A delegation of two members from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Canberra, Executive Secretary Shannon Linn Karppinen and Communications Officer Thea Fylling Lundal, and Professor Edvard Hviding of the University of Bergen (UiB), recently visited The University of the South Pacific (USP) Laucala campus to offer their courtesy and appreciation for the successful ongoing collaboration between the two universities.
USP and UiB have had ongoing collaboration since the 1990s. Professor Hviding had ongoing cooperation with the USP through several significant research projects over the past 15 years.
Over the years, the two universities have also collaborated in many other fields, extending to include student exchange across a wide range of disciplines. USP alumni have also developed academic careers at the UiB, including Dr Tammy Tabe, Dr Vandhna Kumar, and Mr Ashneel Chandra.
Most recently, the two universities have partnered for the Norway-Pacific Ocean-Climate Scholarship Programme (N-POC), an ambitious partnership in research and PhD training. Funded for 2021–2025 by Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the programme comprises 25 fully-funded PhD scholarships at the USP within ocean and climate research across most disciplines, ranging from the natural sciences to the social sciences and humanities. Citizens of 15 Pacific countries are eligible for N-POC scholarships: all 12 USP countries, as well as Papua New Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau.
USP’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (Regional Campuses & Global Engagement) Dr Giulio Masasso Tu’ikolongahau Pāunga, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice President (Education) Professor Jito Vanualailai, Director Research Professor Sushil Kumar, and the N-POC Team at the Research Office, Dr Mele Katea Paea and Ms Florence Toganivalu, had welcomed the delegation. They expressed gratitude to the government of Norway and UiB for their support.
Professor Vanualailai highlighted that such partnerships strengthen the research capacity of Pacific students and the Pacific region.
“Through N-POC, successful candidates will explore issues facing the respective nation and the region relating to ocean and climate change,” he said.
“The findings from N-POC PhD research could influence policy and strategic direction in support of good practices in the Pacific.”
Professor Kumar added that the partnership between the two universities will enhance the research capability of USP and its postgraduate completion rate and is an excellent response to rapid increases in ocean-climate challenges in the Pacific.
“The UiB-USP partnership supports the USP’s current strategic plan in response to Sustainable Development Goals and students who receive the scholarship will receive financial and technical support while undertaking their PhD studies and students after graduating are expected to give back to the development of their countries and Pacific which is a win for the region,” Professor Kumar added.
Professor Edvard, the UiB N-POC Coordinator, commended USP’s LIVE Talanoa Sessions with potential applicants, which enabled the N-POC team to gauge the level of interest from Pacific students towards the PhD scholarships on offer.
“It was a wonderful experience to hear voices from Pacific people from different countries inquiring about the scholarships and how relevant their area of studies is to climate change and other requirements for N-POC,” he said.
“For me, it was like an existential transformation to be able to have direct discussions with these relatively young people. Thank you for running those talanoa sessions, this is incredible innovation, which is typical of USP to lead in collaboration and innovation in the digital platforms,” Professor Edvard added.
The concept behind the talanoa sessions was initiated and is currently being implemented by the N-POC Team as an enabling platform to connect the N-POC Team and potential applicants for inquiries and clarification purposes. As Dr Paea stated, to make things work for N-POC and potential PhD Pacific candidates the support system has to be established right from the beginning and talanoa is considered the most effective support strategy that can cater for such priorities in the South Pacific region.
Two current activities in which the two institutions have collaborated to support one another’s shared interests are the One Ocean Expedition and the CHESS UiB-USP Climate workshop that was held on 27-28 June 2022 at the USP’s lower marine campus in Laucala.