1. Acknowledgements and Greetings
Your Royal Highnesses, Crown Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala and Princess Sinaitakala Tuku’aho;
Your Excellency Sir Iakoba Taeia Italeli, Governor General of Tuvalu and Chancellor of The University of the South Pacific; and Lady Koling Italeli;
Honourable Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Training, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva;
Deputy Prime Minister;
Speaker of the House, Ministers of the Crown and Nobles of the Realm;
Acting Pro Chancellor and Chair of Council, Mrs Fekita ‘Utoikamanu;
Excellencies and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Members of the Council and Senate;
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Learning, Teaching and Student Services), Professor Richard Coll;
Lord Matoto ‘o Tu‘anekivale and members of the Clergy;
Director of the USP Tonga Campus, Dr. 'Ana Koloto; Director of the Institute of Education, Dr Seu'ula Johansson-Fua; Staff and students;
Representatives of the Private Sector and NGOs;
Graduands and their families and friends;
Ladies and Gentlemen
2. Acknowledgements and Welcome
Greetings and a very good afternoon to you all. It gives me great pleasure to join the Acting Pro Chancellor in warmly welcoming you to The University of the South Pacific’s Tonga Campus Graduation Ceremony 2015.
On behalf of the University of the South Pacific’s Management, Staff and Students, may I extend to Your Royal Highnesses our sincere gratitude for your gracing this USP Graduation Ceremony. We are extremely honoured and delighted with your esteemed presence here this afternoon, knowing that this is a very busy time for the Kingdom of Tonga with the forthcoming Coronation of His Majesty King Tupou the Sixth (VI).
I extend a special welcome to the Hon. Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Training, who is an alumnus of USP. We are very proud to have you amongst us, Sir, and we look forward to continuing the long-standing and very strong relationship between Tonga and USP.
We are happy to be back in Tonga for this joyous occasion to celebrate with the graduands, their families, friends and the community one of the most important milestones in a student's life. Thank you all for your presence here today to recognize and honour our students on their achievements.
3. The 21st Chancellor
Your Royal Highnesses, please allow me to acknowledge the presence of our 21st Chancellor, His Excellency Sir Iakoba Taeia Italeli, the Governor General of Tuvalu and Lady Koling Italeli. Today’s graduation ceremony will complete the round of graduations held during Sir Iakoba Italeli’s term as USP’s Chancellor.
Your Excellency, Sir, we thank you for your interest in the work of the University as seen in your most active participation and attendance at numerous graduation ceremonies in Suva, Apia, Alofi, Honiara, Port Vila, Tarawa, Funafuti and now Nuku’alofa. Your Excellency’s support and dedication have been immeasurable and for that, we are most grateful. We wish your Excellency all the very best as you continue with your service and national commitments to the people of Tuvalu.
Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, as most of you would know, the Kingdom of Tonga was a founding member of USP 47 years ago, with its first Chancellor being His late Majesty King Taufa'ahau Tupou the Fourth (4th). Very recently, the University also had the great honour to have His Majesty King Tupou the Sixth (6th) as its 20th Chancellor. To continue with the tradition of installing USP Chancellors from persons of distinction from our member countries, from next month USP will be installing its 22nd Chancellor in Suva. We pride ourselves that no matter how large or small our member countries are, each of our 12 member countries can each have a turn to assume the titular headship of the University thus forging the very close relationships and partnerships that the University enjoys with its member countries.
4. Today’s Graduation Ceremony
Today we will witness about 58 Tongan students graduating in various academic programmes. Specifically we note that:
- 72.4% (42) of them are females thus showing a predominance of females and indicates the need for males to catch up with gender parity;
- 67.2% (39) are graduating with postgraduate qualifications with 26 of them receiving Masters, predominantly with MBAs (22). The three-fold increase in postgraduate completions (from 12 in the 2014 Graduation to 39 in 2015) reflects an encouraging trend on one of the University’s Institutional KPIs, which is the improvement of postgraduate completions. Moreover, it also shows the positive impact that Cohort Teaching of programmes such as MBA are having in providing better access by teaching the programme locally rather than students going over to the Laucala Campus.
5. To the Graduates
Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, with your indulgence, I would like a few minutes to pay tribute to the very people that we are here for today – the Graduates.
Congratulations on persevering and completing your studies. You can be justly proud of your achievements. I am sure that the very people who have supported you in your studies – sponsors, parents, families, lecturers and community will also be very happy that the sacrifices, the encouragement that they have made, coupled with the dedication and perseverance that you have put into your studies, have paid off today. We are pleased to join you in celebrating a memorable and joyous day, a time that you can look back with happiness and satisfaction throughout your life. As I have often remarked at similar events, today is not the end, but the beginning of a new chapter in your lives. Go out with a thankful heart with humility and with a purpose-driven goal to serve others. By doing that, you will be respected and rewarded but more importantly you will have a sense of fulfillment.
A former US politician and Secretary of War and Mayor of Cleveland in 1912-1915, by the name of Newton D. Baker once said that:
"The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after." (Source: http://www.wow4u.com/graduation2/index.html)
It is my fervent hope that as graduates you will continue to value life-long learning in this ever-changing world but more importantly as graduates now equipped with new knowledge and skills, to use these wisely and to come up with solutions to the challenges and problems that we are encountering in our own region.
Today, we are facing many changes in every aspect of our lives, each having its own sets of challenges, with some of them happening at a considerable pace. For instance, there are climate changes that are affecting our Pacific Islands nations, while on the other hand the fast paced technological changes that we encounter every day are transforming the way we used to go about our daily routines.
As USP graduates, I therefore urge you to be open to change and leverage new technologies fully to exploit possibilities and find solutions for the Kingdom of Tonga and the region and serve with integrity. Some of you will be in positions of leadership, use these opportunities to shine and show that as a USP Alumnus, you will make a difference.
6. USP and Tonga Campus
As alluded to earlier, the University has had a lengthy and a highly valued association with the Kingdom of Tonga, where a lot of its USP Alumni are now holding key leadership positions in Government and in the Private Sector. The Honourable Prime Minister is of course a fine example of a USP alumnus rising to the top of leadership in Tonga.
The Tonga Campus has evolved into one of the larger USP Campuses with two sub-centres in Ha'apai and Vava'u, serving the needs and demands of the local population for post secondary education. In 2010, the Institute of Education (IOE) was relocated from Laucala Campus to the Tonga Campus, thus boosting and strengthening the roles of both Units here in Tonga and the region.
Student enrolments over the past five years have steadily increased for the Tonga Campus reaching a total of 1134 students in 2014 with 1050 students already in 2015. With the start of the Second Semester in late July 2015, we expect this number to grow further. Along the same trend, Tongan nationals studying at the Laucala Campus, Emalus Campus and Alafua Campus have also increased over the same period with Laucala Campus having 229 Tongan students in 2014 and with first half 2015 already reaching 239 students.
Within the Tonga Campus however, much remains to be done not only to improve the campus physical and support facilities but to ensure that the appropriate levels and programmes are delivered cost effectively. With the availability of 100 mbps broadband, the Tonga campus now needs to fully exploit ICT-leveraged pedagogies.
The extra 14 acres donated by the government in 2012 remains to be fully developed. The Campus Director has recently submitted to Management, the Tonga Campus Academic Plan which will be reviewed by Management and our other University Committees in order to find the best way forward, within our resources, on the development of the extra land to meet the growing demands of our stakeholders in Tonga.
The IOE as a regional entity continues to serve the region from Tonga and has successfully continued with several of its projects including the delivery of the Professional Certificate in Education Policy and Planning (PCEPP) in Niue and the Cook Islands with 28 participants to graduate in Cook Islands later this year; the Solomon Islands Leadership Programme; the Institutional Strengthening of Tonga Institute of Education (TIOE); the Pacific Literacy and School Leadership Program (PLSLP) in partnership with the University of Auckland; and has also made some headway in its Publications role with the re-launch of the Waka books.
7. Update on USP’s Progress
Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to provide a short update on the University's progress to date.
The University is very grateful for the confidence and support it receives from its member governments, development partners and stakeholders. Our job has been made easier knowing that we have the confidence and support of our stakeholders. Financially, the University is in a good position; enrolments are at its highest ever; and we have recently added new staff at Senior Management level, including a new Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics and a new Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and International. Earlier in the year, we were joined by our new Deputy Vice-Chancellor Learning, Teaching and Student Services, who is present with us today, Professor Richard Coll. We recently farewelled our Pro Chancellor, Mr Ikbal Jannif, who has served the University Council for over 25 years - a long and dedicated service indeed, and we are most grateful for his immense contributions to USP. We are grateful that your very own Mrs Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu, the Deputy Chair has stepped in to temporarily assume the Pro Chancellor’s position until we are able to complete the process of filling the position.
The University will continue with our transformation for excellence. Quality is a core theme and accreditations will form the central part of our quality assurance. Quality requires resources. We have a new University Grants Committee (UGC) Triennial Submission 2016-2018 for our recurrent funding in the next triennium. This will be discussed by the UGC in July and eventually by the USP Regional Ministers of Finance. We have put a lot more emphasis on our Regional Campus Developments with major developments in Kiribati and Solomon Islands, as well as RMI. All these developments are part of our Strategic Plan 2013-2018. With 2015 being the final year of the first SP triennium (2013-2015), we will have a mid-term review of the SP, but so far implementation has been on target for the majority of our KPIs.
8. Concluding Remarks
Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your kind attention. A final word - to the graduates. I congratulate you all again and wish you all the very best in your endeavours as you start a new chapter in your lives. As you go out into your respective communities as ambassadors of USP, be a people of purpose and direction. We are very proud of you and are confident that you will make us proud and bring credit to the University and to the Kingdom of Tonga.
Professor Rajesh Chandra
Vice-Chancellor & President