‘Vuvale’ approach for university

USP vice-chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia addressing members of the media at the Laucala campus. Picture: SUPPLIED

WITH the University of the South Pacific now in the process of revising its strategic plan, new vice-chancellor and president Professor Pal Ahluwali is adamant in implementing a “familiar” new direction — the vuvale (family) approach.

Fuelled by his passion of Pacific values and values-led education, Professor Ahluwali said the vuvale was one of the key emphases in his tenure at the helm of the region’s premier university.

The Kenyan-born academic who took up office last month told members of the press in Suva yesterday in his first media event that they would “really push” for this, reasoning the “Pacific region is a family”.

Professor Ahluwali said they had already started the process of streamlining the institution’s vision, mission and values, a large part of that would be based on Pacific values. “One thing I am actually passionate about is Pacific values and values-led education.

“And to me, the value of vuvale is very important — the idea that we are family, we’re a community because of course that’s what I’ve been emphasising since I’ve been here,” he said.

He said they wanted to focus on what students do after they graduate, adding they did not want graduates running away to other countries.

“Every single student that graduates from here is an agent for development and to give back to the community because the community had given a lot to send them to university.

“We have a very strong obligation to make sure they succeed.

“They are the absolute critical part of the fabric of how the community operates and how it engages in itself to get better outcomes for the nation we serve.”

Professor Ahluwali noted some of the areas of change that have begun to be the subject of ambitious reforms for the institution as it continues its mission to be the hub of education in the region.

He cited the creation of an innovation hub in the building last week — in partnership with UNDP — where they were bringing in young entrepreneurs. “Again it is my ambition that we get more and more people into our economy who can grow the economy.

“We have a small private sector and it is university’s responsibility as well as the government to work hand in hand to expand the economy in all the countries where we serve.

“I think innovation is something that is very critical to us and so that is an example of a bit of the lay of the land and some very good things that are happening at the university.”

Another area he noted was the lack of attention given to global ranking. He said he conducted his due diligence on this issue and now USP has been ranked — by university ranks that is one of the few major ranking bodies in the world — to be one of the top 9 per cent universities in the world.

While he said this was a remarkable achievement, he said one of the key visions going forward was to build on that success and that in the next five years to become the top 5 per cent of universities in the world.

“One of the key things I want to communicate today is that although we are based in Suva, and we based in Laucala here and we are very much part of the Fijian economy and part of the Fijian system, we equally have a major role to play in all other 11 countries where we operate.

“This is not only a Fiji university which it clearly is but our success means success for the entire nation because having an excellent university, we will be part of the knowledge economy which is clearly where the world is going.”

He said the potential in this country was enormous, let alone the potential in the region.

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