One hundred and ninety two (192) students from nine countries graduated from The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Emalus Campus in Vanuatu on 1 December 2017.
USP Chancellor and President of the Republic of Fiji Jioji Konusi Konrote, conferred the Degrees and awarded the Diplomas and Certificates to the graduating students during the ceremony.
Konrote congratulated the graduating students and highlighted that the qualifications received will be a major game changer for the graduates and gives them every opportunity to excel in life and do well for their families, communities and country.
“I am particularly pleased and honoured to personally officiate at your graduation ceremony.
“I take this role very seriously because I have every confidence that many of you, the graduating students, can go on to become the future leaders of your beloved nation.
“All of you can lead at the local, national or even at the international levels,” President Konrote told the graduating students.
About seventy-three per cent (73%) of the graduates were from Vanuatu, and twenty-seven per cent (27%) were from Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.
“This reflects the strong regional role that the Emalus Campus and Vanuatu play regionally,” said Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President.
The number of students graduating from Emalus Campus has seen an increase by twenty-five per cent (25%) compared to last year and out of the total number of graduates, fifty-two (52%) of them are females.
Twelve per cent (12%) of the students graduated with Postgraduate qualifications which is an increase of three per cent (3%) when compared to 2016.
The day also marked the graduation of the first cohort of francophone teachers who graduated with “Certificat post-Licence en Sciences de l’éducation”.
Professor Chandra congratulated the graduates and said that the journey to graduation is a wonderful one and the celebration of the journey that ends on graduation day is that of one of the greatest chapters in their life.
“After today you will begin another journey, one of real life, armed with the success of your education and your experience of these past years. How you progress and what you make of your life from this day onwards will be a testament of the ambition and dedication that is within you,” Professor Chandra told the graduates.
Professor Chandra extended a special welcome to the President of the Republic of Vanuatu, Tallis Obed Moses and Mrs Estella Tallis and President of Fiji, Jioji Konusi Konrote, and Mrs Sarote Konrote, First Lady of Fiji.
The graduation was also attended by Mr Winston Thompson, the Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council; Jean Pierre Nirua, Minister of Education of Vanuatu, Vincent Lunabek, Chief Justice and members of the Judiciary; Kiel Loughman, Attorney-General; Ministers and members of the Government of Vanuatu; members of the Diplomatic Corps; members of the Council, Senate and their Committees; Director-General of Education and Chair of the Emalus Campus Advisory Committee and members of the Advisory Committee; representatives of the private sector and NGOs; graduands and their families and friends and staff and students of USP.
Talking about staff and student achievements at the Emalus Campus, Professor Chandra said that USP had responded to the Prime Minister’s call for more Science teaching at Emalus by appointing a Science Programmes Co-ordinator, Dr Krishna Kotra who is part of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment.
“The Faculty is putting in place a full-fledged three-year in-country Bachelor of Science degree in Emalus from July, 2018 to expand its current offerings,” Professor Chandra said.
Students enrolled in this blended programme will be able to take majors in Chemistry, Biology, Information Systems, Physics and Mathematics.
He added that there is also an opportunity for science teachers to upgrade their qualifications through the Science Teachers Accelerated Programme (STAP), which has been very successful in Samoa.
“In preparation for increased science delivery, a classroom at Emalus has been renovated to become a wet laboratory.
“This will increase our laboratories to three so more courses can be handled at any time,” highlighted Professor Chandra.
Furthermore, Professor Chandra noted that with the increasing number of students in Business and Economics, more postgraduate programmes are expected to be offered soon at the Emalus Campus and the Faculty of Business and Economics now has a full time staff in Management and Economics at the Campus and another staff in accounting is expected to join next year.
In addition, Professor Chandra highlighted that the progress of the Untrained Teachers Project (UTP) is very encouraging with the first cohort of the untrained teachers graduating this year.
With regards to the role played by USP in the promotion of Pacific languages, Professor Chandra highlighted that the Emalus Campus hosts the Centre for Pacific Languages and the appointment of the new Director of the Centre (PLC), Dr Robert Early, has strengthened research into Pacific languages and also programmes being offered to students.
“A number of dictionaries have been done for several countries in the region through the Pacific Language Centre. The first Pacific language to be offered is Maori language in the Cook Islands while Bislama (Vanuatu), Tongan and Niuean Languages are in preparation,” Professor Chandra said.
The Centre also made a significant contribution to the major new initiatives in Vanuatu education which has seen children in the country now receiving their first exposure to classroom learning in their first language.
In areas of Research, the University continues to strongly focus on the priorities of member countries via its Strategic Research Themes (SRTs). Currently, there are seven (7) SRT-based projects, funded by USP, involving Vanuatu and the first three (3) projects are led by researchers based at Emalus Campus.
Talking about the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PacLII) based at the Emalus Campus, he said that the Vanuatu Government has made its first instalment of 5 million Vatu to assist in the continuation of PacLII.
“We thank the Government of Vanuatu for its commitment to PacLII given its uniqueness in the Pacific and crucial advocacy and training roles,” Professor Chandra said.
This year PacLII has exceeded all targets for publications or new materials, adding over 10,000 new documents and converting more than 1000 documents to more user friendly formats.
In 2018 PacLII will be launching an offline version on data stick that will allow users to access PacLII without internet.
It will also be launching case summaries which will help people to quickly understand cases and will be developing training videos to help people to be able to find content on PacLII.
After a long wait, the University has now successfully increased bandwidth at Emalus through the marine fibre with the generous support from the Vanuatu Government.
“I wish to thank the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education for this crucial facilitation and assistance. Emalus Campus is one of the heaviest users of bandwidth, and the new fibre connection is very timely and useful,” Professor Chandra added.
He added that this year 14 students from the Campus Confucius Institute were awarded Chinese government scholarships to study in China from 2018.
Five students attended the Shanghai Summer School while two participated in the Chinese Bridge Competition for College students. Eighteen (18) students were awarded the Chinese Ambassador’s Scholarship in Semester 2, 2017.
For the first time this year, Student Learning Specialists ran the mentoring programme in Semester 2 and a student learning support forum was held for the first time in the same semester, where student representatives from each level and cultural groups discussed academic issues they faced.
The University is looking at additional initiatives next year to support student learning.
Next year the University will be celebrating its 50th anniversary and the Vice-Chancellor and President provided a brief overview of some of the events to mark the Golden Jubilee.
He also invited everyone to be part of the historic milestone in the development of USP and the region.