ACIAR-University of the South Pacific (USP) Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) is an Australian government agency and forms part of Australia’s international development cooperation program. ACIAR aims to enhance rural household incomes and broader economic growth by investing in international research partnerships that encourage agricultural development, sustainable use of natural resources and capacity building of benefit to partner countries and Australia.

 The ACIAR Pacific research program currently operates across eight countries in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) – Pacific region: PNG, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, and Tuvalu. The livelihoods, agricultural commodities and production system in these countries are closely bound by culture; geography, agroecology and climate; focus commodities and industries; and production/industry development issues and constraints. As a result the ACIAR medium-term strategy for the Pacific, while acknowledging individual country- partner needs and R&D priorities, has a strong regional dimension. It is recognised that the Pacific countries have particular research and adoption challenges related to the size of the country, institutional and other capacities, and remoteness from markets. ACIAR’s regional program, and the constituent project portfolio, is designed to address the limiting factors, including a strong emphasis on adoption pathways and R&D capacity building.

As part of this commitment to R&D capacity building, ACIAR has had a number of Pacific Postgraduate Scholarship schemes with the regional universities; including ACIAR-USP Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme 2007-2020 and the ACIAR-University of Technology, Lae, Papua New Guinea scheme 2004-2011. These schemes provide the opportunity for partner country scientists associated with this ACIAR-supported projects to obtain postgraduate research qualifications in an applied context within their cultural setting.

The third phase of the ACIAR Pacific Scholarship Scheme aligns to Pillar 3 of ACIAR’s Ten Year Strategy 2018-2027 “Building Scientific and Policy capacity in Australia and Indo-Pacific region”. The new program identifies target research priority areas which are based on ACIAR’s 2019 consultations with Pacific Island Countries. It continues scholarship at USP, but offers additional scholarships to Fiji National University (FNU), College of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (CAFF). Up to 10 scholarships will be offered, including up to 8 Master’s by Research and 2 PhDs for 2021.

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.

Priority will be given to research topics that align to one or more of the following themes:

  1. Soil fertility, and integrated management of water resources and waste water;
  2. Aquaculture and horticulture products for improved nutrition;
  3. Agribusiness, including post-harvest management and food processing;
  4. Gender equity and women’s engagement in Pacific agriculture;
  5. Coconut-based systems for economic, social and environmental resilience;
  6. Forestry and agroforestry as contributors to agricultural practices which address climate change for sustainable livelihoods;
  7. ‘One Health’ approaches (integrating human, animal and environment health) and biosecurity (for crop, livestock and environmental health).

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.

The ACIAR-USP scheme will provide a significant number of new opportunities for both students and staff to become involved in collaborative, problem-solving research. ACIAR and USP will use the scholarship scheme to build new linkages between USP final-year students, USP staff and researchers working with ACIAR projects in the region.

Due to the current travel restrictions imposed by the global pandemic, only individuals currently residing in Samoa for study at School of Agriculture and Food Technology or Fiji for Marine Studies and other schools are eligible to apply for the 2021 intake for Masters by Research scholarships.  This restriction does not apply to scholarships for PhD’s.