honoured me with its award for meritorious service to Solomon Islands, something that I truly value and cherish. Tank you tumas.

I have been privileged to have served under the second Solomon Islands Chancellor and our 18th Chancellor, SI Governor-General, Sir Frank Utu Ofagioro Kabui between July 2011 to June 2012. I have also enjoyed working with so many Ministers of Education and Permanent Secretaries of Human Resource Development, to all of whom I express gratitude.

I will always be ready to provide assistance to Solomon Islands if needed and certainly wish the country huge success in the future.

9. Thanks and Appreciation

I wish to thank the Solomon Islands Government, 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 also wish to acknowledge the staff of the Solomon Islands Campus 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 and for his support and guidance 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.

Thank you tumas and God Bless.






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