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Opening of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education`s (INQAAHE) 2016 Biennial Forum

May 23, 2016       Natadola Beach Resort, Sigatoka

The President of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE), Dr Jagannath Patil;
The Hon. Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts and National Archives of Fiji, Dr. Mahendra Reddy;
The Chair of the Fiji Higher Education Commission, Dr Milika Sobey;
Representatives of the INQAAHE Member Countries;
Distinguished Speakers and Delegates;
Representatives of  International Organizations;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Ni sa bula vinaka, A very good morning to you all!

On behalf of the Government and the people of Fiji, I would like to again warmly welcome you all to our shores on this very prestigious occasion of the biennial forum of the International Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education or INQAAHE.  I am pleased to note that the occasion also marks the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the Network.

The Government of Fiji has immense pleasure in hosting the two international Quality Assurance conferences that will take place this week right here at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa. Firstly, there is the 25th INQAAHE Forum followed by the 13th Asia Pacific Quality Network (APQN) Conference and Annual General Meeting.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the President of the INQAAHE, Dr Patil, his predecessors, and the governing board of the Network for the many years that the Network has served its members and higher education in general. I have no doubt that the Network would have accomplished a great deal in the last twenty-five (25) years, in terms of advancing the cause of quality assuring higher education, globally. I believe that this is not only to do with quality assuring qualifications and the programmes taught but it has much to do with the operation of higher education institutions and the way that they deliver their programmes.  

Your concern is also Fiji’s concern. In fact, the Fiji Higher Education Commission, which is Fiji’s Quality Assurance Agency, was established five (5) years ago by the Government of Fiji for the primary purpose of ensuring that public sector values such as accountability, transparency, fairness, quality and legitimacy are observed and upheld in higher education. This was expected to contribute to the quality and relevance of our qualifications to help meet the skills and knowledge needs of industry and for economic and social development and sustainability. This, however, does not discount our bid to give our people, of all ages, expanded opportunities for career development and employment both locally and overseas.

Quality Assurance and Higher Education:
Higher education is undoubtedly central to economic and political development. It is the means by which our citizens can acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will equip them for life and  for employment whether by self-employment or through employment by others. Whatever the consequence is of education and training, the goal is to improve the quality of life for everyone, particularly those that are disadvantaged.

With this national or political expectation of higher education and training, quality assurance is expected to be an on-going process given the changing global environment in which higher education is conducted. Quality assurance will facilitate continuous nurturing and improvement in all aspects of higher education. The outcome of this will in turn contribute to a platform of excellence in educational output that will support the achievement of the Educational Development Goals (EDGs) as well as the Educational Growth and Development Strategy (EGDS) under the auspices of the UNESCO.

In the meantime, there should be awareness of the competencies that have been found through theory and practice to be critical in sustaining quality assurance. These include adaptability, team work, communication skills, innovation and the motivation for continual learning. This provides the challenge for higher education institutions to adjust their programme structures, curricula, teaching and learning methods to incorporate the development of these new skills, attitudes and values in students.

This is only one example of the many expectations that higher education in Fiji has had to respond to. Fortunately, the Fiji Higher Education Commission has established its policies, guidelines and procedures within its legal framework to help it to address the issues encountered in higher education. This is against the backdrop of its own quality assurance framework. With its formal association with both the INQAAHE and the APQN, we are rest assured that the direction that Fiji will take in moving quality assurance in higher education forward will be one that is informed by both theory and practice and adapted to Fiji’s and the region’s environment.

In this connection, I would like to congratulate our QA Agency or the Higher Education Commission for its achievement in its review in 2015 by the APQN, which has grated it registration in the APQN’s Register.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to state that it has indeed been timely for Fiji  and the INQAAHE to be focusing on what I consider to be a very appropriate theme, that of “Quality assurance in higher education in challenging times”. I for one believe the times are indeed challenging, not only for higher education but for any other public sector development activity.

Quality assurance in higher education is a reality today and its growth is expected to be very significant all over the world. It is definitely the way to go particularly in view of the trends currently observed in the globalization of higher education. Fiji’s smallness in size does not discount it from the influences of the changes happening in higher education globally. These changes are challenging our countries to respond in ways that will bring about benefits rather than adversities.
 It is for all of us to learn from gatherings such as this when researchers, experts and practitioners will share their views and experiences which are bound to go a long way in enhancing efforts to raise the quality of higher education and sustain quality assurance worldwide. 

With these words, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour and a pleasure for me to now officially open the 2016 Biennial forum of the INQAAHE.

Thank you and Vinaka Vakalevu.