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USP holds successful High Level Consultations with Aus/NZ

A successful trilateral High Level Consultation (HLC) between The University of the South Pacific (USP), Australia and New Zealand was held at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre at USP’s Laucala Campus on Tuesday, 13 November, 2018.

The University hosts HLCs with Australia and New Zealand, its two major development partners, twice a year, with the first meeting held in Canberra and Wellington respectively and the second hosted by USP at its Laucala Campus in Suva.

The objectives of the meeting were to discuss key achievements and lessons learnt in relation to the implementation of the USP Strategic Plan 2013-2018 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and provide an overview of USP’s New Strategic Plan 2019-2024, which has been endorsed by the USP Council.

The meeting discussed and endorsed the way forward for USP’s future Partnerships with Australia and New Zealand beyond 2018, including key joint strategic interventions by USP, Australia and New Zealand in development areas of mutual interest, for the benefit of the Pacific people and leveraging work with other relevant regional agencies.

The meeting reviewed progress under the University’s joint initiatives with Australia and New Zealand respectively, specifically relating to the Australia-USP Enhancement of Quality Teacher Education, the USP-New Zealand USPNet Enhancement Project and the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF).

The meeting also reviewed progress of USP’s commitment pertinent to Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment and the Child Protection Policy.

USPs Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and International, Professor Derrick Armstrong, welcomed the representatives on behalf of Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President and also acknowledged the presence of Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor and President Designate.

Prof Armstrong said 2018 saw a robust level of engagement between USP, Australia and New Zealand, signifying the transition of the respective partnerships from a donor-recipient to that of a more engaging and collaborative relationship geared towards efficiently and adequately addressing the needs of Pacific people.

“Such strategic level collaborations form a very solid foundation for the new Partnerships currently being discussed to govern the University’s relationship with Australia and New Zealand respectively, who have been ardent supporters of USP since its inception,” he noted.

Professor Armstrong reiterated the University’s appreciation to the Governments of Australia and New Zealand for their continued support to the University in achieving its strategic objectives and providing guidance on strategic matters.

Australian Government’s Dr Cate Rogers, Assistant Secretary, Development Policy and Education Branch said it was pleasing to note some of the great achievements over the Vice-Chancellor’s tenure and in particular the area of research, “looking at individual projects where USP has collaborated with other universities.”

“I was impressed with the relevance of those to what are some of the greatest challenges in the region,” she said.

Dr Rogers commended the major expansion in access across the region to university education that has been largely driven by USP.

She was also impressed with the accreditation of programmes “and the sense that USP is on its way to achieve an international ranking” and hoped that this would continue going forward.”

She also welcomed Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor and President Designate, to his new role, saying Australia has had a very productive relationship with USP and she was sure that it will continue under his leadership.

Reflecting on Australia’s partnership with USP, Dr Rogers mentioned that Australia has made major announcements in relation to its commitment to the Pacific more generally and one of these is greater access to its labour market.

“When we think about the upskilling that USP is involved in, there is going to be some fantastic linkages there as the Pacific Labour scheme takes off,” she stated.

Ms Karen Murray, Divisional Manager, Sustainable Development Sector and Thematic Issues from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said it was a pleasure to be present during a transition period and she looked forward to working with Professor Ahluwalia.

Ms Murray also congratulated USP on its 50th anniversary saying it is an excellent demonstration on what can be achieved through regionalism and collective action.

“We also recognise the huge achievements by Professor Chandra during his term,” she said.

On the USP Strategic Plan (SP) 2013-2018, Professor Armstrong informed the representatives that there is evidence of continuing progress against the SP deliverables and that 84 per cent implementation of the SP 2013-2018 is by far an excellent achievement.

Professor Pal confirmed that the University would go into an evolution adding that one of his first tasks would be to boost the number of qualified academics with a good research background and fill senior positions which are vacant, adding that “our people are the most valuable assets”.

He further suggested creating transparency and openness in the University’s governance structure, adding that USP needs to think about how it can address health-related issues in the Pacific, given the increasing number of diabetic cases in Fiji.

The meeting sought to clarify the progress by the University under the current Strategic Plan 2013-2018, lessons acquired and the strategic direction that the University will take over the next two trienniums guided by its New Strategic Plan 2019-2024;

It further noted progress pertaining to Australia-USP and New Zealand-USP Partnership beyond 2018 and endorsed the way forward.

The HLC also sought to clarify how USP can work with Australia and New Zealand in responding to key strategic regional issues and working with regional agencies in enhancing lives of Pacific people, particularly through initiative related to Enhancement of Quality Teacher Education, USP Net Enhancement Project, and plans for the implementation of the PacREF.

USP updated the representatives from Australia and New Zealand about initiatives pertaining to Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment, whereby Dr Akanisi Kedrayate, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE) confirmed that USP has opened a 24-hour hotline to receive calls from the University Community to report instances of sexual harassment or perceived sexual harassment, provide some guidance and support.

On the Child Protection Policy, which has been reviewed by the Specialists on Child Protection within the Australian Government, Dr Kedrayate confirmed that their feedback had been incorporated into the draft and will be submitted to the Policy Review Committee and the USP’s Senior Management Team for approval.

In closing, Professor Armstrong acknowledged and assured both the Governments of Australia and New Zealand that the University will work very closely with their governments on the implementation of its New Strategic Plan and our collaborations in areas of mutual interest as discussed today.

He noted that the support from both Australia and New Zealand for the past 50 years has been immense and USP acknowledged their contributions towards celebrating its 50th anniversary milestone this year.

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