1. Acknowledgements and Greetings
The Chancellor, Honorable Mr. Henry Puna, Prime Minister of Cook Islands and Mrs. Akaiti Puna;
The Pro Chancellor and Chair of Council of the University of the South Pacific, Ambassador Winston Thompson and Mrs. Queenie Thompson;
The Chief Justice and Members of the Judiciary;
Honourable Ministers and Senior Officials of the Fijian Government;
Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Heads of International and Regional Organizations;
Members of Council, Senate and their Committees;
Members of the USP Senior Management Team;
Graduands and their families and friends;
Members of Staff and students;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Welcome, Ni Sa Bula, Namaste, Kia Orana, and a very good morning to you all.
It gives me great pleasure to join the Pro Chancellor in warmly welcoming you all to The University of the South Pacific’s second Laucala Campus Graduation ceremony for 2016.
I would like to especially welcome our 23rd Chancellor, the Prime Minister of Cook Islands, Honorable Henry Puna to this very important occasion. I also extend a very special welcome to the graduands because of whom we are gathered here today.
3. Graduation Numbers
Today, we have 996 students from 23 different nationalities receiving certificates, diplomas, and degrees:
- 64% of all graduates are females (up by 9% from April, 2015);
- 22% or 223 students are from Pacific TAFE, marking exceptionally fast expansion of Pacific TAFE.
- About 47% of the students are graduating in undergraduate programmes.
- 30% of the students are graduating in the Postgraduate programmes of which about 9% have done Masters by either Thesis or coursework.
- I am also pleased to announce that there are 3 students graduating with PhD’s, two of whom are from the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment and one from the Faculty of Arts, Law, and Education.
- There are 20 graduates from 11 non-member countries that include Australia, Canada, Federated States of Micronesia, Guyana, India, Japan, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Switzerland, and the USA.
4. To the Graduates
To the graduates I convey my Congratulations. You have done exceptionally well and fully deserve to celebrate today. Graduations mark the start of a new and wonderful journey in life ahead growing from the seeds you have sowed during your period at the University. You are now equipped with the tools that will help you forge a future for yourself – in a future of immense possibilities—and a future that you will make with your own efforts.
The University of the South Pacific is regarded as the premiere provider of higher education in the Pacific Islands and its graduates are praised for their contributions. You should join the other 40,000 alumni by becoming good ambassadors of the University and good role models in your countries. Very importantly, live and promote a sense of high integrity and moral values and I challenge you today to uphold the most important principle of The University of the South Pacific – excellence, throughout your life.
We should take a cue from our magnificent Rugby Seven’s gold medal performance at Rio. As the Honourable Prime Minister of Fiji said on Monday, our players showed the world how sevens rugby should be played. Our players mesmerized the whole world with their magic. A small country with less than one million people, with limited resources showed that it can be the best in the world. You too have the capability to truly excel—and achieve anything in the world. You have to chase the dream through hard work, perseverance, innovation and commitment.
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”.
5. Significant Achievements
Chancellor Sir, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to briefly highlight a few of the University’s recent significant achievements and developments:
We continue to showcase the quality and relevance of our programmes which sets us apart from others through internationally recognized accreditations. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that we have now achieved a total number of 16 international accreditations. Within the last 6 months, we have obtained the following accreditations:
- Bachelor of Engineering - Electrical and Electronics and Bachelor of Engineering - Mechanical (JUNE) have received accreditation from the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ). These two Engineering programmes are of the same standard as those offered in New Zealand. Engineering degrees accredited by IPENZ are recognized as meeting the initial academic requirements for professional engineers.
- Pacific TAFE’s has also achieved accreditations for more of its programmes. Certificate IV in Hospitality Operations programme achieved full accreditation by the International Centre of Excellence in Tourism and Hospitality Education (THE-ICE) in July this year.
- Certificate III in Early Childhood Education & Care qualification, has now been accredited by the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) in June.
- Certificate III in Community Development was accredited by the Australian Community Workers Association earlier this month.
The accreditation of the University’s programmes gives students confidence that they are internationally recognized and are comparable with similar programmes by other universities from around the world. These accreditations help make our graduates highly employable ensuring high returns on the investments made in their education.
6. Other achievements of USP and Future Developments
Some of our students have shown remarkable attributes that should inspire others. Randy Chite, a Solomon Islands student in Bachelor of Science majoring in Environmental Science, walked around Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island from 26 June to 10 July 2016 and collected more than FJD 1000 from his walk-a-thon in aid of TC Winston. He sacrificed his semester break to do this outstanding charitable work.
A first-year Law student of USP has been accepted into the world- renowned Hollywood Immersive Programme. Jedidiah Christopher Taylor Mosese is the first Fijian and Pacific Islander to be accepted into the inaugural Hollywood Immersive Dance Programme. This is the second time a member of USP’s Oceania Dance Theatre has been invited to Hollywood Immersive; the first was Ateca Halamehi Ravuvu who is currently in Hollywood, Los Angeles pursuing her acting career as part of the Acting Immersive Programme.
Recently our very own Pasifika Voices recorded the choral components of the whole animated production Moana. I understand that the Producer, composer, and Director have all given rave reviews of this recording. This recording by Disney demonstrates that our music and arts programmes produce world-class talent. It is a historic moment for our local talent that our singers & artists are recognized in Hollywood at the highest level. Pasifika Voices has been a major part of our graduations for the past 10 years and is made up of students from all around the region and led by exceptionally talented staff.
Luisa Tuilau a student of the University was among 60 young people from across the Commonwealth chosen to receive the Queen’s Young Leaders Award by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace on 23rd June. She was recognized for her exceptional work in the community.
Ms Alzima Elisha Bano, a staff of the University was also the recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders award. Elisha, a Campus Life Officer and former part-time Psychology tutor was recognized for her community work done in 2014.
The University has continued to make progress with the further improvements to its regional campuses. USP and the Government of the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) signed a Deed of Assignment at the Republic of Marshall Islands Embassy on 26 May 2016 and the renovations to the Long Island Hotel have started at a cost of US$1.6 million to convert it to become the new RMI campus.
The University is on track with the development of a new campus for the Solomon Islands. USP and the Solomon Islands government undertook and successfully concluded negotiations with ADB for a loan of US$15.4m for the new campus development. In addition to this, ADB has also approved a grant of US$1.5m from its Clean Energy Fund for the installation of a solar panel photovoltaic system which will meet 75% of the energy needs of the new campus. We hope to have the new campus completed by the end of 2018.
The Nauru Learning Village Phase 2 ground breaking was carried out by the Australian High Commissioner and the Minister of Education on 11th August. Our new Centre will be part of this new learning village and we are excited by this new development. We thank both the Government of Nauru and Australia for this new development.
As Pacific people, we are proud of our heritage, culture and language and our diversity. We have appointed the Director of the Centre for Pacific Languages, based at the Emalus Campus, Vanuatu. We are developing a new programme in Cook Island Maori, which I know is dear to the Chancellor’s heart. We will place a staff of the Oceania Centre in Solomon Islands to coordinate Arts and Culture in Melanesia. These are all part of our Strategic Plan initiatives.
Pacific Forum Leaders had declared Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) as one of five game-changing, transformative initiatives at their meeting in Port Moresby Papua New Guinea. We are privileged to have the responsibility for co-ordinating and facilitating work in this area, and the feedback we have received is very positive about how we are advancing this area.
7. 50th Anniversary Preparations
The University will have its 50th Anniversary in 2018. Yesterday we had the first meeting of the 50th Anniversary Steering Committee chaired by our Pro Chancellor. We plan to mark this milestone with significant events and legacies and I invite you all to be part of this exciting event in 2018 that will celebrate our achievements and regionality, and secure our future as a world-class university that our leaders, the Pacific people, and our partners can take genuine pride in.
8. Thanks and Appreciation
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 which deserves special acknowledgement.
9. A Final Word
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, your families and your countries proud by your strong, innovative, ethical, and excellent contributions.
Vinaka Vakalevu; Dhanyavaad; Thank you and God Bless.
26 AUGUST 2016