A legal mechanism is needed to ensure private and public funds spent in education is for the real need of the people of Fiji, says interim Education Minister Filipe Bole.
Launching the Higher Education Advisory Board's inaugural meeting at the ministry headquarters in Suva yesterday, he said, "The Education Act deals only with matters relating to the school sector and it is silent on the subject of higher education.
"There is no requirement for higher education providers operating in Fiji to adhere to any standard of service or infrastructure. There is no call for them to practise good governance, or to be accountable and transparent."
He warned if this state of affairs was allowed to continue, it would jeopardise Fiji's education reputation internationally and in the region.
He said higher education providers were operating in a liberal environment, setting their standards.
"This has provided unprecedented access to Australian and other global providers of higher education to Fiji's higher education market. While this may sound like a good policy that allows greater access to post-secondary education for more local students, it does not protect them from being exploited by profit-driven enterprises."
He said local institutions providing affordable education should be protected from being "crowded out" by overseas providers that were offering programs at below the domestic market price.
He quoted from a University of the South Pacific 2000 report on distance and flexible learning, which stated that "Fiji's approach to higher education was a laissez faire policy and that the absence of a national regulatory framework has had negative effects for Fiji".
"The report notes that the absence of a national regulatory framework has had negative effects for Fiji and the USP region also. The more serious consequences is that there is an apparent mismatch between the nature of the USP course supply and labour market demand."
University of Fiji Vice Chancellor Professor Rajesh Chandra is chairman of the board. Members include Doctor Kesaia Seniloli, Doctor Eddie McCaig, Taufa Vakatale, Ganesh Chand, Pundit Kamlesh Arya and the permanent secretary for the Education Ministry.