PNG Universities Are Full To Capacity: Secretary

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Only 4,700 out of 23,000 graduates find places at Uni

By Malum Nalu

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 5, 2016) – Higher Education Secretary Prof David Kavanamur says only 4700 students out of 23,000 who completed Grade 12 last year are continuing in universities and other institutions this year.

He admitted in an interview with The National yesterday that universities had reached "saturation point", meaning, they were full to capacity.

"Higher education has reached a saturation point," Kavanamur said.

"As you know, there are 23,000 Grade 12s (in 2015), and for this year (in universities and other institutions) we were able to select 4700.

"For these 4700, the selection was based on very stringent quotas that the institutions applied, because of the budget cut and because we’ve been pegged to Government scholarships.

"What happens is that when Government reduces scholarships, the number of students to proceed is determined, which should not be the case."

Kavanamur said the large number of Grade 12 dropouts was a cause for concern.

"We’re working on an open university project that should help to soak up, as well as the Western Pacific University (in Southern Highlands), and for the first time we’re building infrastructure in the colleges: the TVET colleges, nursing colleges are all receiving funding now," he said.

"Within the next two years, you’re going to see the effect of the funding that’s going in."

Kavanamur stressed the importance of higher education in the country.

"Higher education is very, very important," he said.

"Even if the prices of your resource are coming down, and you invested in human capital, it will be the backbone for your long-term growth because you’re going to get a return.

"That’s what I’ve been saying that investment in higher education is not social investment – it’s actually an economic investment. If you invest in someone, he’s going to give a return thereafter, an increasing rate of return and not a diminishing rate of return.

"My advice is that we’ve got to invest big-time in human capital."

Higher Education Minister Malakai Tabar, meanwhile, said it would be a "very challenging" year for his department. "To the students: we are here, there and everywhere, and we would like to make sure that in your studies and in your programmes, you manage your part," he said.

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