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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 11, 2001 - The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---The University of the South Pacific will soon decentralize its programs in an effort to be more accessible and meet future challenges.

Among the challenges it has identified are increasing competition and the need to secure alternative financing.

Speaking to staff at a ceremony to welcome him, new Vice Chancellor Savenaca Siwatibau said the university's collective intellectual power was needed to address the challenges it faced.

He said the university needed to protect and expand its resources and to cease being heavily dependent on the 12 island member countries. These provide more than 70 percent of its operating budget.

Mr. Siwatibau said: "We have two traditional donors who provide nine percent, students' fees provide 15 percent, and the balance comes from our other sources of revenue.

"Over time it is our intention to reduce contributions from governments and increase other sources. But it appears that given the climate, it might not be easy to achieve that objective."

The university's other financial reserves, which were slightly under five percent of the operating budget, need to be increased to at least 15 percent, he said.

"We will be able to do so if we exercise prudent management," Mr. Siwatibau said.

The "changing attitude" of donors made this an important measure for the future.

He said some donors were "not so keen on supporting capital expenditures" and this was why the university needed to expand its reserves.

The reserves could also serve as a "shock absorber" in case any of the university's member countries experienced political or economic difficulties.

Mr. Siwatibau, from Fiji, succeeds Samoan Vice Chancellor Esekia Solofa and becomes the second Pacific Islander as vice chancellor.

He comes to the university after a distinguished career in Fiji, including as governor of the Reserve Bank, and with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

The university's main campus is in Suva, Fiji. It also has campuses in Apia, Samoa, and Port Vila, Vanuatu, plus national centers in other countries.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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