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Friday, 16 May 2014

UNITECH Vice-Chancellor's Speech for the 46th Graduation, 16 May 2014, Taraka Campus (full speech)

Today we proudly presented to our Chancellor 936 UNITECH graduands, of which 29% or 266 are women. All departments confidently proposed the list of graduands to the Academic Board, who after careful revision approved each and every one of them. Yesterday, UNITECH Council gave its final seal of approval.

32 postgraduate students graduated today, having thus established the largest postgraduate program in the country with currently 112 students enrolled of which 52 in distance mode. We are particularly proud today to present a PhD degree in Agriculture to Mr. Merawe Degemba, and the first graduand in the Applied Physics program, Mrs. Osora Helen Herivi. We also welcome the first batch of MBA graduates: Sarah Todd and Nohorahnie Bogan.


Around our postgraduate programs, a research culture has now taken hold at UNITECH, which brings us closer to our vision of being the most innovative university of technology in PNG and the South Pacific. We hold weekly research seminars which have contributed to a vibrant climate for research at UNITECH. Several departments hold their own research workshops. Research activities do much to enhance the quality of our teaching in the undergraduate programs.

Through our public-private partnership with DATEC – New Horizons Learning, 50 graduands will receive an advanced professional diploma in IT. Our nursing college today will graduate 22 women with a diploma in nursing, so that they can offer vital health services around the country.

Through our Dept of Open and Distance Learning today 18 Bachelors in Agriculture and Rural Development (BARD) will graduate, and 40 more diploma's in mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics will be conferred. We will continue to run our Grade 12 program for over 8.000 secondary school pupils, since almost 10% of our students come in through this program.

A few weeks ago I received a hero' s welcome when I returned to the country after a forced absence of over 1 year. The real heroes of this story were however UNITECH staff and students, some of whom stood up for what is right and supported me during the year that I was kept far away and in the dark.

This year, the exceptional leadership of our Chancellor Sir Nagora Bogan, the united staff organizations, and the peaceful efforts of the students, who successfully convinced all parties will never be forgotten. You wrote history, and you saved UNITECH as an autonomous institution of higher learning, where academic freedom and tolerance are cultivated.

They all peacefully but persistently convinced the government to do the right thing, and restore academic freedom and institutional autonomy at UNITECH with an aim of providing transparent, efficient, and effective management. We now have a new Council, and we formed new management team.

I am aware, that my sudden popularity in the country was based on the results my management team achieve in the 11 months I was on campus. I am firmly convinced that this team under my leadership will continue to implement UNITECH's common agenda of necessary reform and transformation, and we can provide the necessary management and leadership to see it through.

Last week on Friday May 10th we presented the new management team during the Appreciation Ceremony organised by the SRC for the whole UNITECH community. The team consists of UNITECH faculty of long standing and excellent reputation: Dr. Ora Renagi as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Augustine Moshi as PVC Academic, and Dr. Kaul Gena as PVC Administration were confirmed yesterday in their positions in the Vice-Chancellor's office, with the hope and expectation that in August they can be made substantive by Council.

Let me share a few short reflections on this occasion. First, about our continuous improvement of academic quality. Secondly, about the role of UNITECH in national development. Thirdly, about the need for life-long learning. Finally, some reflections and words of advice for the new graduates,

Despite some recent negative publicity about UNITECH, over the last few years we can confidently say the quality of our graduates has substantially improved. At UNITECH our teaching and students are constantly being assessed. All departments have now an industrial advisory committee, which provides advice on bringing our curriculum up to date, and how to enhance the learning and living experience at UNITECH. We managed to hire around two new academic per department with a doctorate degree. Finally, we engaged with the Office of Higher Education in a program of institutional assessment, which will be finalized in the coming weeks.

We thank the government and Council for its continuous support for this great institution, and their trust in our management team. We are looking forward to continuing to work with all our stakeholders on our agenda of academic quality improvement and bringing UNITECH up to international standards.

It is of course not only the quantity of graduates that matters, it is mostly the quality of a country's graduates that will determine whether the country can convert economic growth into development with adequate levels of health care and primary and secondary education. It is university graduates which will provide the professionals which will ensure all institutions of the state and other organisations will function properly, and it is in particular our graduates in science and engineering and management who will create the businesses that will provide employment for the masses. It is extremely worrying today that of the 16.000 or so secondary school leavers, only 4.000 or so enjoy further or higher education.

(Apart from setting targets for graduate production, based on the estimates of labour market demands contained in Vision 2050, - which aims at including the country into the ranks of the middle income countries by 2050 -, the government has invested in improving academic quality in the country. For this purpose, in 2009 commissioned the Independent Review of the University System (IRUS). The main conclusions of this review were first that academic quality needs to be improved, before the quantity of graduates can grow substantially, and secondly that the size of the university Councils needs to be slimmed down from an unworkable size of over 32, to a more manageable of 13. The reform of the higher education act is now being discussed in Parliament, and we are confident that this policy will now be implemented.)

As established by the Magna Carta Universitatum of 1988, and like all universities in the world UNITECH strives to combine teaching, research and outreach (the third mission) of excellent quality. It is research that set a university apart from other institutes of higher learning, and keeps our teaching relevant and up to date. It is outreach that ensures that the fruits of this research benefit society.

UNITECH's specific mission is to stimulate critical evaluation of science and technology for PNG and the Pacific. During our Open Day in September you will be able to see with your own eyes how UNITECH faculty and staff contribute to this process. In fact, UNITECH has a specific institute for appropriate technology ATCDI, which enjoys a global reputation through the publication since 1978 of its liklik buk of village technologies.

After starting 5 years ago with postgraduate research in the Agriculture department, we have now an active research culture at UNITECH. Weekly research seminar are now being held for the whole university. In addition, the Mathematics and Electrical Engineering departments are running their own workshops. The appointment of a Dean of Research, Dr. Shamsul Akanda, has accelerated progress substantially.

Research must be published internationally in order to have an impact, so international cooperation is key for UNITECH's mission. Through our participation in Erasmus Mundus programs (CARPIMS, ANGLE, BULA, and DREAM) which I started, we have sent now several students abroad, and are currently hosting 2 postgraduate students from the Carribbean partner universities. Our Agriculture department is running the largest postgraduate program. Its close cooperation with the National Agriculture Research Institute NARI and its 80 Ha research farm are important assets. Our Forestry department too has a foreign PhD candidate. Both departments have long standing cooperation with numerous communities across the country. Our Surveying and Land Studies department has secured several grants which allow it to be leading in GIS and remote sensing in the country. The Communication and Development Studies Department has just finished a curriculum review, supported by the Australian National University in Canberra. The Computing Science and Maths department held a successful international conference last year. Finally, in November last year the bi-annual research conference, the Huon Conference, was held where over 42 papers were presented. Its proceedings have now been published on our website.

With the Cairns Language College in August we will finally be offering the Cambridge English exams in Lae. We build on UNITECH's well established public-private partnerships with DATEC – New Horizons Learning for training, NATSL, and the Buk Bilong Pikini – children's library and , The Voice – leadership – programs.

We cultivate close relations with industry through the Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry, through the corporate sponsors of our students, and we include industry representative in our departmental industrial advisory committees. It is through our close relation with all stakeholders in the industrial heartland of PNG that we manage to run the Rainforest Habitat (RFH), one of the prime tourist attractions in Lae, where visitors can see all iconic species of PNG. The Rainforest Habitat is also a place staff and students like to visit, and where visiting researchers are hosted in our lodges. We also allow companies to participate in our industrial advisory committees and sponsor our students, so that they can take the first pick amongst our graduates.

We gratefully acknowledge the government's support for our agenda of improvement of academic quality, in the first place by embarking on a salary review, which is now overdue.

We need real, tangible commitment from the Government to upgrade our infrastructure, in particular all our laboratories, which now must comply with standards of international accreditation. We will do our share by creating revenue from our commercial operations, but this barely covers the costs of necessary maintenance. We depend, therefore, on the government to make the necessary investments because no one else will do it. There is no university in the world that can find external sponsors for infrastructure investments.

Moreover, the central university administration is being reorganised and automated. We are hopeful that the new Minister of Higher Education will coordinate all PNG universities' efforts and ensure the investments that would not be feasible for single universities, are made for the university system, in particular regarding the IT systems for university administration.

Since I took over on 7 February 2012, UNITECH has made gigantic strides forward in reforming its governance and improving academic quality. We went on a faculty hiring drive which continues today. For this purpose, we built 32 new staff houses, so that talented academics could be attracted to work for us and live on campus. We consolidated and grew our postgraduate programs.

We hope the government and its development partners recognizes these efforts, and continue to support them. UNITECH forms the backbone of the production of qualified scientists, engineers and executives necessary for the development of the country. Its reputation spanning 48 years is a guarantee of the quality, and will anchor the quality of future institutions.

To all new graduates I wish to say, your journey of learning has only just begun. Despite the pride you feel today in your accomplishment, you should always conserve the necessary humility necessary to continue your journey.

In today' s competitive world, we only have one certainty, that we need to continue to learn, or whole life long. Life-long, self-directed learning is how we can assure we can thrive in a rapidly changing environment and advance ourselves both professionally and personally. In this journey, you will UNITECH is your partner of choice, through its offerings of MBA and short courses, and on-line programs.

We wish you many successes, and welcome you in this tremendous pool of talent, which we proudly call our UNITECH alumni. You have been part of our common UNITECH story for the past 4 years. This story started before you came, and will continue after you left.

We trust that in the coming years you will demonstrate through your knowledge and skills – your intellectual capacity - and the strength of your character – your values - that you are able to leverage the education we offered you here, and perform as is expected of you.

Only through your life-long learning you will contribute to the development and positive transformation of Papua New Guinea. Through your education and strength of character, you will make a difference in the life of others. Nobody can take your education or your degree away from you, and you will see it will gather more shine over the years.

Meanwhile, our management team and Council continues in our commitment to transform UNITECH into the most innovative, entrepreneurial and financially sustainable university in PNG and the South Pacific, or as we like to say here “make UNITECH fly”.

4 comments:

  1. Well presented and said. Nice Speech Vice Chancellor.
    Well done.

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  2. Powerful message from a very powerful VC.. If every Universities in PNG have similar VC, our education standard will gradually rise to the next level..

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  3. Yes indeed, a powerful speech from the man most of us deem as the savior of Unitech and maybe the one to revolutionize tertiary education level in PNG. A special mention to Mrs. Osora Helen Herivi. We were course mates at Unitech (Bachelors in Applied Physics). It is encouraging to see, this lady stayed on to faithfully complete her PHD. The first in the field of Applied Physics.. Well done Helen, yu trupla apo...

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  4. What a breathe taking speech from a great man.

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