Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP Vice-Chancellor and President speaking to staff at the Laucala Campus.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) held its second Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Forum for the year at the Japan-Pacific ICT Multipurpose Theatre on 6 October, 2017.
USP Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Rajesh Chandra said he regarded the forum as an important part of inclusion and receiving feedback from staff.
“It is a time where staff can raise their concerns and issues and can clarify or ask anything. It becomes even far more important particularly when an institution such as ours, is in a phase of major changes,” he said.
“We are committed to transformation from good to excellent which is a big ask and there are a lot more things that still need to be done as we now come to making a last-ditch effort to conclude this Strategic Plan (2013-2018) and begin the process of reflection and deep thinking, about where we want to the University to be in the years ahead,” he stated.
Professor Chandra said the general consensus from a recent series of meetings of the Executive Committee, Finance Committee and the 50th Anniversary Steering committee was that it was pleasing to note that USP is making great progress apart from being mindful of areas that need to be tightened up.
“By and large the assessment at the moment is that USP is tracking very significantly towards its vision of excellence,” Professor Chandra said.
“There have been a lot of achievements and many of you will vouch for the fact that USP feels and looks different from what it was ten (10) years ago.
“USP has also been building its reputation and is actually envied and admired in the region and internationally,” he stated.
According to Professor Chandra, USP has recently been preoccupied with a deep reflection of the current Strategic Plan (2013-2018) including work on the new Strategic Plan, following approval of its process by Council.
Some of the queries raised included clarity on issues like the process of staff dispute resolution; repatriation of expatriate staff at the end of their employment terms, job evaluation exercise for Intermediate and Junior (I&J) staff and the possible review of staff benefits, with regards to studies.
With regards to the latter, Professor Chandra explained that he had made mention of it recently by way of a suggestion to save funds for the University and consequently channeling it to areas like salary for staff.
USP currently spends close to $2m for staff fee concession every year. Professor Chandra however confirmed this will not be done but is something that could be discussed further.
With respect to the job evaluation exercise for Intermediate and Junior (I&J) staff, Mr Dhiraj Bhartu, Interim Director Human Resources (IDHR) clarified that there would be a slight delay as the University had outsourced this service and it would most likely be held in November.
Another issue that came to light and was of major concern was security of staff and students on campus.
Professor Chandra said the issue of security on campus was a shared concern and it was agreed that this be beefed up.
One of the measures currently being taken by USP security is the checking of student ID cards at all campus entry points. It was also raised that one of the challenges faced by security personnel is that they would not know current students from former ones because the IDs do not carry validity dates.
Professor Chandra confirmed that this is an issue that needs to be looked into and addressed right away but emphasised that all students must produce identification cards when asked by the security.
At the conclusion of the Forum, Professor Chandra emphasised the importance of communication among staff, saying that effective communication will not only make work easier but quickly iron out problems that may arise.
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