The University of the South Pacific Council has reappointed Professor Pal Ahluwalia as Vice-Chancellor and President.
A meeting of the Council made the decision today. It was chaired by the Acting Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council and Government of New Zealand representative, Emeritus Professor Pat Walsh, in place of the Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council, Dr Hilda Heine, who is away from university business.
Professor Walsh welcomed the reappointment of Professor Ahluwalia and expressed his and Council’s endorsement of the VC’s performance. Professor Ahluwalia thanked Council for their continued support and looks forward to serving the University and the region.
In a statement, the Council noted that it was updated on the finances of the University and noted the ongoing challenges the University continue to face.
The meeting came amid protests from the Association of the USP Staff over pay and conditions. The Association had called for Professor Ahluwalia’s contract not to be renewed.
The Council statement noted it also heard from staff representatives and urged the unions and management to work collaboratively in the interest of the University.
In congratulating Professor Ahluwalia on his reappointment, USP Student President, Lepani Naqarase stated that, “The USP Student Association has witnessed the leadership of Professor Ahluwalia firsthand, not only at Student Council meetings, but in everything that he does. He has always placed students welfare first before making decisions and is the only Vice-Chancellor in USP’s history who has truly served the region by staying and working from different member countries (Fiji, Nauru and Samoa) for the last few years despite the challenges.”
The Council adopted the Proposed Annual Plan for 2024 and noted the financial strategies for the coming year. It also approved the Financial Plan for 2024 and adopted the Audited Financial Statements for the half-year ended 30 June 2023. The Council further noted the impact and risks associated with the financial challenges being faced by the University largely due to the decline in student numbers. Management outlined its strategies for mitigating the challenges ahead.
Council approved a report by the University Senate and instituted new programmes in Pacific TAFE. In addition, Council endorsed a proposed a scoping study to establish a Pacific Centre of Excellence for Deep Ocean Science and a report will be presented at the next Council meeting to be held in Vanuatu in 2024.
This article was updated with comments from the USP Students Association.