Acknowledgements and Greetings
His Majesty King Tupou VI (the Sixth) and Chancellor of The University of the South Pacific;
Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau'u;
Pro Chancellor and Chair of Council, Mr. Ikbal Jannif;
Hon. Honourable Ministers of the Fijian Government;
Hon. Minister of Education of the Government of Solomon Islands;
Members of the Judiciary;
Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Deputy Chair of Council and Deputy Director-General of SPC, Mrs. Fekita Utoikamanu;
Members of Council and Senate;
Members of the USP SMT
Heads of International and Regional Organisations;
Graduands and their families and friends;
Colleagues, Members of Staff and students;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Welcome, Ni Sa Bula, Namaste and a very good morning to you all.
It is a pleasure to join the Pro Chancellor in warmly welcoming you to the first Laucala graduation ceremony for 2014. I thank you all for your presence here today to recognize and honour our students on their achievements.
I wish to extend a special and very warm welcome to the Chancellor, His Majesty King Tupou VI and Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau'u for gracing another USP graduation in Suva. It is indeed a great honour and privilege to warmly welcome again your Majesties to this auspicious occasion. I join our students, staff and guests in sharing our deep joy at your Majesties’ gracious presence this morning.
Last September, we had the honour of welcoming their Majesties to Suva after His Majesty's acceptance and installation as our 20th Chancellor, at a graduation ceremony in Tonga in July. As this is the last graduation ceremony before the completion of His Majesty’s busy tenure as the USP Chancellor, please allow me to extend to His Majesty King Tupou VI the University’s heartfelt gratitude and sincere appreciation. We humbly thank His Majesty for all the support extended to the University demonstrated through active participation at graduation ceremonies in Tonga, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu and Fiji. May the Almighty continue to shower His Majesty King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau'u with his blessings. We also wish to record our sincere thanks to the Tongan Government for its excellent and continued support to the University.
Today, we have about 1285 students (1228 in April 2013) receiving certificates, diplomas and degrees from 24 different nationalities:
- 54% of all graduates are females; (up by 1% from April 2012)
- 37% will receive Postgraduate qualifications; (compared to 33% same time last year). This is pleasing in terms of our Strategic Plan objectives to boost our postgraduate enrolments but more importantly our PG completions. I am particularly pleased to note that we have two students (three students last April) graduating with PhDs – both from the Faculty of Business and Economics and with specialties in Tourism Studies and Management & Public Administration respectively;
- and 17 graduates are from 14 non-member countries including four each (4) from Papua New Guinea and 13 from the Caribbean. (Belize, Guyana, St Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago).
As I have often remarked, graduation from a university rates amongst life's big moments. You have worked hard and while it might seem that you have reached the end of your journey, far more importantly, you have a new beginning. New beginnings in life are full of possibilities.
As you leave the University, I wish to share with you five messages. First, I am reminded of this quotation by William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th Century Literature: "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire" (Source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williambut101244.html).
May the “fire” that your tertiary education at USP has ignited in you drive you to endless possibilities with determination, imagination, courage, and the resolve to succeed and to see that even in difficult times, opportunities do exist.
The second message builds on the first: that the thirst of knowledge, skills and competencies, and your curiosity about the world should continue throughout your life. As Frederick W. Robertson said:
"Instruction ends in the school-room, but education ends only with life".
The world is changing at an incredible speed; technology is evolving at breathtaking speed; and the requirements of the labour markets also change in response to these changes. You therefore need to commit to life-long learning to keep yourselves relevant, useful and satisfied.
Third, you need to make an unshakeable commitment of high ethical standards in everything you do. You should be admired for these high ethical standards, and USP should be admired for instilling this commitment in all its graduates.
Fourth, I encourage all graduates to embrace entrepreneurship. Our graduates should become employers rather than always looking for jobs.
And finally, do not think only of yourself. Think of your families that have sacrificed for you; think of your communities and countries that have given you so much; and think of our region and humanity; and think especially of how you can help the poor and disadvantaged because you are the privileged ones who have got tertiary education.
Before I speak about the significant achievements of the University, I would like to congratulate the Government of Fiji for the bold step it has taken to establish the Tertiary Scholarships and Loan Scheme with an investment of F$78 million. For USP that draws its largest number of students from Fiji, this is a welcome development. As part of this, the Government is providing tertiary full scholarships to 600 top students in key development priority areas.
In addition, the Government has allocated FJ$30 million (US$16.4 million) in 2014 to provide no-interest and low-interest loans to any Fijian student who is accepted at any of the three Universities in Fiji for degree studies and for technical and vocational education at the universities as well as at selected other tertiary institutions.
I applaud the Fiji Government for this bold and far-sighted initiative which will benefit the lives of the children and help create a knowledge society and economy in Fiji, powerfully shaping its competitive position in the world. As the financing of education is a major issue in all our member countries, the Scheme introduced by Fiji can be a good model for them to consider and I hope they will take advantage of it.
Now, please allow me to highlight a few of the University’s recent achievements and developments.
- 2014 marks an exciting new phase for the University – it is the second year of implementation of our Strategic Plan 2013-2018. This year we have continued with the successes in 2013 and made a very good start in the first quarter of the year. This is crucial in keeping the momentum in our transformation from good to excellent, leading into USP’s 50th Anniversary in 2018;
- Another important development is the completion of the Academic Quality Audit in December 2013 by the Academic Quality Agency for New Zealand Universities. I am pleased that the reviewers were happy with the status and quality of the academic developments at USP and have provided helpful recommendations to further improve these.
- The STAR project which was conceived in 2010 as a time-bound comprehensive, deep transformational review of USP’s academic portfolio, policies, procedures and services has recently undergone an external review. We look forward to receiving the review report.
- University enrolment continued to grow, increasing by 6% this year.
- To support our students, the construction of a new 98 student bed hostel on Laucala Campus will be completed by June this year—and additional hostels are planned for next year;
- In December last year, additional buildings were completed at the USP Emalus Campus funded through bilateral assistance by the People's Republic of China to the Government of Vanuatu and gifted to the University to allow for the first time the teaching of Francophone students;
- A new Post graduate Library and lecture theatre for the Faculty of Business and Economics was completed late last year;
- An extension to the University Book Centre was completed in March this year;
Significant investments in our regional campuses have been made, and new investments are in the pipeline.
- The construction of the upgraded Kiribati Campus funded under the an ADB loan is expected to start in July this year, while construction of the new Lautoka Campus is due to start soon. Planning for the new campus in Solomon Islands is also underway, and we hope to make progress with the new campus in RMI and with the expansion of the campus in Tonga.
- Major improvements have been made to USPNet with its reengineering to provide better connectivity to all our campuses. With some of our member countries like Tonga, RMI, and Vanuatu now having access to fibre-optic cables, and others like Samoa and Solomon Islands in the pipeline, these are exciting developments in ICT field that should open up wider possibilities for USP to leverage new technologies in the delivery of its programmes and courses in order to reach more people at an affordable cost.
- International accreditation of our programmes is now the main quality assurance system of the University. We are delighted that our MBA programme obtained accreditation from the Association of MBAs (AMBA), demonstrating that it is a high quality, international recognized programme.
- While Australia and New Zealand and the Commonwealth have long recognized our qualifications, we plan to apply for American accreditation through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) this year.
- We continue to improve our staffing. Two very senior SMT appointments of Vice-President (Administration) and Vice-President (Regional Campuses and Properties & Facilities) were made early this year, with the successful appointees, Dr Dilawar Grewal and Dr Masasso Paunga expected to assume their respective portfolios soon;
- We have continued to increase our engagement with and value to our member countries and have supported them with new initiatives in the training of untrained teachers, assisting them with their rolling out of ICT in education programmes, introduction of a new programme to strengthen education policy and planning, and through greater research in education;
- The University also continued to maintain and increase the confidence and faith of development partners in USP, with aid in 2014 exceeding government contributions. I wish to thank our key partners of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the European Union;
All in all, 2014 will prove to be another busy and successful year for USP.
I wish to assure our member governments that the University has strong foundations to successfully implement its Strategic Plan for transforming USP into an excellent university that is deeply engaged with and in the Pacific, producing outstanding graduates and undertaking relevant research recognized internationally and that makes demonstrable contributions to the development of our member countries.
I wish to acknowledge the support of our member governments, Council and its Committees, the Senate and its Committees, our development partners, our students and staff and all our friends. What we have achieved is a collective effort; a very big Vinaka Vakalevu. I hope we will continue to work together on this new journey of excellence.
Your Majesties, ladies and gentlemen, a final word to the graduates–
I congratulate you all and wish you all the very best in your endeavours as you start a new chapter in your lives. As you go out into your respective communities, you will become ambassadors of USP and how well you serve your communities will be remembered for a very long time. USP has given you a firm foundation for lifelong success. The future is what you make of it. Much is expected of you; Make USP proud by your strong, innovative, ethical and excellent contributions.
Vinaka Vakalevu; Dhanyabad; Thank you.