A former vice-chancellor at Papua New Guinea’s University of Technology says politics has no place in university governance.

Albert Schram’s comments follow last week’s suspension of the vice-chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Pal Ahluwalia, by the USP Council’s executive committee.

The growing controversy at the main regional university has prompted warnings that university autonomy and academic freedom in the Pacific is under threat.

Some see the latest developments as an attempt by Fiji to nationalise the regional institution.

Dr Schram said while most governments hold the appointing authority at universities, they should not select people who pursue personal and limited agendas.

“Politics should be kept out of university and there is broad consensus among all students and staff at universities in the Pacific that you shouldn’t import the problems from national politics into the university.

“Governments should be wise and not appoint people who are pursuing personal and very limited agendas.”

Fiji’s Education Minister Rosy Akbar slammed claims the government was nationalising the USP.

Ms Akbar said the criticisms were “untrue and frankly uncalled for”.
Calls for meeting, removal of committee

Professor Ahluwalia, who took up the role in 2019, believed he’s a victim of a witch-hunt by the leadership group.

Barely two months into his new role, he alleged abuse of office and serious mismanagement by his predecessor and the council’s leadership group led by pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson.

The Kenya-born academic said he welcomed any investigation but it should be carried out independently and not determined by the people who seemed to have a vendetta against him.

The claims were encompassed in a yet-to-be released report by forensic accountancy firm BDO Auckland.

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