SPEECH FOR THE GRADUATION CEREMONY AT THE LAUCALA CAMPUS, THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC
11 SEPTEMBER 2009
Professor Rajesh Chandra
1. Greetings and Welcome
The President of the Republic of Nauru and Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, His Excellency Honourable Marcus Stephen; Ministers of the Government of Fiji; Your Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps; the Deputy Chair of USP Council, Mr. Ikbal Jannif; Heads of International and Regional Organizations; Permanent Secretaries and Senior Government Officials; Members of Council and Senate; distinguished invited guests; USP alumni, staff, students, graduands; parents; partners and spouses; ladies and gentlemen.
Ni Sa Bula. The graduation ceremony of any university is the highlight of its academic calendar. It is a pleasure to welcome you to this graduation ceremony and to address you on this special occasion. I thank all of you for gracing this occasion and making it all the more meaningful for our graduands.
2. Installation of the 16th Chancellor
Ministers, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, we have just witnessed a dignified installation of the 16th Chancellor of the University. The Chancellor is titular head of the University, who confers the qualifications of the University. We are privileged to have the President of the Republic of Nauru, His Excellency Honourable Marcus Stephen as our Chancellor. Mr. Chancellor, we welcome you warmly to the USP family, and we look forward to working with you to advance the work of the University. Your appointment and installation today amply demonstrate the true regional nature of this University and its importance to all its Member Countries, large and small.
3. Graduation and Congratulations
I offer my heartiest congratulations to our graduands. You are the reason for this celebration. The years of hard work and toil are today formally recognized and rewarded. It is also an opportunity for those who have encouraged and helped you along the way to share your success.
Today we have 866 students who will receive degrees, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and a few will receive Certificates and Diplomas. It is pleasing to note that nearly a quarter of today’s graduates are at the Postgraduate level. The University intends to grow its postgraduate enrolment not only through coursework-based Masters but more significantly through thesis-based Masters and PhDs.
Graduands – you will add to the growing number of USP Alumni in the region, getting close to 40,000 now. I congratulate you all and wish you the very best for the future.
As you move on to the next phase of your lives, make the University proud by being hard-working, innovative and committed. Be ethical in your future work and leadership. I invite you to take a continuing interest in your University as we all join hands to contribute to the development of our countries and the Pacific region we call home.
Receiving your degrees today does not signal an end but rather the beginning of a long journey. The American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” - I therefore urge you to make a difference in your communities, leave a “trail” for others to see and follow, be role models and strive for excellence.
Let me now touch briefly on two important documents that have been completed this year, namely the new Strategic Plan 2010-2012 and the University’s Triennial Submission 2010-2012.
4. The Strategic Plan 2010-2012
I am pleased to report that the University Council approved the new Strategic Plan 2010-2012 at its last meeting in early June 2009. The focus of the new plan is on recovery, consolidation and reshaping the University for targeted expansion with student success and student support for learning at its core. The Plan has the theme of “Quality, Relevance and Sustainability” which encapsulates its developmental thrust for the next triennium. USP is determined to achieve excellence in all its activities. And as Colin Powell once said:
“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”
5. The University Triennial Submission 2010-2012
The second document deals with the University’s triennial submission which outlines its financial plans for the next three years. In preparing the Triennial Submission 2010-2012, the University was very mindful of the current financial challenges facing member countries, so for the first time it asked for a reduction rather than an increase in the overall government contributions.
We await the formal approval from the Ministers of Finance of the UGC recommendations.
6. Major Plans for 2010
· The University has a hectic schedule of activities for 2010. One of the major initiatives is a Total Academic Review, a key goal of our new Strategic Plan. This will involve a review of all our academic programmes and courses and will build on what we have already accomplished. The outcome of this Review is expected to be a more streamlined portfolio of programmes that are responsive to the demands of our students and their sponsors, and directly address the development challenges that confront our region today.
· The new Japan-Pacific ICT Centre will open in March 2010, and we expect a significant increase in the range and quality of our ICT programmes and services. The USPNet broadband will be expanded substantially, with its speed at least doubled and possibly doubled.
· The construction of a new student residential complex is also planned.
· The University will continue to implement recommendations of the Quality Audit Report. As part of nurturing quality, all gold medalists of USP will be guaranteed Graduate Assistantships from 2010.
· A new Human Resources Strategy will be developed that ensures that USP recruits the best people, inducts and develops them properly, assess their performance vigorously and fairly, and rewards them appropriately. It is vital that we do this urgently as the quality of staff will largely determine the quality of the University.
· The University will also finalize its Risk Management Plan, the international student recruitment strategy, the Campus Master Plan and its ICT Plan.
So ladies and gentlemen, a full programme of activities has been planned for 2010.
7. Concluding Statements
The last twelve months have been extremely challenging but also very satisfying. The University, I believe, has benefited from strong and decisive leadership, and has re-established a sense of credibility and accountability. Through the efforts of the whole team, the finances of the University have been improved significantly. Furthermore, systems and mindsets have been and are still being changed to ensure that the University continues its progress and becomes more agile and sustainable.
While some of the challenges have been met, and much progress made, the University will still continue to operate in a very turbulent and uncertain environment. Its approach to the future, therefore, is based on caution and care, but on the underlying assumption that USP remains central to the future of our member countries in a world that is already a knowledge world, a world in which higher education will play an increasingly crucial role in survival and prosperity.
Mr. Chancellor, Hon. Ministers, Excellencies, graduands, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. Once again, I congratulate all the graduates today and wish them well. The future is what we make of it; much is expected of you; make us proud and God Bless.