This was the sentiment of His Excellency Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Konrote, President of the Republic of Fiji and USP Chancellor during the official launch of the University’s 50th Anniversary at its Laucala Campus yesterday 5 February 2018.
USP, H.E Konrote said, has been a steadfast partner to the Fijian Government in widening the reach of the Fijian education system and fielding a more competitive and talented Fijian workforce.
“When the Fijian Government first considered the possibility of establishing a regional university based in Fiji in the mid-sixties, I am sure no-one realised that it would grow to become the centre for learning excellence that it is today,” H.E. Konrote said.
According to H.E Konrote, the Fijian Auditor General provided oversight of USP’s finances which greatly alleviated the need for the University to engage costly external services, in the early years of the University.
The Government of Fiji, he noted also appreciated the need for the University to be autonomous and it therefore granted visas and work permits to allow overseas academics to assist with the growth of USP.
“These initiatives, which were over and above the usual levels of commitment seen in other similar nations, showed the willingness of the Fijian Government to assist the growth of the University and contributed greatly to the rapid expansion of USP,” he said.
H.E Konrote stated that USP was in a sense, one of the earliest experiments in regional co-operation and its founders wanted education to be accessible to all parts of the Pacific Islands.
He added that in each of the member nations, USP’s footprint has contributed to a significant widening of access to higher education and through it, aspirational opportunities for development that had never existed before.
H.E Konrote mentioned that the University has prospered through an understanding that all the cultures of our member nations needed to be recognised and nurtured, and that countries gained greater total benefits from collaboration and partnerships that overcame their smallness and isolation.
This he said, provided the initial basis for these countries to come together - building on unity from our diversity.
“The University’s thoughtful attention to the needs of all member countries ensures that all member countries have remained staunch supporters of the University. This strong sense of ownership, unwavering financial support, and the University’s growing reputation and success in its regional work has led USP, being widely recognised as the best example of regional cooperation,” he further stated.
The University, he added, has trained the majority of Pacific leaders and its alumni are heads of state, senior government officials and leaders of industry throughout the Pacific and beyond.
He also said that these leaders, many of whom lived and studied together during their time at USP, were exposed to an environment of understanding and networks based on friendship.
Following the Launch, H.E Konrote together with His Excellency Mr John Feakes, Australian High Commissioner and Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP’s Vice-Chancellor and President opened a Time Capsule interred by the Australian Government on 20 August 1997.
The Time Capsule was sealed 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 then.
It included USP publications, a video cassette from 1997, and was accompanied by a note, which was read by Professor Chandra during the Time Capsule’s opening.
Present at the launch included Honourable Jean Pierre Nirua, Vanuatu Minister for Education and Training, Honourable Loau Keneti Sio, Samoan Minister for Education, Mr Winston Thompson Pro-Chancellor and Chair of USP Council; Members of the University Council, Senate, Executive Committee and Finance and Investment Committee; Excellencies and members of the Diplomatic Corps; Heads and representatives of Regional and International Organisations; Senior Fijian Government Officials; Members of the USP Senior Management Team, and staff and students of the University.