USP Open Day 2008: Welcome and Introduction of the Chief Guest
Professor Rajesh Chandra
The University of the South Pacific
Suva, FIJI ISLANDS
The Chief Guest for USP Open Day 2008, the Minister for Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts, Youth and Sports, Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment, Local Government, Urban Development and Housing, Hon Mr. Filipe Bole; Your Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps; the Deputy Chair of USP Council and Chair of the Audit Committee, Mr. Ikbal Jannif; Senior Management Colleagues; Heads of International and Regional Organizations; Members of Senate; Representatives of sponsors; invited guests; Principals and teachers of participating schools, staff, current students, potential students, ladies and gentlemen.
USP Open Day is an important occasion in the calendar of the University that provides an excellent opportunity for secondary school students and members of the community to see what USP has to offer, and I would like to welcome all of you very warmly to USP Open Day 2008. Our most special welcome goes to our Chief Guest, Honourable Mr. Filipe Bole and Mrs Bole. As we can see from the long list of portfolios that the Honourable Minister is responsible for, he is an extremely busy person, and we appreciate it very greatly, Honourable Minister, that you have found time to be our Chief Guest and to launch USP Open Day 2008. We are honoured by your presence Honourable Minister.
2. USP As Premier Provider of Quality of Higher Education
I realize that we all wish to listen to the Honourable Minister, but with your indulgence, I wish to say a few things about the University and this year’s theme-- “leading a quality region—driving education with technology”.
I believe that the University is turning the corner in terms of its finances, although hardships still remain. Costs have been contained, structures are being streamlined, and a strong sense of reshaping the University for a more sustainable future pervades all our work. We have already produced a good draft budget for next year. We are grateful Honourable Minister to the Fiji Government for organizing the meeting of the Regional Ministers of Finance, and for assuring us that the contributions decided by the Ministers would be paid to the University. We are grateful Honourable Minister for Fiji honouring this pledge.
Next year, despite our difficulties, we will spend a total of $5 million on capital, $3 million more than this year, so students will have more equipment and better learning spaces. There is optimism that we have a good future ahead of us provided we make the required changes and become more responsive to the needs of our member countries and sensitive to their circumstances. I am confident that USP has an exciting future.
The theme for Open Day 2008 encapsulates two of the most critically important elements of contemporary higher education: technology and quality. The USP has been a world leader in the use of technology in education, especially through its USPNet. There are very few universities in the world that use satellite technology on such a dispersed scale over 33 million square kilometres. USPNet is probably the widest area network of any university in the world and USP’s distance and flexible learning and teaching is well-known internationally and a pioneer in many respects.
The Government of Japan is building a Japan-Pacific ICT Centre that will give the University a state-of-the-art facility in communications and information technology.
We can safely say that USP is at the cutting edge of information and communication technologies and a model for the rest of the Pacific to emulate.
The University’s programmes have recently been audited by the Australian Universities Quality Agency, and the New Zealand Universities Quality Unit, which have expressed satisfaction with the University’s quality. USP’s programmes are already internationally recognized, and its graduates now occupy the highest levels in government, business, academia, and in international organizations. The youngest professor of Finance in Australia is Professor Paresh Narayan, a USP graduate.
Our work for the future will be concentrated significantly on improving student learning experiences, the quality of our teaching and research and in ensuring that we make a tangible contribution to the development needs of member countries. Considerable new funds will be used for these, and we look forward to strong donor support for the University.
Let me reassure you Honourable Minister and all current and potential students that the University is fully committed to providing students with excellent learning experience, including opportunities for high quality and flexible teaching, adequate equipment, access to its 155mbps Internet, and ready access to the job market. As you will see from the student body and from the cultural performances, students studying at USP experience unparalleled cultural diversity, being able to mix with students from about 25 countries. This gives them a huge advantage in national, regional and international workplaces.
I would like to invite all the secondary school students to join the premier higher education provider of the Pacific islands for a truly high quality, culturally-enriching, and future-oriented programmes of study. The large and serene campus provides the best setting for serious study, establishment of enduring friendships, for sporting and all-round development, and for a solid foundation for life-long achievement.
3. Introduction of the Chief Guest
It is now my privilege to introduce our Chief Guest. As most of you already know, the Chief Guest, Mr. Filipe Bole is the the Minister for Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts, Youth and Sports, Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment, Local Government, Urban Development and Housing. I have introduced a lot of people in the past, but none with such a long portfolio of responsibilities!
Hon. Bole has served and continues to serve Fiji with distinction. He was among the first group of Pacific Islanders to receive postgraduate qualifications—he obtained his MA in History from the Victoria University of Wellington. He has served in very senior positions in Fiji, regionally and internationally. Honourable Bole is a former Deputy Prime Minister, and was a cabinet minister with various portfolios between 1985-1999: Ministerial appointments during this period included Education, Information, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Youth and Sports, National Planning and and Fijian Affairs. Mr. Bole was also the Minister responsible for the review of the 1990 constitution, and the consultation framework for the 1997 constitution.
Mr. Bole was the Chairman of the Forum Eminent Persons Group that undertook a study of the situation in Solomon Islands in June 2002. He was also one of the early Directors of the Pacific Islands Development Programme at the East West Centre in Hawaii that has given him a sound understanding of research and public policy. As Fiji’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Mr. Bole has played an important role at the world stage.
Mr. Bole has authored a number of important papers, and he has a large number of manuscripts that would serve Fiji and the Pacific well if he were to put them to print. I would certainly encourage the Honourable Minister to do that.
Mr. Bole is the representative of the Fiji Government on the Council of the USP and the University of Fiji. USP is lucky to have Mr. Bole in Council because of his extensive experience of education and public policy, the keenness of his mind, and the strong understanding of education and the region. At this critical time in USP’s development, Mr. Bole’s measured and wise contributions to the USP council are very much valued and needed.
It is my honour now to invite the Honourable Minister to address us and to launch USP Open Day 2008.