Turn­ing 50

mailife - - Content - By SEONA SMILES

Ask any­one who made it to uni­ver­sity in the past 50 years where they stud­ied and the an­swer is most likely to be USP – The Uni­ver­sity of the South Pa­cific. Check the cred of many of the South Pa­cific re­gion’s lead­ers, top pro­fes­sion­als and ad­min­is­tra­tors and a USP course, pro­gramme or de­gree will be there some­where in their back­ground. It must surely be the big­gest uni­ver­sity, with the main cam­pus at Lau­cala, in Suva, Fiji. USP op­er­ates a to­tal of 14 cam­puses and 10 learn­ing cen­tres around the re­gion in its 12 Pa­cific Is­land mem­ber coun­tries serv­ing a re­gion 33 mil­lion km2, an area of ocean more than three times the size of Europe – while the to­tal land mass of the is­land na­tions is about the area of Denmark. The mem­ber coun­tries of this re­gional in­sti­tu­tion range in population from 1500 in Toke­lau to more than 900,000 in Fiji, a to­tal of about 1.3 mil­lion. Many of their most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple have stud­ied in some way, from short cour­ses to Doc­tor of Phi­los­o­phy de­gree pro­grammes, at USP. There are USP pro­fes­sors and mem­bers of staff who have their de­grees from this Uni­ver­sity, and more USP grad­u­ates work­ing over­seas in se­nior aca­demic posts and other in­flu­en­tial po­si­tions. USP was for many years the only place to go, al­though a num­ber of is­land states in­clud­ing Fiji now also have a na­tional uni­ver­sity and other ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions. USP is cer­tainly amongst the most suc­cess­ful re­gional in­sti­tu­tions of the Pa­cific is­lands, even adding a twelfth mem­ber, Mar­shall Is­lands, to its orig­i­nal 11: Cook Is­lands, Fiji, Kiri­bati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Is­lands, Toke­lau, Tonga, Tu­valu and Van­u­atu. They each have their own unique, cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant de­sign that makes up the widely recog­nised USP tapa. On 5 Fe­bru­ary USP Chan­cel­lor Ma­jor Gen­eral (Ret’d) Jioji Konusi Kon­roti, Pres­i­dent of Fiji, of­fi­cially launched the Uni­ver­sity’s 50th An­niver­sary. He said that when the Fiji Gov­ern­ment first con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­ity of es­tab­lish­ing a re­gional uni­ver­sity in the mid-six­ties, he felt sure no one re­alised that it would grow to be­come the cen­tre for learn­ing ex­cel­lence that it is to­day. He said it was one of the ear­li­est ex­per­i­ments in re­gional co­op­er­a­tion and it had pros­pered through an un­der­stand­ing that all the cul­tures of mem­ber na­tions needed to be rec­og­nized and nur­tured. He noted the Fiji gov­ern­ment ap­pre­ci­ated the need for the uni­ver­sity to be au­ton­o­mous and there­fore granted visas and work per­mits to al­low over­seas aca­demics to con­trib­ute to USP. The first stu­dents were ad­mit­ted in 1968, most of them do­ing a pre­lim­i­nary year or two be­fore en­ter­ing a full de­gree pro­gramme. In those days Lau­cala Cam­pus looked de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent than it does to­day, al­though some of the sturdy old con­crete buildings still ex­ist, mostly as staff and stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion. Even sev­eral of the wooden bun­ga­lows still ex­ist, mostly along the Lau­cala Bay Road frontage, and serve to house dif­fer­ent sec­tions in­clud­ing a post­grad­u­ate lounge. These buildings were once part of a New Zealand

Dr Colin Aik­man Vice Chan­cel­lor 1968-1974

Old en­trance

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