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Monday, 20 July 2015

On being a good university (part 3)

Speech for the installation of the Industrial Advisory Committee on 20 July 2014


Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today marks a milestone for the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (UNITECH) on the way to international accreditation of its science and engineering programs, during its 50th year of existence. I want to thank in particular our Pro Vice Chancellor Academic, Dr. Augustine Moshi, and the staff from the Registry to make this possible.

We install an Industrial Advisory Board, composed of executive level industry representative of leading companies in PNG and world wide.

Members of the Industrial Advisory Board
In your subsequent meetings, we hope you can revise our curricula and lecture plans, interview Faculty, staff and students, and brief management about your findings. We hope you will find time to share a meal with our Faculty, some staff and students, so that in an informal environment you can explore further joint activities of mutual benefit.

Our vision is to become a student-centred, innovative and entrepreneurial university. Student centred, means in our operations, but also in our teaching methods, and research activities the focus is on students' learning. For our Chancellor, Sir Nagora Bogan, UNITECH's business is to produce highly employable graduates, nothing else. We all agree.

To achieve this vision, we uphold our values and focus on our general and specific mission. Our values are: 1- accountability and transparency, 2-professionalism 3- excellence 4- pride and passion, and 5- innovation and incentive. We use our values to obtain desired behaviour from our students and staff, and hold each other accountable.

Our general mission, like any other university, is to teach, do research and engage in outreach and community engagement. Unlike a other educational institutions, uniquely at a University teaching is informed by the latest knowledge, obtained through research. Through published research the frontiers of knowledge are expanded. At UNITECH a Faculty members can only get promoted as an academic, if he or she has the required number of publications, and teaching experience.

Our University is blessed with a specific mission: "to stimulate the critical evaluation of science and technology for PNG and the South Pacific". This gives us the unique character of a university of applied sciences. We innovate by combining results of fundamental research done elsewhere, and make it applicable for the societies in which we operate.

At UNITECH we like to give ourselves large birthday gifts, but the Industrial Advisory Board is by far the most significant. Earlier on the 29th of May we gave ourselves the O3B installation, which provides the campus with fast and reliable internet. We have the fastest internet in the country, and are the first university in the world to use this technology. We are thus not only leading in the country, but worldwide. Anybody who wants to do anything with IT in the country, will have to come to our campus.

Today, the installation of the Industrial Advisory Board, however, is the most significant, because it will drive continuous improvements in our mission critical areas of teaching, research and outreach. Like all universities in the world, UNITECH combines research and teaching in order to produce graduates who are team players, problems solvers, and future proof continuous learners. They will no longer only look good on paper, but have developed the competences to match our graduate profile.

We have come a long way in just a few years. Only in 2010, the university management actively resisted the independent review of the university system, which it saw as an exercise in meddling in internal affairs. The recommendations of the Engineers Australia mission in the same year, were largely ignored. The Former Chancellor said that industry was not interested in Council membership and participating in the university affairs. Today we proof him wrong. Our Council has 4 members from industry, and our Industrial Advisory Board has been installed.

As late as the 1980s, UNITECH had excellent international faculty members and was conferring doctorate degrees in engineering. Regrettably, on the watch of the previous VC this knowledge base was detroyed, because the university gave in to extreme and destructive nationalism. It is the tragedy of my predecessor that he saw his mistake, but was unable to undo it. To his credit, however, infrastructure was set up to resume the postgraduate program and introduce information technology in our operations, teaching and research activities. With the help of the European Union, for example, one research building was built, two dorms for postgraduate students, and the “Haus Europa”, our information and communication technology building.

Now we run the largest PG program in the country, with over 150 enrolled. We also host the largest number of foreign students in our postgraduate program: in 2013 we started with only 2, but today we have a total of 9. All departments have Masters of postgraduate programs. We still have a long way to go and need to appoint an average of at least 3 or 4 qualified academics with a doctorate per department. Some departments already have 80% with doctorate, others need to step up their Faculty development activities, and efforts to hire qualified academics.

At UNITECH we have something money can not buy. In 2014, we re-started with a new Council and new Management. The university was re-born. After the crises of the past years, the students, staff and Faculty understood that the old ways can not continue.

Collectively, we decided we want to become a good university. We can only ascertain convincingly that we are a good university, not because the Vice Chancellor says so, but because internal independent bodies like yourself have a look at our programs and practices regularly, and we commit to continuous improvement. Our leadership team is firmly committed to achieve this turn-around.

Our O3B internet puts us in a position to become a dual delivery university by developing online programs. Recently, for example, we have engaged in a joint venture with Central Queensland University to deliver affordable continuous professional development courses online using the facilities on our campus. We need to become a dual delivery university, because there is no other way in which we can help address the demand for higher education in the country.

The industrial advisory board is an essential milestone in our journey to become a good university. A good university sticks to its mission with the aim of achieving its vision. A good university is a smart university, and a university that is aligned with the society and the physical environment. It is inclusive of women, minorities and disadvantage groups. It minimizes its impact on the environment, and through its research and teaching helps others to do the same.

For these purposes, we started a 10 year business plan, which should put our university on solid financial footing following a clear strategy of leveraging our closeness to industry, using IT, and dual delivery of our programs.

On 11 June, we installed an External Audit Committee led by the Dept. of Finance, which will oversee our financial administration and meet 4 times per year. We are in the process of hiring a new bursar and restructuring the university administration. In our 10 year strategy we explain how we plan to improve the quality of our teaching and research, provide access to higher education, and be more inclusive. As to our environmental impact, cost cutting is an important driver. We are reducing our water and power consumption drastically through a series of measures. In Lae, for example, solar energy has a pay back period of less than 6 months.

Finally, we are drawing up a 10 year Master plan for our 220 Ha campus. In the southern triangle an area is set aside for commercial development. There will also be office space allowing for Centres of Excellence and Business Incubators to be set up with industry and local government being important stakeholders. Next year, we hope to start with an ICT incubator in cooperation with Telikom, who hopefully provides some space in its underutilized college on our campus.

Most of all, of course a good university, provides good quality teaching. You activities today will undoubtedly contribute to this goal. I wish you a productive and enjoyable day.

We were founded in 1965 as a UoT and that is what we are going to be.

3 comments:

  1. Wow. Sir, all this because of you. This is great news. You are the best.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. It is actually Dr. Moshi who is leading the international accreditation efforts.

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  2. Dr. Moshi was my favourite lecturer, he taught engineering math so well i grew to love calculus so much. haha. Good times.

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