Tertiary Education in the Pacific – Trends and Issues

Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of the South Pacific (USP) presenting at SSGM seminar. Image SSGM

In this knowledge and innovation driven, open and competitive global economy and society, knowledge is the key driver of economic and social development. The Pacific Islands are now firmly integrated in this global economy. They too need a strong foundation of knowledge to compete successfully and occupy a place of dignity in the international system. Higher education, including tertiary education, is the foundation of this knowledge economy and society and therefore of competiveness, development and future success. This is as true for the Pacific as it is for Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world.

The level of participation of Pacific Islanders in tertiary education lags far behind other countries and regions, hence the increasing focus of Pacific Island governments recently to improve their tertiary education development.

This presentation examines the level of tertiary education in the Pacific Islands both in terms of gross enrolment ratios in tertiary education, outline the regional and national tertiary education architecture, and describe the major challenges facing tertiary education in the Pacific Islands relating to financing, access, relevance, employability, management, quality and research capabilities. This is a relevant dialogue for all key stakeholders, including the regional Governments, national higher education institutions, regional tertiary education providers, donors and other national and international non-state actors. Friends of the Pacific Islands, especially its closest development friends like Australia and New Zealand have an obligation to assist them raise the level, quality and relevance of tertiary education.

Professor Rajesh Chandra draws on his nearly four decades of higher education experience as an academic, academic administrator, Vice-Chancellor of the premier provider of higher and tertiary education in the Pacific Islands and Chairman of the CROP Human Resources Development Working Group to illuminate the major issues and challenges in what is a crucial area for the future of Pacific Island states.

About the speaker

Professor Rajesh Chandra is the Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of the South Pacific (USP). He took up his position on 15 July 2008 and is an alumnus of USP. Professor Chandra was the Foundation Vice-Chancellor of the University of Fiji before being appointed to his current post.

Prior to his appointment, Professor Chandra held various senior academic positions at USP such as Acting Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor and Head of Geography, and Director of Planning and Development.

Professor Chandra has held visiting professorships/research fellowships at McGill University; the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Canterbury; the Pacific Islands Development Programme, East-West Centre, Honolulu, and the National Centre for Development Studies, Australian National University.

Professor Chandra has either authored or edited five books, published 50 articles in journals and books and given almost 100 conference and seminar papers.

From 1999-2003, Professor Chandra was the elected Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Universities’ Study Abroad Consortium (CUSAC).

Professor Chandra is currently an elected member of the Council of Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), Board Director of Transparency Fiji, as well as the Chairman of the Sugar Research Institute of Fiji. He is also the President of the Association of the Tertiary Institutions of the Pacific Islands, in addition to being a member of the Fiji Higher Education Commission – Committee on the Accreditation of University Qualifications (CAUQ). He is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Indian Journal of Open Learning and the International Editorial Board of the journal eTropic.

Professor Chandra has been honoured internationally and regionally for his contributions to higher education. He was presented with the “Confucius Institute Individual Performance Excellence Award” during the 10th Annual Confucius Institute Conference in 2015. The State Government of Uttar Pradesh gave him an award during its Inaugural Pravasi Diwas in 2016 and the Government of Vanuatu presented him with a Meritorious Service Medal in 2016.

Professor Rajesh Chandra is committed to excellence in teaching and learning, research and engagement, regional co-operation and integration, greater utilisation of ICTs in development, widening access to higher education, and good governance.

Born in Maro, Nadroga (Fiji), Professor Chandra is married and has two children.

Updated:  23 March 2016/Responsible Officer:  Su-Ann Tan/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team