During the launch, Professor Rajesh Chandra Vice-Chancellor and President of USP extended a special welcome to H.E Konrote saying that his presence made the event more meaningful as Fiji has been at the forefront of the development of the University.
He was also very pleased to extend his welcome and gratitude to the Australian High Commissioner, Mr John Feakes, adding that Australia, like New Zealand, has been one of USP’s core development partners since its inception and both countries have contributed significantly to its progress.
In his address, Professor Chandra expressed gratitude to its member governments and development partners, in particular Australia and New Zealand that have consistently supported USP since its inception, without which the University could not have come this far, and achieved so much.
“The government of Fiji as well as other member governments together with Australia and New Zealand stood by the University throughout the last half century, providing funding, assisting with land and infrastructure, and supporting our management practices, that has enabled the University to increase its footprint in all our member countries, educate over 50,000 graduates, promote regional co-operation and integration and achieve excellence,” he said.
USP he said has also been long supported by other nations, who are not members, that acknowledge the positive contributions made by the University for the development of the Pacific region and are therefore willing to partner with the University.
Professor Chandra noted that the Australian Government is a long-term partner of USP and has funded several programmes and projects including the Laucala Campus library in 1988; the Australia-Pacific Lecture Theatre (formerly known as the AusAID Lecture Theatre) in 1998; and in 2007 projects on climate change adaptation through the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, to name a few.
As well, the New Zealand government supported USP from the first years of the operations by leaving valuable buildings and other assets at Laucala Bay and continues to provide core budget and project support to this day.
“New Zealand has also been instrumental in the development of USPNet through co-funding the initial USPNet Satellite and is currently supporting the upgrade of USPNet scheduled for completion this year and has also supported many projects in the past 5 decades,” he said.
Professor Chandra mentioned that the two development partners have since 2010 provided support to the implementation of priority areas of USP’s Strategic Plans (2010-2012 & 2013-2018) through multi-year partnership arrangements and USP is grateful to them for their continued assistance and partnership.
As part of the launch, the 1997 Time Capsule of USP was also opened by H.E President Konrote and H.E Mr John Feakes, Australian High Commissioner to Fiji. The Time Capsule was buried in 1997 by the then Australian Foreign Minister, Honourable Alexander Downer and the then Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rajesh Chandra to mark the commencement of construction of the Australia-Pacific Lecture Theatre.
Honourable Julie Bishop, Australia’s Foreign Minister, in a video recording, sent a congratulatory message to the University on the launch of its 50th anniversary.
“I congratulate USP, staff and graduates, past and present, and the owners - the 12 member countries on the outstanding example of regional cooperation,” she noted.
Hon. Bishop confirmed that Australia has been there from the beginning and they supported the University and value their partnership with USP.
“One way in which we could engage more closely is through the Australian Government’s new Colombo Plan where we support Australian undergraduates to live and study overseas and I hope to see more Australian undergraduates studying at USP,” she stated.
“This University enables and inspires Pacific islanders to reach their full potential and it has made a vital contribution to the economic and social development of this most dynamic region I trust that today’s events mark the beginning of a wonderful time of celebrations to recognise the contribution that USP has made to our region,” she said.
In a letter to Professor Chandra, Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat offered USP her warmest congratulations on achieving its 50th Anniversary.
She stated that since its establishment in 1968, USP has remained one of the region’s greatest examples of regionalism and the benefits that ensue from pooling our collective resources for the betterment of our Pacific people.
“This institution is a symbol of our region’s determination to build our capacity and chart our own development course, as individuals, nations and as one Pacific region,” Ms Taylor said.
“May I also take this opportunity to recognise and commend the past and present staff and management of the USP for your able leadership in guiding this institution to this milestone achievement,” she noted.
“I look forward to celebrating, together with our colleagues on the Council of Regional Organisation in the Pacific (CROP), this milestone achievement over the course of this year,” Ms Taylor added.
Professor Chandra said the 50th Anniversary seeks to recognise individuals together with the partners who have supported USP along what has been a wonderful journey of development for the Pacific region.
“2018 provides an opportunity for us to use the learnings and relationships established over the past 50 years, to achieve even greater outcomes in the future,” he added.
USP will be releasing its strategic plan for the next six year cycle towards the end of the 50th Anniversary year.
The official launch of the 50th Anniversary for USP was streamed live to all the USP member countries through the USP website.