14 July 2016
The University of the Sunshine Coast has strengthened its presence in the Pacific Islands with the launch of a major scholarship program funded by a $660,000 Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research contract.
In partnership with the University of the South Pacific (USP) based in Fiji, the USP-USC Twinning Scheme will see about 10 postgraduate scholarships each year awarded to USP students to conduct agricultural research projects with USC academics and other Australian researchers.
The researchers will supervise students undertaking a range of agriculture-focused Masters programs, with a focus on building research capacity in the fields of forestry, agribusiness, horticulture and animal health.
USC Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Roland de Marco said the four-year partnership was an ideal fit for USC, with the University recently launching the Australian Centre for Pacific Islands Research to consolidate its expertise on the South Pacific region.
“USC has a longstanding connection with the Pacific Islands,” he said. “Right now we have academics working on Pacific research projects in fields including climate change, forestry, mariculture and the food supply chain.
“These projects will help food security, boost sustainable industries, and advance trade capacity in countries like Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Solomon Islands.
“The USP-USC Twinning Scheme is a great opportunity for USC and other Australian researchers to work with local students on projects that will have real outcomes for this part of the world.”
USC researchers already regularly travel to the region, and will harness their visits to supervise research and conduct training with the local students.
Professor de Marco said USC also would have a local staff member on the ground to provide academic support and mentoring to the Twinning Scheme students.
“We’re hoping we can build the capacity of Pacific students to use agricultural research to make a long-term difference in their own region,” he said.
“Some of our researchers have decades of experience working in the Pacific, and they know just how powerful agricultural research for development can be.
“Engaging with USP provides USC and other Australian institutions with another opportunity to consolidate and bolster a Pacific presence.”
— Gen Kennedy