The 90th Council meeting of The University of the South Pacific successfully concluded on Thursday 19 November 2020. The two-day meeting was held at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre from 18th November.
The USP Council is the highest decision-making body of the University and meets twice a year to discuss the affairs of the University. Membership comprises the Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council, the Vice-Chancellor and President, representatives of the 12-member country governments, staff and students. One representative each from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Forum are also part of the Council.
The meeting was chaired by the Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council, Mr Winston Thompson.
Pro-Chancellor and Vice –Chancellor and President’s Reports
The Council noted reports from the Pro-Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor and President on activities undertaken since their report at the last Council meeting in November 2019. The meeting scheduled to be held in May 2020 in Tuvalu was cancelled due to the Covid-19 border closures.
Key developments, achievements and challenges highlighted by the Vice Chancellor and President included the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it had affected the University’s operations.
Professor Ahluwalia informed the Council of a preceding partnership arrangement between USP and the New Zealand Government, which concluded on 31 March 2020. Through the new Interim Grant Funding Arrangement signed on 5 November 2020, the New Zealand Government provides NZD13 million by for a duration of 14 months, which expires at the end of February 2022.
The 2020 enrolment for Equivalent Full Time Student (EFTS) as at 22 September 2020, excluding Pacific TAFE is about 14,830 representing a headcount of 21,680 students. Comparing these figures to 2019, the head counts has increased by 7% and the EFTS by 8%. With Pacific TAFE included, the University’s overall head count enrolment reported an increase of 1% and the EFTS enrolment reporting an increase of 5%.
The Council was also informed that the enrolment for Semester 2 as at 22 September 2020 was very encouraging as the target was exceeded by 23.2% of the total EFTS (excluding Pacific TAFE). More so, a majority of the students that account for the increase are from the regional member countries.
The Vice-Chancellor said despite the challenges faced because of the pandemic, enrolment for Semester 2 had been encouraging. USP’s target was exceeded by 23.2% of total Equivalent Full Time Students (excluding Pacific TAFE).
There was also an increase of 17% of International Students compared to 2019.
The indicative aid budget for USP as at 20 October 2020 stands at FJD31,994,947, showing a decline of 23% compared to the same period last year.
The Vice-Chancellor also informed the Council of a full research agreement signed by USP with the University of Strathclyde under the One Ocean Hub, worth £1,693,954 (approximately FJD$4,718,023). Within the reporting period, USP has altogether signed 24 new MOUs and Agreements. This includes finances worth approximately FJD1,335,427. Twelve MOUs and Agreements are non-financial.
The Vice-Chancellor said the Solomon Islands Campus development will now begin on 30 January, 2021in agreement with ADB. Work has been delayed due to the effects of Covid-19.
Financial, Audit and Risk Matters
1. Reorganisation Operations for a Sustainable and Stronger USP
The Council accepted Management’s proposal and approved the re-organisation of USP. The implementation of the reorganisation will be carried out in stages over a six-month period to ensure minimal disruption to its core business. The key changes will see a reorganisation of academic sections and Pacific TAFE and rationalising programmes and courses.
2. 2019 Annual Report, Annual Plan and Financial Plan for 2021
The Council approved the 2019 Annual Report and the 2021 Annual Plan. The Financial Plan for 2021 was also approved with total income of $190m, total expenditure of $180.6m and operating surplus of $9.4m.
3. Audited Financial Statements for Half Year Ended 30 June 2020
The Council adopted the Audited Financial Statements for the half year ended 30 June 2020.
4. Forecast to December 2020
The Council noted the forecast of Income and Expenditure, cash flows and financial position of the University as at 31st December 2020. It further noted the various management financial controls in place to protect the financial position and urged member countries and development partners to maintain their current levels of contributions and assistance.
Academic and Quality Matters
The Council noted a report from the Senate on its work since the last Council Meeting and resolved to institute the following new programmes:
1. Postgraduate Diploma in Arts majoring in Gender Studies
2. Certificate in Cook Islands Maori
3. Doctorate in Business Administration
4. Certificate IV in Procurement and Supply
Whilst noting the progress report of the 2019-2021 Strategic Plan, the Council approved the way forward for the preparation of next Strategic Plan 2022-2024.
Three policies and procedures were approved by the Council. These are:
• Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedure
• Anti-Bullying Policy and Procedure
• Child Protection Policy and Procedure
USP Staff Union proposals
The Council received a proposal by the Staff Union to approve an Equal Default Retirement Age of 65 years for all University staff including the Administrative Staff and Junior Staff Category. The Council noted this request and resolved that this matter be considered for approval at the Management level.
The Council also approved amendments to the 2009 Ordinances on Election of Staff to the Council. This change now allows representation of the Intermediate and Junior Staff on Council.
Appointments to Committees
A member from Nauru has been appointed to the Nominations Committee. The Council also approved and the re-appointment of two independent members of FIC for a term of two years.
Delegation of powers – Chairs and Committees of Council
The Council resolved to approve delegation of powers of the following Committees for a further term of 2 years from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2022:
• Executive Committee
• Audit & Risk Committee
• Finance & Investments Committee
• Remuneration Committee
• Student Discipline Appeals Committee
• Search Committee
• Honorary Degrees Committee
With immediate effect, Alafua Campus will now be called USP Samoa Campus. This proposal was brought before the Council by the Government of Samoa.
In approving the dates for the 2021 Council Meetings, the Council also noted that the venue of the May meeting, which is usually held in one of the regional member countries, will be confirmed in due course subject to borders opening for travel.
The Council Meeting concluded on 19 November 2020.