N-POC successfully launched its second cohort of nine PhD candidates


Nine Pacific Island postgraduate students were officially recognised and welcomed to The University of the South Pacific (USP) last Wednesday (January 17, 2024) as the second cohort of the Norway-Pacific Ocean Climate (N-POC) Scholarship programme to pursue their Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) research.

This was possible through the partnership between USP and Norway’s University of Bergen (UiB), funded by Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation to undertake multi-disciplinary research on topics related to the ocean-climate nexus under a Bi-institutional arrangement for three years.

The Ambassador of Norway to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, Her Excellency Anne Grete Riise, while launching the programme at the Laucala Campus in Fiji, emphasised the collective importance of N-POC,

“We are both ocean states and depend on the ocean for our living and sustenance.”

“Through this partnership, we’ll be able to rely on research information from the scholarship recipients to inform our way forward in working towards sustainable management of our ocean, understanding the impacts of climate change on vulnerable countries and mapping a path that focuses on sustainability.”

The Ambassador also reiterated the significant role of N-POC in advancing the Norwegian government’s contribution to the regional and global threats people face from ocean and climate-driven challenges in the Pacific.

While acknowledging the partnership between the two universities, USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia expressed his gratitude to the Norwegian government, “This relationship provides our students an opportunity to spend some time at a world-class university in Norway and conduct research that is pertinent to the survival, development and progress of the Pacific and for Norway”.

“This partnership is geared to making sure that recipients finish their PhD in three years, and once completed, these students will be an asset to our beloved Pacific.”

Professor Ahluwalia further stressed that with the paucity of PhD graduates in the Pacific, such partnership becomes an enabler for progress in the region, especially in fields related to ocean and climate change sciences.

The second cohort of N-POC scholars includes five Fijians (Ms Sandhya Kumari, Mr Viliame Bainivesi, Mr Doni Wainiqolo, Mr Iliesa Koroi, Mr Sai Navoti); two Solomon Islanders (Ms Alice Rore and Mr Jim Damusaru), one Nauruan (Mrs Momoyo Scotty) and one Papua New Guinean (Mr Jobo Kogapo).

Representing N-POC at UiB, Professor Edvard Hviding emphasised the importance of the two universities’ partnership to do research relevant in the Pacific and produce a body of knowledge that both countries can rely on to shape future policy geared towards preservation and sustainable practices.

Dean of USP’s Graduate School, Professor Digby Race, who also represents N-POC at USP, said he was “Inspired by the academic and professional calibre of candidates in both cohorts of the N-POC programme, ss together they will generate vital knowledge to take our Pacific region forward to create a prosperous and sustainable future”.

USP Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr Giulio Paunga said through N-POC, the partnership between USP and UiB will build a strong multi-disciplinary Pacific cohort of PhD researchers to address urgent challenges facing our ocean and climate.

He adds that it will also assist in providing research materials on ocean-climate nexus for regional and global policy impact.

“Additionally, it will build enduring partnerships between researchers and universities in Norway and the Pacific Islands.”

Dr Paunga also said, “This event is an opportunity for welcoming winners, acknowledging contributors, sharing good practices, fostering relationships, and celebrating achievements. Our strength lies in our diversity, and together, we create an environment of trust, safety and good relationships for our people”.

He also congratulated the recipient of the N-POC scholarship and expressed USP’s gratitude to UiB and the Norwegian government for their continued support.

Concluding the event with a vote of thanks, USP’s Director of Research, Professor Sushil Kumar, highlighted that the research areas of the N-POC Scholarship recipient will not only boost USP’s research outcomes but also provide essential information that organisations, institutions and other statutory bodies can rely on to improve sustainability.

As is the practice in the Pacific, the N-POC event was opened and closed with a prayer by the USP’s Chaplain, Rev Peni Waqakibau, to set the spiritual context of the launch, bring everyone together spiritually, and seek blessings upon the scholarship recipients as they embark on their academic journey.


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