Ten candidates from across the Pacific have been awarded PhD scholarships under the Norway- Pacific Ocean-Climate Scholarship Programme (N-POC) to undertake research at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in collaboration with the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway. Funded by Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) to recruit 24 PhD candidates to undertake multi-disciplinary research on the ocean-climate nexus under a Bi-institutional arrangement between UiB and USP.
N-POC joint multi-disciplinary research clusters will contribute significantly to ocean and climate challenges with regards to governance; healthy ocean, islands and coasts; water and food security; sustainable Blue Pacific 20250, global warming and sea level rise; and Pacific cultural heritage. The PhD candidates have channelled their work and passion into identifying areas of research that can help overcome challenges faced in protecting our oceans and fighting against climate change in the Pacific and abroad.
The representation of N-POC in the Pacific comprises the USP 12-member countries, including Papua New Guinea, the Federal States of Micronesia and Palau. The N-POC first cohort of PhD confirmed candidates include four recipients from Fiji, three from Tonga and one from Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands, and Samoa. The N-POC’s first cohort of PhD candidates was launched on Tuesday 7th, February at the USP.
The event was attended by the Norwegian Ambassador-designate to Fiji, Her Excellency Ms Anne Grete Riise; Professor Edvard Hviding and staff of UiB; Vice-Chancellor and President and staff of USP, N-POC first cohort of 10 PhD candidates, friends and supporters of N-POC.
USP Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (Education), Professor Jito Vanualailai, congratulated the ten recipients on being awarded the N-POC PhD scholarships.
Professor Vanualailai said, “This launch highlights the achievement of research milestones among the Pacific people. Your research will strongly contribute to a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive research approach in support of oceans and climate justice in the Pacific and abroad”.
“The Norwegian government through UIB has been diligently supporting USP for years in strengthening the global response to the threat of ocean and climate change, and in 2021, UiB and USP have partnered through N-POC, and this commitment was made possible by His Royal Highness, Crown Prince, Haakon of Norway during his visit to the USP Laucala Campus in 2019.” Professor Jito also highlighted.
UiB Pacific Studies and N-POC Coordinator, Professor Edvard Hviding, said they will continue to work with USP and Pacific Countries in cooperation with the programme of which students are now part.
Professor Hviding also expressed his delight in announcing that the N-POC partnership is anchored in a brand new Bi-institutional PhD Agreement signed by the USP Vice-chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia and the UiB Rector, providing each candidate with supervisors from both the USP and the UiB, and leading to the award of a joint PhD degree with certificates from both universities.
“Our Bi-institutional PhD Agreement has been specifically developed for N-POC, and in terms of the ambition, innovation and number of candidates, this Agreement is a first-ever partnership for both our institutions,” he said.
Norwegian Ambassador-designate to Fiji, Her Excellency Ms Anne Grete Riise, stated that the government of Norway is delighted to participate in the N-POC program. Knowledge and education are at the core of the development of every society. The best feature about this programme is that it is in the Pacific and for Pacific people.
USP Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation, Professor Janusz Jankowski, said, “The N-POC Programme is a fantastic initiative. With this official launch, I am excited to meet all our students in person soon.”
“I would like to thank the Ambassador, Her Excellency Ms Anne Grete Riise; I would also like to thank the academic staff in Bergen and the academic staff at USP. This project is something I am particularly passionate about; essentially, what this is about, is using big data, big teams, and tremendous, transformational ideas, which is always a recipe for major success,” Professor Jankowski added.
He said, “We are using these two institutions, UiB and USP, as a pivot to make an important transformational change of how we look at climate change and global changes”
USP Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Regional Campuses and Global Engagement), Dr. Giulio Masasso Tu‘ikolongahau Pāunga, concluded the launch with a vote of thanks acknowledging the presence of the Norwegian Ambassador-designate to Fiji and the Norwegian government for supporting N-POC financially.
He also thanked members of both universities, UiB and USP, for all their contributions towards the development, management and implementation of N-POC.
He also acknowledged the first 10 PhD awardees and their families for their hard work and determination. Dr. Pāunga said, “I understand you have a lot of faith in the N-POC PhD research programme and we assure together with these candidates to stick to our commitments”