ACIAR-University of the South Pacific (USP) Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is an Australian Government statutory authority within the Australian Government’s Foreign Affair portfolio. The ACIAR Pacific Island strategy recognizes the importance of agriculture (including horticulture), fisheries (including aquaculture), and forestry within these countries and across the region. ACIAR is committed to support research and development (R&D) and capacity building in the Pacific to address three main thrusts:
- improved food and nutritional security;
- integrated and sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry resources management and development; and,
- improved biosecurity and increased trade in agriculture, fisheries and forestry products.
As part of the commitment to R&D capacity building, ACIAR in partnership with USP established the ACIAR-USP Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme in 2007. The Scheme provides the opportunity for partner country students to become involved in ACIAR-supported collaborative research projects while obtaining postgraduate qualifications at USP. Currently, the Scheme includes the disciplines of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, agricultural economics and agribusiness, offering either a Master’s Degree or a PhD.
What is the ACIAR-USP Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme?
Since the first intake of students in 2008 the program has supported more than 80 students studying at Postgraduate Diploma, Masters or PhD levels. A thorough review of the Scheme’s functioning was undertaken in late 2013. As a result, the Scheme was restructured to further support its operation and enrich the educational experience of students and the faculty.
In 2016 an academic research and support facility was established through a twinning scheme between the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). This twinning involve academics and experienced researchers from USC who provide supplementary instruction to the students and advice to the USP faculty as well as opportunities for academic exchanges.
The additional support offered by an Australian-based university complements the skills and opportunities already available to students at USP. Whilst individual scholars will benefit from the facility, capacity building within the partner country institutions is the primary objective for sustained capacity building.
Benefits of the Scholarship Scheme
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries have sustained rural and coastal communities in the Pacific since time immemorial and still form the backbone of most Pacific Island economies. However, it is a modern tragedy – and a serious challenge for the economic development of the region – that working in these sectors is held in low regard by many young people today.
To compete in the global market place, Pacific agribusinesses need to be ‘smart’ and innovative, developing unique products and finding new places and ways to market them. Yet the young people who could provide this infusion of new ideas, energy and enthusiasm are ‘voting with their feet’, leaving the rural areas, away from agriculture and in many cases leaving the Islands all together.
The Scheme has been designed to improve the quality and promotion of education in the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors to improve regional capacity in the Pacific. The Scheme provides the opportunity to build networks between Pacific-based postgraduate students, university faculty and researchers working with ACIAR projects in the region. The Scheme is unique in that it provides training to local students in-country, exposing them to the challenges within these sectors in a Pacific context. Enabling students to undertake their postgraduate studies in-country further improves national capacity to innovate and find solutions within the Pacific region.