1. Acknowledgements and Greetings
The Pro Chancellor and Chair of Council of The University of the South Pacific, Mr. Winston Thompson,
Mrs. Queenie Thompson;
Members of the Judiciary
Deputy Pro Chancellor and Deputy Chair of Council, Ms. Fekitamoela ‘Utoikamau;
Honourable Ministers and Senior Officials of the Fijian Government;
Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Heads of International and Regional Organisations;
Members of Council and Senate;
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Learning, Teaching and Student Services, Prof. Richard Coll and
Members of the USP Senior Management Team;
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 gives me great pleasure to join the Deputy Pro Chancellor in warmly welcoming you all to The University of the South Pacific’s first Laucala Campus Graduation ceremony for 2016.
The graduation ceremony is the most significant and meaningful occasion in the University’s calendar for our graduands, and I would like to especially welcome our Pro Chancellor, Mr. Winston Thompson to his first graduation ceremony since he assumed office. I also extend a very special welcome to the graduands who are here today --it is because of you that we are gathered here today. I also warmly welcome the parents, families, friends of graduands and colleagues who have joined us on this memorable occasion.
3. Tribute to Fiji
Please allow me Pro Chancellor Sir, Ladies and Gentlemen to begin my address by conveying our heart-felt condolences to the Government and people of Fiji for the loss of lives and sympathies for the staggering devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston. We are extremely saddened by the loss of lives and the destruction caused by this natural disaster. The University has worked closely with the Fijian Government in its relief and rehabilitation efforts. So far the University has contributed $100,000 towards the Prime Minister’s Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Fund, and as part of a larger effort the students association and campus life together with other sections are continuing to raise over the next few months. Faculties and Departments are also contributing through non-monetary efforts such as mobile science laboratories for affected schools and counselling services.
4. Graduation Numbers
Today, we have about 1606 students (1275 in April 2015) receiving certificates, diplomas and degrees from 20 different nationalities:
- 55% of all graduates are females; (up by 1% from April 2015)
- 15% of the graduates are from PTAFE. This equates to 243 students who are graduating from PTAFE.
- About 50% of the students are graduating in undergraduate programmes.
- 24% of the students are graduating in the Post Graduate programmes out of which about 7% of these students have done Masters by Thesis and 40% - Masters by coursework.
- I am also pleased that there are 5 students graduating with PhD’s, 2 from the Faculty of Business and Economics, 1 from the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment and 2 from the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education.
- 19 graduates are from 9 non-member countries which include Australia, Bahamas, Belize (7 students graduating), Guyana, Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea (with 4 students graduating), Tanzania and 2 students from USA.
- This speaks to our growing reputation internationally, and to some very good scholarships schemes funded by the European Union.
5. To the Graduates
A word to the graduates – Congratulations, you have done very well and deserve to celebrate today. Graduations mark the end of one journey and the beginning of a more important journey—the journey of life. New beginnings in life are full of immense possibilities. I know that some of you may be leaving the University while some may continue at USP to undertake higher level studies. Whatever choice you take, may I remind you of the important role that you could play as a USP graduate and alumnus. I would like to highlight a few areas that will be useful as you further your endeavours.
First, you can become good ambassadors of the University and be role models in your respective countries and importantly live and promote a sense of high integrity and moral values.
Second, one of the most important themes that the University is promoting is the University’s transformation for excellence. I would challenge you to apply this principle throughout your lives.
Finally, be grateful to your families, your sponsors – Governments and communities, your lecturers, and mentors – they have sacrificed a lot to get you to where you are today – they deserve a “big thank you”. As you celebrate today, be grateful for all the support that you have received, and go out into the world a much better person, equipped with new knowledge and skills, willing to share and contribute to the betterment of your communities and our Pacific Island countries.
6. Significant Achievements
Pro Chancellor Sir, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to briefly highlight a few of the University’s recent significant achievements and developments:
- Monday night at a special ceremony we celebrated the award of 31 Medals and Prizes in 34 categories to students who have achieved excellence. These top achievers, ladies and gentlemen, who are among us today, will match the top achievers from anywhere in the world
- 2016 marks the beginning of a new triennium 2016 – 2018. We are continuing to increase our efforts towards the Vision of Excellence by strengthening our Strategic Plan 2013 – 2018 through continuous monitoring and evaluation to produce the results promised to our leaders, development partners, students and staff.
- The quality and relevance of our programmes is what sets us apart from others and the only way we can get this quality assurance is to have as many of our programmes internationally recognised through Accreditations. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that we have now achieved a number of international accreditations.
- Bachelor of Software Engineering and Bachelor of Net-centric Computing (BNC) received professional accreditation by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) in December 2015. ACS is a professional association for the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in Australia and also a signatory to the Seoul Accord. This accreditation means that the two programmes are now globally recognized under the Seoul Accord.
- USP’s Accounting and Finance degrees have been successfully re-accredited until 2018 by CPA Australia.
- The University has been granted Eligibility status from the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) of the US for candidature and we will submit our full application for site visit by the end of this year.
- USP’s Pacific Technical and Further Education (Pacific TAFE) has received full international accreditation from the International Centre of Excellence in Tourism and Hospitality Education (THE-ICE) for its Certificate III in Commercial Cookery qualification.
- The Fiji Higher Education Commission (FHEC) has given full accreditation to eight Pacific TAFE qualifications under the Fiji Qualifications Framework (FQF).
- The University continues to strengthen its plans to get most of its programmes accredited by the end of the Strategic Plan in 2018.
- Our enrolment continues to grow indicating confidence in the quality of the University’s programmes. We expect this year’s enrolment to be over 30,000 with a growth of at least 5 percent.
7. Other achievements of USP and Future Developments
- New Zealand Government and USP signed a new partnership agreement for $NZ 15 million over 2016-2018.
- Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to say that the new Kiribati Campus was opened on 3rd of November, last year by His Excellency Anote Tong, the President of Kiribati.
- We are happy to note that the Government of Solomon Islands has given USP new land to develop its new Campus using the ADB Loan funds, to be completed, by the end of 2018.
- We are also making progress with the renovation of the Long Island Hotel in RMI which will be turned into a modern campus
8. Thanks and Appreciation
Our efforts to maintain USP as the premier regional tertiary institution and drive towards excellence has received enormous goodwill and support from many quarters. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our member governments, development partners, and our friends for their continuous support. I also thank the University Council and its Committees, Senate and Senior Management, staff and students for supporting me in transforming and reforming USP from good to excellent on its way to being a great University. Our staff have been working very hard and embracing a lot of changes and I wish to make special acknowledgement of this.
I wish to reassure 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 and makes demonstrable contributions to the development of our member countries development.
9. A Final Word
Pro Chancellor Sir, ladies and gentlemen, a final word to the graduates–
I congratulate you all and wish you the very best in your endeavours. Much is expected of you; I have every confidence that each and every one of you will excel in your chosen paths. Be excellent ambassadors of USP and make USP proud by your strong, innovative, ethical and excellent contributions.
Vinaka Vakalevu; Dhanyavaad; Thank you.