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Five Decades of USP’s Governance and Leadership

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The Academic and Administrative Staff of USP in 1968.

The University of the South Pacific (USP) is the premier institution of higher learning for the Pacific, uniquely placed in a region of extraordinary physical, social and economic diversity and challenges to serve the region’s need for high quality tertiary education, research and policy apart from being a tertiary institution. It also serves as an organisation of regional cooperation and integration.

It is jointly owned and governed by twelve (12) Member Countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The University has campuses in all Member Countries, with Fiji having three (3) Campuses.

The main Campus and headquarters is at Laucala, in Fiji. The Alafua Campus in Samoa is where the School of Agriculture and Food Technology is situated, and the Emalus Campus in Vanuatu is the location for the School of Law.

The Royal Charter and Statutes form the overriding governance instruments of the University. It is governed by its own Council, which includes representatives of the Member Country Governments, staff and student representatives, and community and business leaders, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), Australia and New Zealand.

The Council and the Senate are served by a network of standing committees as well as Joint Committees of the Council and Senate in key areas.

The ceremonial head of the University is the Chancellor. USP’s Chancellors are normally Heads of States. The Pro-Chancellor is Chair of Council, and the Executive Head of the University is the Vice-Chancellor and President.


The Council is the governing body of the University. It exercises all powers conferred on the University by the Charter, subject to the powers, duties and functions conferred upon it by the Statutes. It has general control over the conduct of the affairs of the University. It also has the custody of the Common Seal and is responsible for the management and administration of the revenue and property of USP.

The Council can add to, amend or repeal the provisions of the Statutes by a Special Resolution as long as such changes are not repugnant to the Charter. Any changes to the Charter will need to go to the Privy Council for approval with final assent by Her Majesty. The Council makes Ordinances to direct and regulate the University and its authorities and members. The Council meets twice a year normally in May and November, with the Executive Committee meeting at least four (4) times a year to facilitate the oversight and operations of the University.

Furthermore, the Senate is the chief academic authority of the University, responsible for all academic matters, including quality. It exercises the powers, duties and functions conferred by the Charter and Statutes to promote excellence in teaching, consultancy, research and other academic work of the University.


One of the decisions of the Interim Council during the University’s establishment back in 1968 was to seek a Royal Charter, which led to intensive discussions and correspondence with the British Ministry of Overseas Development, Her Majesty’s Privy Council and governments of the region. The Council also sought the views of the staff of the University.

The drafting of the Charter was undertaken by Dr Colin Aikman, the first Vice-Chancellor of USP, with the assistance of New Zealand University Grants Committee.

The final draft of the Charter and accompanying documents were approved by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, on the advice of her Privy Council, on 4 February 1970 and received the Royal Assent on 10 February, the same year.

This was followed by a unique occasion in the University’s calendar, the personal presentation of the Charter by the Queen herself during a ceremony at the Laucala Campus on 5 March 1970.

Ms. Masiofo Fetauimalemau Mata’afa of Western Samoa (now Samoa), the first Pro-Chancellor of USP received and acknowledged the Charter.

The Charter and Statutes follow English and New Zealand precedents. The Chancellor is, in accordance with English practice, a “titular head of the University”, which is an honorific status.

Chairmanship of the Council is the responsibility of the Pro-Chancellor, who is elected by the Council and holds office for a term of three (3) years which is renewable. The Chancellor holds office for a term of one year (Articles 5 & 6 and Part 3).

The Schedule to the Charter named His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV of Tonga as the first Chancellor.

The Charter makes the University responsible for:

“The maintenance, advancement and dissemination of knowledge by teaching, consultancy and research and otherwise, for the provision at appropriate levels of education and training responsive to the well-being and needs of the communities of the South Pacific.”

Some provisions in the Charter, which are of particular interest include:

  • The University is to have the power, “to affiliate, associate with or co-operate with other institutions or bodies...” and “to enter into any agreement for the incorporation in the University of any other institutions or body and for taking over the rights, properties, liabilities and engagements thereof.” [Article 4 (l) and (m)]
  • The Council may “comment or make recommendations on any Regulations relating to any programme or course of study...” for the consideration of the Senate, which is the chief academic authority of the University [Statutes 12 (l) (xvii) and 17 (l) (i)]. This and other provisions give Council more status in academic matters than is usual in Commonwealth Universities.
  • Council includes two (2) representatives of the Students Association, and there is provision for a third [Statute 11 (l) (c) (iii)]. The Interim Council did not agree to student representation on Senate, however, the Council, during its meeting in 1971 provided for this representation of one (1) student from each of the three (3) Schools (now Faculties) [Statute (1) 9c) (ii)]
  • Since it was quite challenging to bring together a large Council that included representatives from inside and outside the region, the Council is given wider powers of delegation. An Executive Committee of Council, with regional representation, was established. The Council can delegate any of its powers to this Committee or to any other committee (Statute 14).


The Charter of the University (the Charter) established the University. The primary purpose of the University is to maintain, advance and disseminate knowledge through programmes of study according to the well-being and needs of the Pacific. The Charter lists twenty-six (26) powers of the University including the power to provide programmes of study, to grant awards for completion of programmes of study, to prescribe fees, to raise funds for the University, to invest and act as a trustee for the University, and to do all such acts to further the objectives of the University. The Charter creates the offices of the University including the Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, the Deputy Vice-Chancellors and other officers as appropriate.

Furthermore, the Charter established the Council of the University to exercise general control over the well-being and conduct of University affairs conferred by the Charter and the Statutes. It also establishes the Senate as the academic oversight and regulatory body. Both the Council and the Senate can delegate their powers, duties and functions to committees or employees of the University.

The Statutes of the University (the Statutes) provides inter- alia for the constitution, powers, duties and functions of both the Council and the Senate. Part four (4) of the Statutes provides for the Council and its committees including membership and its terms of reference. There are twenty-six (26) powers, duties and functions of the Council including a catch-all provision that the Council is empowered to exercise all powers, duties and functions that are conferred by the Charter and the Statutes. 

The Council and Senate are supported by a network of Standing Committees as well as Joint Committees of the Council and Senate in key areas.


Dr. Colin Aikman: 1968 - 1974

Late Dr. Colin Aikman was the first Vice-Chancellor of USP and served the University for seven (7) years from 1968 – 1974. Dr. Aikman attained his Master of Laws from Victoria University and PhD from the London School of Economics. As part of his previous work experience, he was Professor of Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law at Victoria University of Wellington between 1955 and 1968 and Dean of the Law Faculty. He was instrumental in drafting the Charter of USP, under which the University is governed. During his term, the University witnessed its first graduation ceremony where the first Chancellor His Majesty the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV conferred the Bachelor’s degree on seventeen (17) students and awarded the Diplomas in Education to sixteen (16) students and Vocational Teachers Certificate to a further sixteen (16) students. Dr. Aikman also facilitated Her Majesty the Queen’s visit to the University in 1970 to present the Royal Charter, thus formally inaugurating the University.Dr. Aikman received USP’s Honorary Doctorate Degree in 1992.  He died in Wellington in 2002 at the age of 83.

Dr. James Maraj: 1975 - 1982

The late Dr James Maraj was the second Vice-Chancellor of USP and served in that position for seven (7) years from 1975 – 1982.  Dr Maraj had a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Education from The University of West Indies and a PhD from the University of Birmingham, UK and, in 1983 was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Loughborough University, UK. He was the Director, Education Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat from 1970 – 1972 and Commonwealth Assistant Secretary-General from 1973 –1975 before joining USP.

Within a few weeks of his Vice-Chancellorship, Dr Maraj in a statement to the University, set out his perceptions of USP as an expression of the free-willing cooperation among island countries for mutual benefit and support which has come to be termed South Pacific Regionalism, together with a series of proposals as to how it might advance to fulfil its function as the premier academic institution in the region, and respond to the needs and aspirations of the societies of which it was part of. The “Maraj Period” has been one of accelerated development, with expansion of the degree courses, the profileration of diploma and certificate courses, a greatly extended service, and the creation of Institutes and Centres.

In 1976, the University saw the commencement of the construction of the first permanent extension centre building and the first University building to be built outside of Fiji (in Solomon Islands). When he started his term as the Vice-Chancellor in 1975, one of the key suggestions made by Dr Maraj was the proposal to establish a Centre for Applied Studies in Development and this Centre became a reality the following year, with Mr Derek Medford as the first Director.

Furthermore, in 1978, USP celebrated its 10th Anniversary, and saw a comprehensive review of the University and its work. In 1981, the then Prime Minister of India, Her Excellency Mrs Indira Gandhi was conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University.

Dr. Maraj passed away in April 1999 in Brisbane, Australia.

Professor Frank Brosnahan: 1982 - 1983

Professor Frank Brosnahan was the interim Vice-Chancellor of USP for a little over one year from June 1982 – October 1983. He had a Master of Arts degree from New Zealand in addition to a Doctor of Letters and Master of Philosophy. Before taking up his role as the Interim Vice-Chancellor, he served as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University from 1972 – 1979 and served on many of the committees of the USP Senate including Academic, Extension Services, Library Advisory, Planning and Administrative, Publications, Schools Liaison and Honorary Degrees. He had joined USP as a Professor in English. According to him, “All universities have their particular features but USP has a very interesting one in the sheer width, scope and range of its campus. When you think of the region in which USP operates, that covers about 33million square kilometres, it obviously has to respond to this challenge in a rather specific way. It appears to me that USP is responding very well, indeed.” During his brief term, the Pacific Languages Unit was established as part of Institute of Pacific Studies at Port Vila (Vanuatu Centre) with Mr Terry Crowley as its founding Director.

Council members during the 86th council meeting in Nauru in May 2018.

Mr Geoffery Caston: 1983 - 1992

In 1983, Late Mr Geoffery Caston was appointed the next Vice-Chancellor and he served USP for eight and half years from October 1983 to February 1992. He studied History and Law at Peterhouse, Cambridge and had a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University. He was appointed Registrar of the University of Oxford in 1972, and was also made a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. He left Oxford in 1979, and served as Secretary-General to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals until 1983 when he joined USP as the Vice-Chancellor. As the Vice-Chancellor, his main focus was balancing research and teaching, “or there would be a serious loss of intellectual assets.” Research was recognised as being essential, but needed to be relevant to the region. Mr Caston, who was a staunch advocate of research, witnessed significant research projects took place in areas including agriculture, social and administrative services, natural resources, economic development, educational administration and humanities. Mr. Caston is credited with his leadership of the University during Fiji’s 1987 coup and the subsequent crisis, working to maintain the regularity and autonomy of the University.

Each year the University saw marked increases in the number of research publications and this was reflected in its Annual Reports. Additionally, in May 1988, His Excellency Mr Robert Cotton, the then Australian Ambassador opened USP’s new library building, which was worth FJD 3.8 million, funded through the Australian Aid.

He passed away on 19 January 2018 at the age of 91 at Exeter.

Mr. Esekia Solofa: 1992 - 2001

Mr. Caston was succeeded by Mr Esekia Solofa, a first from USP member country, who served as the Vice-Chancellor for nine (9) years from 1992 - 2001. A Samoan national, he had a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Canterbury and Master of Public Administration from Harvard. Mr. Solofa’s term saw the University mark an important milestone in its progress, the University’s 25th Anniversary celebrations – an achievement that was eagerly celebrated throughout the region with a year-long variety programme of academic and cultural activities involving the alumni, students and staff at the campuses and at the extension centres. Mr. Solofa projected that “the next 25 years will see the demands of the region and the needs of the communities (to) grow in complexity and sophistication.” 1998 saw two (2) major infrastructural developments at the Laucala Campus, which included the opening of the Marine Studies complex at the Lower Campus and the completion of the FJD 4 million Multi-Purpose teaching complex at the main campus funded under the Australian Government’s AusAID programme. The University also had a successful launch and implementation of the USPNet Satellite System in March 2000.

Mr. Savenaca Siwatibau: 2001 - 2003

The late Mr. Savenaca Siwatibau was the sixth Vice-Chancellor of USP and served in that capacity for three (3) years from 2001-2003. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Pure and Applied Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry from Victoria University in Wellington, in 1962. Mr.  Siwatibau had a Master of Science degree in Mathematics from Auckland University, and a Master of Arts degree in Economics from University of Sussex in England.  Mr. Siwatibau was the Permanent Secretary of Finance in the Fiji Government in the 1970s and was later involved in USP as a Government Representative on the University Council and served as the Pro-Chancellor of USP from 1997 – 1999. Mr Siwatibau was also the first Governor of Reserve Bank of Fiji from 1982 for a period of seven (7) years. His appointment as the Vice-Chancellor saw the University position itself to an increasingly globalised education environment.

He also in August 2002, did the honour to invite the first two (2) Vice-Chancellors of USP, Dr Colin Aikman and Professor Frank Brosnahan, to be guests of the University for a week, showed them all the developments and spoke glowingly of them to the staff of USP. Mr. Siwatibau, who was in his early sixties died in New Zealand in 2003. Abook titled “A Voice of Reason: The writings of Savenaca Siwatibau” was launched at USP in 2009 as a tribute to Mr. Siwatibau, a renowned economist during his time.

Professor Anthony Tarr: 2005 - 2007

Professor Anthony Tarr was the Vice-Chancellor of USP for two (2) years from May 2005 until 2007. Professor Tarr had PhDs from Cambridge University in Britain and Canterbury in New Zealand. Before taking up the position, Professor Tarr was the Dean and Professor of Law at Indianapolis University in Indiana. For students, Professor Tarr said that the University’s Open Day is “one of the greatest experiences anyone could have.” During his term, a new Savusavu Centre was opened in Fiji’s Northern Division.

Upon his resignation, Professor Tarr said that USP is a very good example of successful regional cooperation and he was proud to be associated with the USP family during his time at the University.

Professor Rajesh Chandra: 2008 - present

Professor Rajesh Chandra is the current Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, a position he has held from July 2008. He graduated in 1975 with Bachelor of Arts and Graduate Certificate in Education from USP. Professor Chandra also holds Master of Arts degree from USP and PhD from the University of British Columbia. Prior to his appointment, Professor Chandra held various senior academic positions at USP such as Acting Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor and Head of Geography, and also was the Director of Planning and Development. He was also the foundation Vice-Chancellor of University of Fiji. Professor Chandra is the first USP alumnus to become the Vice-Chancellor.  Professor Chandra is widely credited for turning the University around from its financial and reputational problems. He led a sustained and deep restructuring and reform of the University. He has been pivotal in leveraging USP in areas of academic quality with a total of twenty - eight (28) international accreditations and ten (10) international recognitions; increased regional cooperation and integration; record-breaking student enrolments, with more than 30, 000 students enrolled in a year; and increased number of research related activities including more high-ranked publications. All five (5) patents registered by the University occurred during Professor Chandra’s term. His term also saw the establishment of the Japan – Pacific ICT Centre, which saw a paradigm shift in the University’s ICT capacity and also the establishment of  Pacific Technical and Further Education (Pacific TAFE) which now plays a substantial role in serving the region’s technical and vocational educational needs.

Professor Chandra will retire at full end of December 2018 after serving USP in his position as the Vice-Chancellor and President for a decade and serving the University in different capacities for close to four (4) decades.

Pro-Chancellors of USP

Ms. Masiofo Fetauimalemau Mata’afa: 1971 – 1976

The University’s first Pro-Chancellor was a female, late Ms Masiofo Fetauimalemau Mata’afa, a Samoan national who was appointed as Pro-Chancellor in 1971. She completed her term as the Pro-Chancellor in 1976. Ms Mata’afa passed away in November 2007.

Hon. Mosese Qionibaravi: 1981 - 1985

The late Honourable Mosese Qionibaravi from Fiji was appointed USP’s Pro-Chancellor in 1981. A Fijian politician and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Qionibaravi was also a Minister of Finance in the Fiji Government. He completed his term in 1985.

Hon. Henry Naisali: 1985 - 1990

The late Honourable Henry Naisali from Tuvalu was appointed USP’s Pro-Chancellor in 1985. He was an influential figure in the transformation of Tuvalu from a British colony and served as the Financial Secretary of the new Tuvalu Administration from 1976. He was also the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) from 1986 - 1992. His term as Pro-Chancellor ended in 1990.

Sir Ieremia Tienang Tabai: 1991 - 1997

Sir Ieremia Tienang Tabai of Kiribati was appointed USP’s Pro-Chancellor in 1991. Sir Tabai was the first President of Kiribati and described as one of the most able leaders of the Pacific Island States. He was also the Secretary-General of PIFS from 1992 – 1998. His term as the Pro-Chancellor ended in 1997.

Mr. Savenaca Siwatibau: 1997 - 1999

The late Mr. Savenaca Siwatibau of Fiji was appointed USP’s Pro-Chancellor in 1997. A prominent Fijian economist, leader and civil service administrator, he was appointed the first native-born Director of Economic Planning after independence and later served as the first Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji. He completed his term as the Pro-Chancellor in 1999.

Hon. Dr Senipisi Langi Kavaliku: 1976 – 1981 and 2000 - 2006

Honourable Dr. Senipisi Langi Kavaliku, a Tongan politician was appointed the University’s Pro-Chancellor for two (2) terms from 1976 – 1981 and 2000 – 2006 respectively. Hon. Kavaliku was the first Tongan to enter Harvard and graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He also became the first Tongan to attain a Doctorate degree. In 2002, Dr Kavaliku received the Honorary Fellow of the Commonwealth of Learning award for his contribution to the welfare and education of the people of the South Pacific, and the greater Commonwealth. 

Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata'afa: 2006 – 2012

Honourable Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, was appointed USP’s Pro-Chancellor in 2006. As the first female member of Cabinet, a position she has held for 15 years, Honourable Mata’afa was appointed as the first female Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa in 2016.The Samoan matai has been a Member of Parliament and Minister for Women, Community and Social Development in Samoa. She completed her term as USP’s Pro-Chancellor in 2012.

Mr. Ikbal Jannif; July 2012 – April 2015

From July 2012, Mr. Ikbal Jannif was appointed USP’s Pro-Chancellor for a period of almost three (3) years. The Suva businessman had initially joined the USP Council as one of the Fiji Government representative and served as a co-opted member of the Council from 1994 – 2006. He had also served as Deputy Chair of Council and as Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee. His term as Pro-Chancellor ended in 2015.

Mrs. Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu: April 2015 – December 2015

Mrs Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu, a Tongan diplomat, was appointed USP’s Pro-Chancellor from April 2015 and served in the capacity for eight (8) months. She is currently the United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States. She concluded her term in December 2015.

Mr. Winston Thompson: 2016 – present

From 1 January 2016, Mr Winston Thompson a Fijian national was appointed the Pro-Chancellor for a period of three (3) years. He served as the Chair of the University Grants Committee from 2006 to 2015. He has a distinguished record of thirty-eight (38) years as a Fijian civil servant and served as Permanent Secretary for a number of ministries including Agriculture, Finance, Public Service, Tourism, Civil Aviation and Energy. He also served as Fiji's Ambassador to the United Nations from 1985 to 1991 and later as Ambassador to the United States and Mexican and  High Commissioner to Canada from 2009 to 2015. His term will end on 31 December 2018.


The Chancellor is the titular head of the University, who confers the qualifications of the University.

The Chancellorship rotates among Heads of State and/or Prime Ministers in the University’s member countries and till date has had a total of twenty-four (24) appointments with the current being His Excellency Major General (Ret'd) Jioji Konusi Konrote, President of Fiji.

The University, till date has seen three (3) leaders from Cook Islands who took up the Chancellorship role, while majority of leaders from USP’s member countries  have taken up the position twice. Appointments to the Chancellorship are rotated alphabetically among USP member countries.


The development of USP since its formal constitution by the Charter in 1970 saw the 70’s decade as a period of building and establishment, followed in the 80’s by a period of rationalising and consolidation, then to the 90’s with youthful zest and confidence, followed by the early 2000’s of internationalisation through to the current period of enhanced regional cooperation and integration and an over-arching push for quality, relevance and sustainability.

All of USP’s leaders over the years have played significant roles in upholding the regional nature of the University. While there were challenges along the way, the leaders, especially the Vice-Chancellors ensured that the University had maximum regionalisation of its staff, action-oriented research, Pacific flavour within the University, and aimed for regional priorities in development.

The University’s success today is a result of its strong governance throughout the years. It is held in high regard throughout the region and has modelled good governance through ethical, transparent, and effective processes at all levels of its managerial, academic and financial systems.

This news item was published on 12 Jun 2018 04:32:19 pm. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email

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