Dear Editor – I thank Charlie Kieu for his enlightening contribution on the issue of the 4th Campus of USP in the Solomon Islands.
I was partly concerned that the issue which has been on the table since the 1980’s was going to proceed without at least some re-examination of the rationale underlying its initial appeal then.
Part of the intention now is to fuel fresh debate on the subject to enlighten the way forward, if the government is still serious about it.
Mr Kieu provided an excellent start to the discussion.
I am in total agreement with what Mr Kieu has stated. There are immense advantages in having tertiary education opportunities available in-country as long as the government is clear about its educational priorities.
Long term costs and mutual institutional and individual capacity building are amongst these. There are no substitutes.
The 4th Campus of course will be an extension of USP. It would therefore be partly owned by the SI government.
The normal USP funding formulae for Member States would apply with regards to the upkeep and running of the Campus.
Since the Campus is an extension of USP, it would be a Regional Institution to enrol students from the 12 Member States of the University.
Student enrolment and staffing must be all from the 12 countries, including the Solomon Islands.
We now hear that funding for the Campus is to be sourced from the ADB?
The Solomon Island government must ensure that it would be USP which would be responsible for securing and repaying the loan.
One obstacle in the way of this 4th Campus previously, was insistence by USP that the Solomon Islands government (SIG) be responsible for building the Campus for USP.
The government would argue to no avail, that since the Campus was to be an extension of USP which is a Regional Institution, the University should be responsible for building it.
As a Member State of USP, the SIG would assist in the upkeep of the Campus through the normal channels for such assistance.
I continue to worry about expansions in tertiary education for a number of reasons.
The first of these is what I understand to be a lack of manpower planning.
To me, any education and training at this level must be informed and guided by planned indication of employment needs for graduates.
There is nothing worse than having unemployed degree graduates.
Manpower planning is never perfect but at least some crude indications of likely future labour markets would be useful guides for expanding tertiary education.
Another reason is the doubt that our government can afford the financial burden of multiple commitments to further expansions at the tertiary level.
Even with the present level of commitment, the government is continually struggling to meet these.
There is lastly the moral question of whether or not the government should spend more on the relatively few in tertiary education, and less on early childhood, primary, and secondary education levels where the masses are.
These lower levels are where the majority of the school age population is who are struggling to complete their basic education.
The implementation of the 4th Campus of USP must not be at the expense of any of Solomon Islands other national aspirations in education.