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Monday, 20 February 2017

Opening PNGUoT 52nd Academic Year 2017

Lecture delivered in the Duncanson Hall on 20 February 2017

(Speech published on University Website, Vice Chancellor's Blog and Facebook Page)

Consul General of Australia Paul Murphy, Chancellor Jean Kekedo, Pro Chancellor Peter Eaefere, Council members, Honoured Guests, Business Houses, Students, Professors, HoDs, Faculty members, and Staff of the PNGUoT:

Welcome all to our Taraka Campus today, where tomorrow's leaders are forged.

Hereby, I declare the Academic Year 2017 officially opened.

Vice Chancellor Schram opening the 52nd Academic Year

UNITECH First Year Students
Today, we are all even more delighted than usual at the opening of the academic year to see our incoming first year students and that we got this far. Last year we almost did not finish the academic year, and we had to cancel many of our events and activities. We are happy that we left the 2016 academic year behind, and can run a normal academic year this year, with two 15 weeks semesters.
Let me start by asking the incoming students a few questions, and do a reality check with you:
  1. How many of your are high school graduates and true university students? (Not DODL) 
  2. How many are Papua New Guineans? (70 Solomon Islands and Vanuatu undergraduate, and 12 Pacific Islands and Caribbean PG students) 
  3. How many students from Western Highlands, Enga, Southern Highlands, Morobe, Eastern Highlands? These are the largest groups. 
We are a national university and we do not give special status to provincial or ethnic groupings. As PNGeans you all know what unbridled tribal rivalry and warfare can lead to: total destruction institutions set up to promote the public good. Today in SMH, for example, an article was published about Black Harvest the award winning documentary of how Ganiga people destroyed the opportunities for development by engaging in never ending tribal warfare, even trying to draw in the film makers themselves in their destructive, senseless and never-ending tribal fights. As PNGeans and students we expect you to be mindful of this, and resist any association with tribal fighting, or temptation to engage in tribal fights.

PNG has a long and proud pre-history and it is one of the place in the world were agriculture was invented 40-50,000 years ago. The people of PNG have also developed many different languages, and ways of seeing the world and traditions. These tradition are a source of pride, when they are not based on fear, violence and exploitation. At UNITECH we celebrate these good traditions, and our unity in diversity.

Let me remind you, that as University students you signed to obey the rules of the university. Rules are equal for all, do not distinguish, gender, religion, ethnicity. Therefore, as a student we do not want you to team up or socialize only with people who are like you. University is not a high school, it is a place where if you behave as a university student you will forge friendships across all possible social divides. You came here because of your own academic merits, and you as an individual will graduate if you capitalize on them. Do you promise to do this?

Some more questions for you:
  1. How many students first in their family (father mother children) to go to University? (Our graduate survey 60%)
  2. How many first in their community (village) to go to University? (Our graduate survey 25%)
  3. How many believe they will graduate? (20% one in 5 will not)
  4. How many believe they will be employed 6 months after graduating? (Our graduate survey 40%)
If you don't study or if you bring alcohol on campus or behave drunk and disorderly, you will not graduate in four years. Last year expelled over 30 students.

Looking back on 2016

Last year was a difficult year. Only through the leadership and level headedness of our Chancellor Sir Nagora Bogan, the support of our Council and the hard work of the whole management team, were we able to save the academic year.

By finishing 2016 academic year the graduation of our 4th year students this year is assured, and we kept the HECAS scholarships for what are today our 2nd year students. We need to mention in particular the support of our staff organizations NASA, NSA and NCSA and all our staff, iPi which rebuilt the mess, and the Lae Metropolitan police. Thank you all very much.

In fact, the last 5 years have been difficult years. First of all, because the revenue from the LNG project was not invested in the higher education sector, as we were promised. The state failed to fulfil many other promises to us, and our operational budgets have shrunk year after year in real terms. Although UNITECH reformed its governance, dramatically improved its financial accountability, and has been doing everything right in terms of improvement of academic quality, we did not get any additional financial support.

Leaderships means being pro-active and making changes. People know that I am not a self-indulgent and self-pitying Vice Chancellor, and I am not standing here today to complain about our lack of funding.

We have taken action. Our Council approved a 10 year business plan, and we are striving to reduce dependency on government grant from 75% to 50% in 10 years. Our Council also approved a Master Plan which will see development of residential areas, and a shopping centre, provided all relevant stakeholders come together and funding can be organized.

Let me cluster the rest of my remarks around three themes:
  1. What is a university? How does UNITECH plan to become a good recognized university?
  2. How can you be a contributing member of our community of learning?
  3. How we are planning for a better future?

Ad 1. Our Vision-Vision-Values

A university is not a high school or college. It is a learning community where teaching is informed by the latest knowledge. Research and teaching are inseparable. We educate leaders for the future, not for yesterday. A university education is normally only enjoyed once, because with a university degree your are supposed to become a self-directed, life long learner. You will learn how to learn by yourself. No updates or versions 2.0 are required.

Using the latest knowledge in our teaching, and being a creator of new knowledge poses particular demands on our teaching faculty. In fact, our Faculty at UNITECH is only promoted if they publish and do research. We have worked hard to assure that people are appointed in the grade they deserve, not lower or higher.

Research is also important because it creates new knowledge that makes innovation possible. Without innovation, there is no development in the country.

Research in turn is driven by PG program, and at UNITECH we have slowly the largest program in the country with more than 200 PG students. This is still low for international standards. If the state would give scholarship this would be a much higher numbers.

UNITECH is a unique reservoir of expertise and knowledge. We have the largest group of fully qualified academics in many disciplines. Fully qualified means people who have done their doctorare or PhD. These people are considered as independent researchers. The doctorate is the drivers license of the academic.

We have been consistently producing our own crop of fully qualified academics, thanks to the tireless efforts of our Career Development Office, our Dean PG studies Prof. Akanda and PVC Academic Dr. Moshi. In 2016, we had 16 Faculty members who are doing their PhDs, half funded by UNITECH (6 are in our own doctorate programs, 2 abroad sponsored by Erasmus Mundus grant), and 8 abroad funded externally by DFAT, ACIAR and ACU. While this crop is being grown, we rely on non-citizen faculty to replace them and teach you, which now consists of around ¼ of our Faculty.

A university is not a high school or a training college. A university is a learning community in which students take an active part all activities. It is therefore not OK to sit in the classroom and take notes, regurgitating what you memorized at the exam. Spoon feeding yesterday's knowledge to students and rote learning is not what university lecturers and students are supposed to be doing. Students you need to ask questions, challenge each other and your lecturers, so that you really learn and truly understand.

What is our vision as a University? It takes a bold vision to make turn UNITECH into a good university or as we like to say to make UNITECH fly:

“The Papua New Guinea University of Technology will be the leading innovative, entrepreneurial, and student-centred University, contributing to a knowledge based society in Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific.” 

Our mission, which is what we do has two parts. Our general mission, which we have in common with all universities is “to develop and offer teaching, research, and outreach activities (service) of high quality.” Our specific mission is “to stimulate critical evaluation of scientific and technological knowledge.” We are therefore a university of applied sciences, where “know-what” is combined with “know how” so a to create a self-reinforcing process.

By doing our mission, we can achieve our vision, but only if we live by the right type of values. After all, values drive all our behaviour as human beings. We will not tolerate the following values to be violated:
  • High Ethical Standards: transparency and accountability.
Students act honestly (even when nobody is watching) and in the spirit of learning and furthering their education. Nothing else.

  • Professionalism.

Students are asked to exhibit professionalism in their demeanour and behaviour.

  • Excellence.

We aspire to be better always. We do not tolerate mediocrity in ourselves and others. We also show a willingness to improve and accept honest feedback and failure when we don't perform in our exams. We are active in soliciting feedback and use it to improve our performance.

Students at UNITECH do not complain that they have to study longer and harder than at other universities in PNG. We set our standards high, and the only standards are internationally recognized standards. We are the only university in PNG to offer a full study load and implement the common credit currency. Students at UNITECH understand that if they want to be highly employable, they will have to put in the work.

Other university graduates may be content to be hired as shop assistants or waiters, but UNITECH graduates wish to pursue a career as a professional in their field of study, or an entrepreneur.

These three values underpin any rule-based organization. We have two other core values, which make our graduates special:

  • Innovation & initiative.

At UNITECH we do not stop by talking about problems, but we move to solution seeking quickly. We take the initiative, we are pro-active. We aim to use the results of scientific and technological knowledge to improve people's lives. Students are challenged to participate in new ways of teaching (PBL, projects, online), do innovative and applied final year projects. Students are not expected to demand high school type of teaching focused on memorizing yesterday's knowledge.

  • Pride & Passion.
You must be proud to be a university student, and with this self-confident. Our students are passionate about living up to the promise of our mission, and our positive contribution to the wider community. You will not look or behave like something you are not.

We all care deeply about what we do here. We take pride in our university, and we hold those not living by our values accountable. We do not tolerate indifference or people undermining our mission and vision.

Now why did I tell you about these values? Students may not always know or understand all the university rules, but if you behave according to our core values you will not get into trouble here. When we all embody these values, we know that we can make UNITECH fly.

Let me tell you what we are doing internally to prepare the organization to fulfill its mission fully. We will continue the reorganization of our staff, bring ourselves into compliance with the laws of the land, and assure our scarce resources are utilized efficiently.

We aim for provisional international accreditation of our engineering programs in 2019, and hold all our programs to the same standards. This means we will be a good university, not because the Vice Chancellor says so, but because and independent external body will visit this university in 2019, and hopefully provisionally accredit our programs. This means we are going from a "trust me I am a senior academic" culture, to a "show me" that you are delivering your course as advertised.

ExxonMobil is generously sponsoring the visits of one external assessor for each of our department. In preparation our Academic Quality Assessment Team has been doing regular internal audits of subject files. The latest audit showed about half of our subjects now have subject files, and we aim for 100% by the end of this year.

For students this means that your degrees will be recognized internationally for the first time, and you can compete with others on an equal footing.

Not only the quality of our programs is important we also need to provide access to our programs and increase the number of intakes. Externalisation of our programs has been a strategy for over a decade, but until now we are putting it in practice. As a University we operate in an international market for highly employable graduates but also for hiring fully qualified academics.

Ad 2. Engagement. How to be a valued member of our community?

Our university is structured around the principles of dual governance and shared governance. Dual governance means we have two governing bodies. First we have a University Council which is the highest decision making body in all corporate affairs, including all financial matters. Secondly, we have an Academic Board, which is the highest decision making body in all academic affairs. We have this structure so as to assure academic freedom and institutional autonomy.

In both these bodies the SRC is represented. In fact we are signatories of the Magna Charta Universitatum which states among other things that teaching and research are inseparable, and students are part of the governance structure of the University.

Due to last years violence on campus, our Council suspend the SRC. They all felt that students had to take responsibility for the violence which happened during the boycott of classes and caused one of our DATEC students to be severaly wounded, and one of our Surveying students to be murdered. The suspension will last until the Council approves a new SRC constitution, which will clarify a few matters. First it will introduce a two step election process and give the SRC council back its full powers. Secondly, it will make clear that a class boycott is a measure of last resort, not the first thing student do when they don't like the university management, the council or a politicians in Port Moresby. We can not run a university system if boycotts last for months allow students be used for other ends by some unscrupulous outsiders.

True to our principles, we will not go about SRC reform lightly and there will be consultation with the students. Students however must understand that although they are the object of all our work – in fact most of us have dedicated our lives to service university students, they are not the only stakeholders of the University.

For staff, engagements starts with caring about what your do as a job, and being actively engaged as professionals. Our engagement survey shows too many do not understand their jobs properly, are struggling to focus on work, or are here for reasons which have nothing to do with their job.

For students, engagement means to learn to think like a student and work towards the final outcome: to be a highly employable graduate and functions as truly and fully educated citizen.

Ad 3. Plans for 2017: master plan, website, and opening satellite universities.

Now, what is the management doing to achieve UNITECH's vision? In April we will present to Council for the first time in decades two qualified financial audits by the Auditor General. This means that our books are finally in order, and auditable. We also kept working on our Master plan for our campus which will contribute to developing the city of Lae while diversifying our sources of revenue.

We are close to launching our new website in March which will become the main tool to engage with all our stakeholders. We ask all HoDs to assure their departments site is up to date.

In March we will open the brand new Simbu UNITECH Satellite University SUSU campus in Kundiawa. Through DODL and our partnership with IGNOU we hope to deliver courses there immediately. In addition, we challenge Agriculture DBS and CDS departments to externalise their courses and programs so that we can provide access to quality education to all these eager Grade 12 learners who currently miss out.

Now in order to have a professional career, you need to acquire IT skills which serve you your whole life. We have invested in campus wide broadband internet, so that teaching materials can be accessed and distributed in digital format. We ask all lecturers to cooperate with this effort.

We will provide you with a laptop in the second semester with open-source software. For some it is hard to believe open-source software is better than commercial expensive products, but it is really true. You will never have to pay for a software license again. More importantly, you will leave this university with a laptop full of relevant teaching materials (and not a pile of unreadable photocopies) and software which you can control and master fully during the rest of your life. We will also provide you with mosquito nets which will last for over 4 years. Malaria is endemic and we urge you to take preventive measures.


Dear students, we challenge you to become a true university student. This means you all need to get out of your comfort zone. Many of you have never been in classroom with people outside your province. We challenge you NOT to hang out only with people from your own province, or your university department. Your time as a student is the only time in life when you can forge life long friendships across language, class and religious barriers. If you miss that chance, you will never become a true university graduate.

Students, we count on you to find your place in a new knowledge based society. Today marks the beginning of your journey which has just begun. May it bring you much gratification and honour. UNITECH  is not a high school where you are spoon fed information, you are expected to take an active approach to your learning (ask questions in the classroom!), and be a true “education hunter” as one of students called it.

We wish you best of luck on your journey!



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