It gives me a great pleasure to warmly welcome you all to The University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). Your presence here at the University is not by chance, as you have been selected, on merit, out of a total of more than 30 000 students. Let me also congratulate you all for the excellent effort you put into your studies last year – a year that was severely disrupted by the global Covid-19 pandemic, which has also affected our country. Academic programs throughout the country were adversely affected, and many institutions struggled to properly deliver their programs. Unfortunately, as it now appears, many failed to meet this agreed targets.
Despite these obstacles and situations, you all focused on what needed to be done to successfully complete all the required assessments – the assignments, the tests, and the exams – to attain the grades which warranted your selection to study at the University. It is therefore justified to enjoy and rejoice in your achievement and congratulate yourselves, but let me give you all a word of caution – once you have finished enjoying your achievement, get down to the real reason why you are here at The University of Papua New Guinea.
You, the students, are the lifeblood of this University. Without you, there can be no University. It is your presence that motivates the institution and gives it purpose. It is your intellectual achievements that promote satisfaction and pride among academic and support staff, and encourages them to continue to share their knowledge, experience, wisdom, and advice. Probably one of the most important relationships in a University is that which is established between staff members and students.
As new students, it is important for you to understand what a University is, how it operates, and what it expects of you.
A University is a community that is dedicated to learning. You are here to mature and develop into a professional person who will go out into the world and contribute to the development of this country. It is more than just studying to pass an assignment, a test, or an exam. You will now be accumulating information that will translate into knowledge in your specific field of study; that is, developing your professional intellectual capacity.
As far as possible, all resources are directed to achieving your goal in intellectual development. Every university is very much the same in that each comprises groups of people, often of great diversity, who are bound together by a desire to know more about the world, its origins, its history, and its future. Different disciplines contribute knowledge from different perspectives. A University is about respect; acknowledging the rights of people to be the same, or different; to think the same, or differently; and to have similar or different cultures, religions, or philosophical viewpoints. Universities are about peace, harmony, and achievement through listening, learning, negotiating, compromising, and acknowledging and accepting differences. In many ways, a University is a community where people should learn, practise, and foreshadow their future lives.
It is a place where you will learn to realign and behave in appropriate and thoughtful ways, and to accept responsibility for your behavioural outcomes. By developing this quality of personal responsibility for behaviour, you will become a much better, future citizen of this nation. For some of you, it may be a culture shock, as universities do not necessarily mirror the behaviour, traditions, and structure of the external community, either here, or internationally.
University life will be enjoyable as you learn to adapt quickly to the set values. However, it can be a challenge, if you do not adapt to the prevailing cultural values which you hopefully will have learned as you have developed to adulthood. This University organizes itself as an independent entity, and is supported by a structure to facilitate the common achievement of the University’s Vision and Mission, and its Schools’ academic goals. The University is about the pursuit of these academic goals, in the national interest. It does not support the promotion and maintenance of regional or provincial differences at the expense of unity, peace, harmony, and academic achievement. UPNG is a National University.
Similarly, it does not support the pursuit of political goals which are in the interests of individuals or minority groups. It strongly supports the practise of democracy in its proper, representational form, and holds in contempt those who use harassment, thuggery, force, and bribery to impose their views and philosophies on others. The University promotes sound and carefully considered debate, which is conducted rationally, logically, and free from threat.
If you cannot adapt to this University-based cultural requirement, you should urgently seek help from your School administration, your lecturers, senior students, your peers, and Students Services as this can adversely affect you productive time at the University. The University is a community, and you must learn how to fit into this community.
This year, you, our students, will once again have a voice through the Students Representative Council (SRC) which has been reinstated after a four-year absence. The representation of the SRC is through your Schools, not through provincial or other groupings. They will address all of your social, academic, and welfare issues. I encourage you to get to know who your representatives are from your respective Schools, and talk to them about issues that affect you.
Above all, Universities are about academic excellence. They are established to enlighten and refine the best intellectual minds in the country. As an accepted student at UPNG, you are one of these intellectual minds. You are encouraged to make the most of every opportunity to expand your mind, enhance the quality of your thinking, respond to intellectual challenges, and join the search for academic performance in order to progress from semester to semester, and from year to year. If you do not meet these standards, then you will most likely, be excluded. You should familiarize yourself with these standards and strive and commit to study sufficiently to meet them.
Finally, this University is about developing a personal responsibility for your own behaviour. It is not a boarding school and the staff are not your surrogate parents. You alone, are responsible for your behaviour, and the outcomes or consequences of that behaviour – not anyone else.
I once again warmly welcome you all to the University today, and I hope that you remain with us, committed to our corporate goal, and particularly to academic excellence. The University is dedicated to providing you with quality education to help your personal and professional development. I refer you to the Graduate Profile that we have prepared to guide us in our course development, and to inform you of the way forward. I hope that, by the end of your time at UPNG, you will have acquired and mastered all of the qualities and skills that are listed in the profile.
Most graduates remember University life as the happiest and the most satisfying time of their lives. May it be the same for you at UPNG. At the end of your period of study, may you be proud of your Degree and of your University.
God bless and keep you all!