SPEECH AT GRADUATION CEREMONY, LAUCALA CAMPUS, THE UNIVERSITY OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC
VODAFONE ARENA, 9 APRIL 2010
Professor Rajesh Chandra
Vice-Chancellor and President
The President of the Republic of Nauru and Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, His Excellency Honorable Marcus Stephen; Ministers of the Government of Fiji; Your Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps; The Deputy Chair of USP Council, Mr. Ikbal Jannif; Heads of International and Regional Organizations; Permanent Secretaries and Heads of Statutory Organizations; Members of Council and Senate; Deputy Vice-Chancellor and other members of the Senior Management Team; Sponsors of prizes and awards, distinguished guests; USP alumni, staff, graduands; parents; partners and spouses; ladies and gentlemen.
Ni sa bula, namaste and good morning to you all. It is an honor for me to join the Deputy Chair of Council in welcoming you to our first graduation ceremony for 2010. This is a very special day for all graduating students and the University and I am very pleased to address you on this morning.
Importance of Graduation
Seeing the graduates here this morning is a proud moment for many of us in different ways. It is a happy occasion for the graduates because they are being rewarded for the completion of their studies; it is a proud moment for the parents and guardians because their dreams of giving their sons and daughters education has finally come to fruition; and its is an achievement for the University because it has been successful in providing higher education to students of the region who will now step forward in life to build their respective career paths–some will even go on to become leaders of their respective communities and countries.
University marches ahead
Before I speak about the graduates, let me briefly talk about the University---how we have fared in the last 6 to 12 months and our current activities.
Let me share some good news. The financial position of the University continues to improve strongly, with better year end results for 2009 compared with 2008. The strong financial results have been accompanied by a considerable strengthening of financial controls. The University is determined to continue its quest for greater cost-effectiveness while at the same time improving quality.
I am also pleased that the University’s Triennial Submission 2010-2012 to the University Grants Committee was prepared and accepted by the USP Regional Ministers of Finance, which included a 2% reduction in the 2010 levels of member governments’ funding. Restoration of financial confidence and winning back the confidence of the stakeholders have been a major boost for the University.
We are grateful to the many donor partners who have continued to contribute to the University’s work. The Governments of Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union (EU) continue to be the largest donors. Other donors and development partners have also shown interest in supporting and partnering with the University. Recently, the Government of India has given a grant through ADB and we are hoping that this relationship with India and ADB will develop further in the near future. And the Government of South Korea is expected to finalize a package of assistance soon.
We are also very pleased that Australia has signed a new, 3 year Australia-USP Partnership Framework, the first to be signed with any regional organization. This agreement which is aligned to our Strategic Plan, provides for significant increase in funding over the next three years, as well as greater flexibility for USP. I would like to thank the Government of Australia very much for its strong support and confidence in USP.
The other recent notable achievement for the University is the USP Strategic Plan 2010-2012. Our Member Governments and donors alike have commended the University on the Strategic Plan. With strategies in place for striving for relevance, quality and sustainability backed by a healthy financial situation, the University is confident that in 2010 and beyond it will better its results and move forward with greater confidence and purpose. This will contribute to a solid future that USP, member governments and other stakeholders expect and deserve.
I am also pleased to inform you that the construction of the state of art Japan–Pacific ICT Centre funded by the Government of Japan through its bilateral aid to the Government of Fiji, has now been completed and the keys will be handed to us on Monday. The dates for the official opening will be announced soon.
The Centre will have excellent student facilities in ICT. We are also fortunate that the Government of Japan has agreed to fund the construction of the third building, as part of phase II development. The construction of a multi-purpose state of the art 150 seat lecture theatre will commence by mid-2010. This theatre will also promote the link between the traditional art, culture, music and dance of the Pacific with modern technology and will be the only one of its kind in the region.
I am very pleased that after declining annually for the last few years, enrolment at USP increased this year moderately by 7 percent in terms of headcount and 3 percent in terms of Full-time Equivalent Students. This is a very welcome development as it indicates continued demand for high quality internationally recognized programmes of USP.
The University has developed a Master plan through extensive consultation for the Laucala Campus on what the campus should look and feel like to the year 2030. The Report on the Master Plan, which will be considered at the USP Council meeting in May 2010, has very good plans for future development of the Laucala campus. There are also plans for other campuses as well.
We have been working on improving all areas of USP’s Campus with special focus on campus accommodation facilities as well as computing, learning and sporting facilities. A stronger focus on students is the hall-mark of the new Strategic Plan.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me now turn to today’s graduation. We will see a total of 1210 students receiving degrees, diplomas and certificates today. Out of the total there is: 1 PhD, 126 Masters, 158 Postgraduate Diploma, and 56 Postgraduate Certificate level graduates. At the undergraduate level, there are 787 degree, 68 Diploma and 14 Certificate level graduates. It is pleasing to note that 341 of today’s graduates, or 28% are at the postgraduate levels. It is also pleasing to note that for the first semester this year there has been an increase in postgraduate enrolments.
The graduation ceremony and the degrees, diplomas and certificates you receive today is an announcement to the world that you are ready to go ahead to the next steps in your lives. You have passed through an rigorous learning process. It may have been easier for some of you than for others. But for all of you, it is an accomplishment that your parents, families, and friends can be proud of. You have completed an important phase of your education. Use it well and challenge yourselves to progress further.
I take this opportunity to congratulate you all on your successes. May I say that having the degrees, diplomas and certificates today is just the start. The real challenge of life starts now---you have to build your career, and set goals to accomplish something worthwhile in life. My advice to you all is what the great Martin Luther King, Jr said “The ultimate measure of a man (woman) is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. So be bold and break new ground. Be a trail blazer rather than a follower.
Finally, I wish to express my appreciation to all our donors and development partners that have once again assured us of their co-operation and commitment to provide increased financial support for the implementation of the Strategic Plan 2010-2012. I thank our Member Governments, the Pro Chancellor, Deputy Chair, chair of Finance and Investments Committee and the University’s Council for their assistance. I thank the Chancellor H.E. Mr. Marcus Stephen, President of the Republic of Nauru for his support and presence here today. I also thank the Government of Fiji for its ongoing support and assistance and for playing its role fully as the host of the main campus and headquarters of USP. To our staff and students, I thank you very much as without you the University will not exist.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me end by quoting the great visionary Nelson Mandela who quite rightfully said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. It is my plea to all the graduates to be ethical and transparent in whatever career you choose and more importantly to contribute to the development of your community and nation.
Thank you, congratulations and God bless you all.