(William A. Pattie)
Established in 1968, USP is one of only two regional universities in the world. Its member countries are: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Samoa. The main Campus is in Suva, Fiji, and there is a second campus in Samoa where the School of Agriculture and the Institute for Research, Extension and Training in Agriculture and Rural Development (IRETA) are located. The University's Law Department and Pacific Languages Unit are at the USP complex in Port Vila, Vanuatu, and there are University Centres in all of the countries, except Tokelau, which is serviced from Samoa through an office on Atafu atoll.
The University has four academic schools: Agriculture, Humanities, Pure and Applied Sciences and Social and Economic Development. Consultancies, research and short-term training are also carried out by five institutes: Applied Sciences, Education, Marine Resources (now relocated to Honiara, Solomon Islands), Pacific Studies, IRETA, and Social and Administrative Studies. These units are supported by a well resourced Library, Computer Center, Media Centre and Centre for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.
There is a strong outreach programme organized by a division called University Extension which administers distance Education programmes for credit courses offered by the Schools and Continuing Education activities for the local communities. In 1995 a total of 8 776 students were enrolled in credit courses, 3 357 internal and 5 419 external through University Extension. Since 1992, student numbers have increased by 85 percent. A further 7 000 students are involved in Continuing Education and short-term training courses throughout the Region.
The rapid growth in student numbers has caused a number of problems for the University with strains on physical facilities and large class sizes. Consequently, a dialogue is to be commenced with the governments of member countries to establish the extent to which national institutions can join with USP in partnership arrangements to meet the tertiary training needs of the Region.
The University's total staff establishment is 1 009 of which 312 are academic or comparable administrative staff. The annual recurrent budget is approximately F$33 million of which 90 percent is contributed by the member governments and 10 percent by Australia and New Zealand.
Teaching, research and consultancies in the areas of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are carried out by a number of units in the University. These include the School of Agriculture, School of Applied Sciences (Department of Biology, Chemistry and Physics), School of Social and Economic Development (Departments of Geography, Economics and Land Management), the cross-School Marine Studies Programme, IRETA and IMR.
The School of Agriculture of Alafua offers a full range of academic programmes from pre-degree (Foundation and Diploma) to degree, postgraduate diploma and masters degree levels. Over the last three years these programmes have been extensively reviewed and restructured following consultations with employers and other interested parties. The first students in these programmes will graduate at the end of this year. The next phase of academic development will be the establishment of an Agricultural Business stream in the degree programme to provide for anticipated increases in the need for skills in this area in future. In addition to the revised academic programmes, the quality of education offered at Alafua has been considerably improved by the provision of new facilities in a campus rebuilding programme funded by the Government of Australia. This has provided a new library and publishing centre, new science laboratories, a lecture room and computer laboratory and new kitchen/dining facilities for students.
In contrast to the recent experience in demand for places in the University's other Schools, the number of full time students on campus at Alafua remains stagnant. This is not a problem of student demand because only 35 percent of qualified applicants who are offered a place actually start their studies. Surveys of the applicants who did not start reveal that they were restricted by the lack of scholarships. As only 10 percent of students at Alafua are privately funded, this poses a real barrier to agricultural education in the Region. It appears that the priority for agricultural training in the Region is not as high as that for other areas which compete for scholarship resources. In an effort to provide for the unmet demand, the degree programme is being prepared for delivery by distance education. Eight courses are now available and in 1995, the second year of operation, there were approximately 150 enrolments. Work will continue on this development which is well supported by assistance from New Zealand.