I WISH to respond to Gabriel Talokwai’s letter which was published in your paper on 8 February 2016.
It was in reference to the proposal to establish a 4th USP Campus in Solomon Islands.
I will attempt to address some of the points he raised in his letter.
The first point he raised was that Solomon Islands should no longer provide assistance towards the establishment of a 4th USP Campus because the country now has its own national university.
Nobody is disputing that Solomon Islands now has its own university but equally we must also not lose sight of the fact that Solomon Islands also owns USP.
Solomon Islands is one of the 12 countries that owns USP. Therefore if Solomon Islands provides assistance towards the establishment of the 4th Campus, it is doing so as an owner of USP.
The second point he raises is that a 4th USP Campus should not be established in Solomon Islands because other tertiary institutions from Papua New Guinea (PNG) are already operating in the country.
Let’s put this way – Solomon Islands does not own these PNG tertiary institutions but as an owner of USP, it is only proper and fitting to support it as it competes with these other institutions.
Let me add here that the presence of the PNG tertiary institutions in Solomon Islands is welcomed because the competition they provide will only strengthen our own tertiary institutions.
The third point he raised relates to the proposed site. What the letter writer is insinuating is that the establishment of the 4th Campus near KGVI will deprive the current and future students of this KGVI.
That is not true because the proposed site earmarked for the 4th Campus does not encroach onto the current site. The areas demarcated for the proposed 4th Campus does not contain any academic building, nor any student dormitories.
The fourth point he raised is that USP is now well represented by the current Solomon Islands Centre (Campus) based in Honiara and there was no need for a 4th USP Campus.
If the letter writer cares to visit the USP Solomon Islands Campus near Lawson Tama he will note that it is almost bursting at seam from the overwhelming number of students enrolled through USP.
Space is currently a huge problem and they could not offer more of their services in terms of more lecture room, more IT labs, more science lab, a large library, more study spaces and even more spaces for their students to relax and discuss with their colleagues.
The establishment of the 4th Campus will not only enhance its course and programme offerings but also improve the services offered to its students. A indirect benefit from this is that more spaces will be available to our students to attend university.
I believe the Solomon Islands National University (SINU) should not shirk competition.
In fact as a tertiary institution at the university level, USP has already been existence in Solomon Islands even before SINU, therefore if anything, SINU is the new kid on the block.
If others believe that it is USP who is encroaching onto the Solomon Islands tertiary market, then SINU should welcome that challenge.
I say this because I believe competition should not weaken SINU but rather, strengthen it.
If SINU sees USP as a competitor, it will work extra hard to ensure that its courses and programmes are of the best quality on offer in the country.
This sense of competition should also drive SINU towards attracting the best academic staff to teach their programmes.
If students see that SINU is offering quality courses and programmes which are taught by world class academics, then even if USP establishes its 4th Campus in Solomon Islands, they will continue to increase their enrolment numbers and SINU will be the first preferred institution of choice for our high school students.
If there is no competition, this will only breed mediocracy which will see courses and programmes developed and certificates awarded which are not worth the paper they are written on.
In such a scenario, SINU will suffer immeasurably and students will be driven towards tertiary institutions that have quality academic staff and which offer quality courses and programmes.
I do not see the establishment of the 4th Campus in Solomon Islands as a competition to SINU. I see its establishment as complimenting SINU’s course and programme offerings.
That way they are reducing the cost of offering tertiary education to the people of Solomon Islands.
That is, if SINU sees that USP is already offering a specialist programme in a particular field, it would not make sense if it also offers a similar programme because in the long run it will be an expensive exercise.
What it should do in such circumstances is devote its resources towards offering programmes in fields in which they have the expertise. The same reasoning applies to USP. This way costs are reduced which will translate to efficient offerings of programmes by the two institutions..
Both SINU and USP will also benefit if they are located together in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
They will get to share a lot of their resources.
One area which each of them could benefit from is through the exchanging of staff members, be they for long or short term training.
If academic SINU staff, when taking sabbatical leave, can opt to do with the USP Solomon Islands Campus or at any of the other three campuses.
The same applies for USP academic staff. If any short-term training is offered by any of the two institutions, their staff can attend such training. These can be arranged through a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions.
The establishment of a 4th USP Campus in Solomon Islands will be cost effective for the country in the long term.
That is the benefit will outweigh the cost in the long term.
Firstly the government’s direct cost for scholarships will be reduced as number of these will be available for studies at 4th USP Campus.
Secondly, overall more students will receive scholarships because a good number will obtain scholarships tenable at the 4th USP Campus.
Thirdly, staff from the 4th USP Campus will contribute towards the development of this country through any consultancy they may undertake for the government.
Fourthly, its academic staff will contribute towards healthy environment for academic discussions through seminars, contributions through mainstream media and opinions given on issues of national importance.
I do not see the establishment of the USP 4th Campus as a threat to SINU.
In the long term I can only see SINU gaining from this and hopefully it can strengthen its academic programmes and enhance the capacity of its staff members through the collaboration between both institutions.
Solomon Islands has a lot to gain from having SINU and USP located in Solomon Islands but equally, both institutions will mutually benefit through their interaction.
By CHARLIE KIEU