Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to all the media representatives present here this afternoon for this important press conference.
As you are all aware that there has been a lot of comments made in the media regarding the operations of the Technical College of Fiji (TCF).
While we welcome the great enthusiasm with which commentators are voicing their opinion in the media, we would like to take this opportunity to clarify some misinformation that unfortunately has been picked up by the media and also being pedalled on social media platforms.
The Fiji National University has in the last few days made several statements in the media and we encourage you to read these statements and understand the review process that’s being undertaken. Let me categorically state that misinformation is in no way assisting nor making any valuable input into the important process being undertaken by FNU.
Response to claims by Union Through the media, we have been made aware a Union leader claims that the reason for the review process is that FNU needs Government to provide funding so we can continue with TCF operations.
The union has also further threatened legal proceedings against possible termination of staff. T
he Fiji National University would like to state that Government funding is NOT the reason for the extensive review of the operations currently being undertaken at TCF, but it is being done to streamline and strengthen the delivery of its programmes.
This exercise is focused on areas of learning and teaching resources, student numbers, programme quality, teaching skills and qualifications, and quality of facilities.
A major part of the review includes a consultation process with key stakeholders including staff, Government through the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts and industry representatives.
Claims by other commentators
There also have been comments around the establishment of TCF by Government, the quality of teachers and graduates.
Let me state, the Technical College of Fiji was set up as an institution to address the growing number of youths who were falling out of the formal education system.
It was a visionary decision which served its purpose and provided training, qualification and employment to many Fijian families who would otherwise have been left to a life of unemployment and poverty.
The TCF structure however has not been reviewed over time and there is much value to be gained from elevating this initiative by benchmarking it against best practices from around the world.
It is evident from the decline in student enrolments and dissatisfaction amongst staff that a comprehensive review and alignment of TCF is needed to ensure it fits perfectly within the existing FNU structure.
The study programmes offered by TCF needs a thorough review and upgrade so it is on-par with those that are being offered at FNU. TCF figures (enrolment and graduation):
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Furthermore, to ensure students receive proper guidance and training, it is imperative the teaching faculty meet the minimum academic qualification requirement as per the University’s Human Resource Recruitment Policy.
Well qualified trainers are crucial to provide Fiji and the region with highly skilled and competent TVET Training graduates that meet the current and future demands of the workforce. FNU envisages producing highly trained and qualified graduates that are work-ready.
Response to claims in an email
We understand there is an email correspondence authored by a university staff to a few colleagues. Let me state, the FNU Management was unaware of this nor has it authorised any such communication to staff.
We take these matters very seriously and we do not want such misinformation to cloud or disrupt the important ongoing exercise. We are investigating the contents and origin of this email internally.
Need for review
There is a lot of misinformation which is adding to the confusion regarding the need and importance of this review.
The consultation and review process commenced last week and is expected to continue for a few weeks before a report is put together for further deliberations and discussions.
A statement on the outcomes will be released by FNU thereafter.
In the meantime, I would like to reiterate that for any successful organisation that is intending to acquire an existing entity, a fundamental component of business operation is to undertake an extensive due-diligence process to weigh the benefits and risks before making a final business decision whether to continue as is or remodel to suit the evolving industry needs.
We are in a similar position with TCF and therefore are required to undertake an exercise to understand its inner workings which includes a review of the declining student numbers that point towards a decreasing demand of the programme, learning and teaching facilities, staff qualifications to match global standards for teaching TVET, income and expenditure and so forth.
Importance of TVET studies
From a global perspective, TVET engages youths and adults, empowering them to continue with paid employment and also venture into entrepreneurship. TVET provides graduates with an opportunity to acquire employable and life long skill sets.
In Fiji, this can play a critical role in filling the employment gaps which has the potential to have a multiplier impact in encouraging sustainable economic growth, reducing inequality, particularly for the most vulnerable youth.
Similarly, from an economic point of view, modernised, responsive and inclusive TVET programmes further contribute to developing a knowledge-based society, which is a catalyst to increasing productivity and providing a competitive edge in an increasingly demanding global economy and also ensuring Fiji’s prosperity.
TVET studies at FNU
FNU is a dual-sector university offering a growing range of qualifications from certificate to doctorate levels to allow graduates from one discipline to develop new expertise and competencies in another.
We are proud to have our foundations deeply rooted in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). FNU has a proven record of providing teaching excellence in TVET studies and has continued to strengthen learning and teaching by undertaking international accreditation of programmes, upgrading of staff qualifications and providing new facilities and equipment.
The university is also focused on developing both the technical skills and competencies as well as ‘soft skills’ like critical thinking and teamwork to enable our graduates to succeed in a fast-changing labour market. At FNU, we are focused on ensuring that our students are not just highly employable the day after graduation, but who can continue learning during their working lives.
Ensuring that our TVET programmes, teachers and facilities can meet this requirement is a priority for us.
FNU offers a pathway for TCF students undertaking Certificate 2 and its alumni to continue their academic journey to higher qualification levels within the same tertiary institution. In recent years, Fijian students have had access to a far more comprehensive range of study options at different levels compared to a generation ago.
This indicates that academic institutions, together with industry partners and government have been working in sync to develop new study programmes, modernise curriculum to ensure that graduates acquire the right training and skill set that’s required in the job market.
FNU has been at the forefront of academic development and raising the bar higher for TVET studies by undertaking a rigorous review of all its programmes as well as working towards international accreditation. The TCF/TVET review is one of the ways that FNU ensures that all our programmes are ready to meet international accreditation.
TVET studies will remain in the university’s DNA as we leap into our next decade. The challenge for FNU is to ensure that our study programmes are robust and forward-looking to meet the demands of the current and future workforce.
As Fiji’s national university, we have a responsibility to the Fijian government and taxpayers to ensure that students have the opportunity to study in a proper environment, undertake study courses that are of high standards and taught by trainers who do not only have the right academic qualification but also teacher training competencies and technical experience.
Government’s vision is to ensure FNU becomes a world-class university. Government’s support to FNU has been unwavering and we look forward to delivering on Government’s vision as well to the aspirations of our most important clients – students.
We must not short-change either of these stakeholders as providing the best learning and teaching environment will ensure that our nations greatest assets for the future are carefully nurtured and developed for a stronger, productive, and prosperous tomorrow as Fiji deserves nothing, but the best!