The Papua New Guinea Government's commitment to fully embrace human resource development as enshrined in benchmark documents, for example the Medium-Term Development Plan 2011-2015, PNG Development Strategic Plan 2030, PNG Vision 2050, together with the Alotau Accord is well supported by all sectors in Papua New Guinea.

The PNG Government also acknowledges that the relationship between economic growth, social improvement of standards and human development is an iterative one. University education is considered by the Government to be a critical investment in human development that will lead to economic growth and social advancement.

The Government's commitment to technical education is particularly well expressed in the work of Gustav Ranis, who observes: ‘There can be little doubt that technology – both in its process and quality dimensions – when combined with human development – makes a critically important contribution to economic growth which in turn leads to advances in human development as a society's bottom line achievement …. One production function runs from growth to human development, the other from human development to growth. In this paper, our first objective was to examine the second strand, i.e. to establish that human development, lagged or non-lagged, in contribution with technology, measured by TFP, yields increases in the current rate of growth.”(Gustav Ranis reference needed here)

For that reason, the National Executive Council on the 24th of April 2013 approved the establishment of a new University in Ialibu/Pangia District in the Southern Highlands Province. (NEC Decision No. 299/2013)

The National Executive Council's decision to establish a new University was further iterated in the next Government's pronouncement:

Western Pacific University (WPU) was established on customary land adjacent to Ialibu Township (Koromi) and the land acquisition process was completed in November 2016.

The Western Pacific University Council was established on July 06, 2016. As it is the inaugural Council meeting, a swearing-in ceremony of the Council Chairperson Sir Peter Barter, Ph.D., (Hon) GCL, Kt, OBE, and Members was performed by Magistrate Philip Dusal Kusunan. Then, each Council member present read an oath of office while placing their right hand on the Bible to carry out their duties as Chairperson and Council members of the Western Pacific University (WPU). After reading the oath, they signed the oath, including a confidentiality agreement.  

The construction of the fully digitalised University commenced as of July 2017. A project plan included the scope of works, bill of quantities, risk management plan and processes, service agreement templates, a finance and administration system, whilst technical specifications, drawings and other important tasks were also accomplished.

Apart from the National Government Grant, WPU received the Chinese Government’s Grant of K41 million. Since 2017 Western Pacific University has continued to work with representatives from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to finalise the use of the grant from the People’s Republic of China for Western Pacific University.

On the February 27, 2020 the tender documents for Stage One of construction, agreed upon by all parties under the grant, was sent out to Chinese Contractors operating in Papua New Guinea. This approved list of contractors was provided by the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

This funding from the Government of the People’s Republic of China, as agreed by both parties is being utilised for: One lecture complex building, a digitalised library, three student dormitories and six staff houses.

Western Pacific University recognises there is a shortage of qualified academic staff in Papua New Guinea. To deal with this predicament WPU therefore established a staff development program, whereby recent graduates interested in the field of academia have the opportunity to further their studies, and upon completion of their Master’s Degrees must return to work for WPU. This staff development program will be ongoing for several years as WPU works towards building its staffing capacity.

In October 2019, WPU sent seven recent graduates under the WPU staff development program to further their studies and gain their Master’s Degrees at the University of Information Technology and Management in Rzeszow, Poland. The 2019 academic cohort successfully completed their two-year course of study in 2021.

WPU has continued its recruitment drive as part of the staff development program in 2020, hiring three recent graduates for the 2020 Academic Year. However due to the COVID-19 pandemic they could not embark on the study program for their Master’s Degrees in October 2020 as planned and therefore they will travel to Poland by the end of October 2021.

In 2020, the University of New England (UNE) in Australia worked with WPU staff to develop an internationally recognised Foundation Year (FY) academic programme. UNE is one of Australia’s leading online higher education providers and provided essential assistance in the development of the FY.

From November 2020 to April 2021, it was a transition period from a project stage to a functioning University. Mr. William Oliver oversaw the transition period. On May 03, 2021, Dr. Janet Bulumaris Rangou was appointed by the WPU Council as the President of the Western Pacific University.

In 2021, the WPU enrolled its first students for the Foundation Year. The Foundation Year Program is a compulsory course of study for students seeking entry into a Bachelor level programme at Western Pacific University.

The aim of this programme is to provide students with the foundational academic knowledge and skills required to succeed in a contemporary, digitally enabled higher education learning environment. The decision to embed a Foundational Year within the WPU curriculum is reflective of the Mason Student Success Experience model outlined in the Strategic Plan 2016-2026. The Mason model specifies the role of the design and delivery of Academic Programs as integral to promotion of student success. In addition, the Foundation Year also aligns with the WPU mission of furthering academic success and a commitment to quality in the academic disciplines of science, engineering and technology.

The design of the Foundation Year considers not only the future academic success of students but their employability, regardless of whether they articulate into a full Bachelor level program.

On August 16, 2019, WPU entered into the Memorandum of Cooperation with the University of Information Technology in Rzeszów. The Memorandum of Cooperation assisted WPU to develop academic programmes matching PNG standards for programme accreditation and also international standards for quality assurance.    

On August 30, 2021, WPU’s Academic Board recommended to the WPU Council three Bachelor’s academic programmes for the academic year 2022:

▪   a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Computer Networks

▪   a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Programming

▪   a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in International Business Management

The WPU Council approved those three programmes for implementation in the academic year 2022.

The 21st Century requires that universities provide a learning environment that includes both classroom delivery and extra-curricular experiences. It also requires that students acquire the skills to prove themselves competitive and comfortable in a diverse, global economy. To sustain these efforts, a 21st Century university must develop business processes and planning structures that ensure its success well into the future. The Western Pacific University is planned to be the first in the South Pacific to be a fully digitalised 21st Century University.

Today the concept of higher education as a public good is being challenged as society increasingly sees a university education as an individual benefit determined by values of the marketplace rather than the broader needs of a democratic society. The Western Pacific University is responding to those challenges presented by a changing world.

The market forces unleashed by technology and driven by an increasing demand for higher education are powerful. Although universities teach skills and convey knowledge, they also preserve and convey cultural heritage from one generation to the next, perform the research necessary to generate new knowledge, serve as constructive social critics, and provide a broad array of knowledge-based services to society.

The Western Pacific University will be the first in the South Pacific fully digitalized 21st Century University. This is possible because of the enormous voluntary contribution made by Professor Fr Jan Czuba from the start of the project till today. Without his contribution, we will not have WPU and students enrolled.

Since 2017, Mr. David Michael MacMurray is the project manager. Mr. MacMurray provides required technical and administrative support to coordinate and implement project activities at WPU and linkages to basin-wide project objectives and activities of the University.

It is vital to note that WPU’s academic and non-academic developments are guided by its motto: ‘For God and Country’.

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