UniFiji calls on Fiji Higher Education Commission chairperson to clean the mess in the Commission

UniFiji calls on Fiji Higher Education Commission chairperson to clean the mess in the Commission

By Karishma Kumari
Thursday 29/06/2023
The University of Fiji’s Vice Chancellor Professor Shaista Shameem

The University of Fiji’s Vice Chancellor Professor Shaista Shameem is calling on the new chairperson of the Fiji Higher Education Commission to clean up the mess in the Commission as they did not know what it was doing, or its officers were being deliberately unfair when they advised the Minister of Economy annually on how higher education institutions should be funded.

Professor Shemeem says the funding model used by the Commission was based on a draft formula that was not even approved by Parliament.

She says the higher education institutions were being funded in an ad hoc and arbitrary manner leading the University of Fiji to believe that the funding was not allocated to fairness and service to young people who should be supported in their education instead, it was based on cronyism, favoritism and a misapplication of the funding criteria contained in the FHEC Act.

The Vice Chancellor says Commission’s fallback position when explanations were sought by the University was that, due to the funding model not being approved by Parliament, FHEC advised the Minister on the amount that each institution should be given annually and the Minister made the final decision.

She says however, when the University asked the Ministry of Finance about the formula applied for the University, its officers, who came from the Minister himself, pointed back to the Commission for determining the funding criteria for each higher education institution, particularly universities, and the Ministry just followed the Commission.

She says such passing of the buck from the Commission to the Ministry of Finance and then back to the Commission like a yo-yo, does not augur well for those involved.

Professor Shemeem further says when they consider the vast difference in the funding of the three universities in Fiji it lends itself to the question of why there is such favoritism in the Commissions’ governance decisions when the University of Fiji is the only university out of the three institutions that has achieved international accreditation for quality in every aspect of its work.

She says the university calls on the new Chairperson of the Commission to look into the composition of his Commission to identify conflict of interest, a matter that has already been conveyed by them in writing to the Minister of Education and the Prime Minister and should their request be ignored they appeal to the Prime Minister to conduct an inquiry into a conflict of interest within the Commission which disadvantages the University of Fiji compared to the other universities.

The Vice-Chancellor also says that the University of Fiji has solid evidence of the undeclared conflict of interest within the Commission stemming from appointments that looked like cronyism which they were willing to share with the government and anyone else who had a stake in having the higher education governance structure in Fiji reformed and made more transparent as there is a rot in the system which needs to be exorcised since it affects good governance and due diligence, as well as justice.

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