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“DPD 1 Becoming DPD (USP) and saving science from Chandra’s EFTS financing model


DPD 1:  Becoming DPD  and saving science from Chandra’s EFTS

Most Fiji people know me as a USP academic, not as a manager or administrator.  But a series of accidental regional consulting work towards the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, encouraged me to apply for the post of USP’s Director of Planning and Development (DPD).  I lasted only three years, but not without tackling some interesting challenges.
In 1989, the USP Vice Chancellor (Geoffrey Caston) had pulled me into his office for six months to prepare the University’s Triennial Submission to the University Grants Committee for funding.  I therefore came to know the “ins and outs” of USP’s internal and external funding.
Professor Forsyth then encouraged me to take on a consultancy as USP’s contribution to a massive World Bank sponsored regional six country study on post-secondary education and the labor markets in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati. While the study focused on post-secondary education, it also examined preschool, primary, and secondary.  My interesting partner in the 18 month project was a full-time independent Australian consultant to WB, Ian P Morris, who was married to a PNG lady, and, unlike most external consultants, extremely sympathetic to Pacific peoples.
Ian became a great friend and taught me the tricks of trade of being a consultant, while I astonished him with my easy access to confidential data, made readily available to us by my former students in high places in the countries concerned.  Once slumped tiredly over a bar in Kiribati, Ian also taught me a valuable lesson on how to get through painful days in life: think “ADAD”: “another day another dollar”.
We visited (and frequently lost track of) the six countries twice, organized a massive Tracer Study of all tertiary graduates in these six countries for years, with wonderful local collaborators including Derek Sikua (former Prime Minister of Solomon Islands) and Dr Ana Taufe’ulungaki (MP and Minister of Education in Tonga).  (Given the mass emigration of PIC graduates, this study urgently needs to be done again).
Ian and I sat in my USP office in Fiji for months, and to be fair to his family, we also sat in Ian’s Tasmanian home for two months, while writing a massive array of six Country Reports for Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tonga and Samoa (all available in the USP Library).  Ian and I then went to the Washington WB headquarters, and wrote a Regional Report on Pacific Education, in collaboration with WB experts, and organized a regional workshop at USP to discuss the findings. That regional Report can now be accessed here on a WB site:

Study of Financing Education in Vanuatu

A year later (while my wife was studying at RMIT and I was minding the kids in Melbourne), I did another fascinating study, funded by WB and the Vanuatu Government,  on the Financing of Education in Vanuatu. That required travelling to all the main islands in Vanuatu with Ministry of Education collaborators such as Derek Alexander, and sleeping often in class-rooms because there were no tourist accomomodation. I produced a voluminous report, which was unfortunately shelved by the Francophone Vanuatu Government for purely political reasons.
One of my conclusions (shared by any sensible economist) was that a tiny country like Vanuatu, of 200 thousand people could not afford two mediums of instruction (English and French), two parallel systems of teacher training and tw parallel systems of curriculum development.  I made the fatal political mistake (young consultants, please note) of recommending that the Vanuatu Government choose one language as the medium of instruction and teach the other language as an additional subject for those who wanted it.  It was clear to me which language would be the medium of instruction, given that the most popular higher education pathways of school leavers and the scholarships from donors were nearly all for English speaking countries.
But the then Francophone Vanuatu Government, supported by an imperialist France and French aid, and callously indifferent to long term sustainability of Vanuatu’s education system and the interest of Ni-Vanuatu students) shelved my Report.  A shorter version of the Report can be accessed here and the others are listed at the bottom of the page.

I was also part of a UK/NZ funded team that drew up a terribly flawed Education Sector Review for Kiribati (the British Team Leader had some strange ideas, and overruled the NZ education expert and me, on the Team). That Report was fated to gather dust.

Together with Professor Forsyth and Ian Morris, I also did a review of Technical Assistance and Training in the Pacific which tried to take account of the massive emigration of skills revealed by our WB Tracer Studies (see reference below).

External funding formula for USP

During the 1970s and 1980s, there was much concern expressed by several of the Member Countries of USP that the financing of USP was not on a fair basis and that Fiji was deriving unfair benefits. I was asked by Australian IDP (CEO Bob Teasdale at the time) to examine and explain how USP was funded, and make recommendations for improvements if necessary. The consultancy report I did pointed out that USP was not a “shop” which sold items at fixed prices to whoever wanted to buy the degrees, diplomas or certificates.  Rather there were three different components to what was essentially a “sharing formula”. I am lucky I found a pdf copy of my original consultancy report which may be read here:

Becoming USP’s Director of Planning and Development

After my three years of working on regional education systems, I could see ways in which USP could evolve to better serve regional needs. I applied for and was appointed in the Office of the Vice Chancellor (then Esekia Solofa), as the Director of Planning and Development.  I did not then know that this post, in most universities, is seen as a “stepping stone” to becoming Vice Chancellor.
But an ambitious colleague and close friend for two decades, who had by this time also served as USP’s Pro Vice Chancellor, felt threatened in his planned career path, and thereafter refused to co-operate with me or support any of my DPD initiatives.
Almost immediately, he fought tooth and nail to implement his potentially disastrous Internal Funding Model (IFM1) that he had advocated for USP, based simplistically on student numbers.

Saving USP Science from Chandra (a lesson for today’s USP)

It should be obvious to any education economist (but evidently not to one geographer) that one cannot fund university departments purely on the basis of student numbers and there are three solid common sense reasons.
First a large 400 student class (as we have in Economics, or Accounting or Management) cannot be given ten times the financial resources as small class of 40 students in History or Politics.  Both classes can be taught by one lecturer, but the larger classes had economies of scale, and would simply have lots of additional cheap part-time tutors.  The large class would not require ten times the money as a small class- far less in fact.
Second, there were many courses which were inherently expensive to run, such as in science which required costly laboratories (equipment and materials) and each science student need far more resources than a social science student.
Third, Chandra’s IFM1 did not allocate money directly to Departments (when its flaws would have become obvious for small departments like Sociology or History/Politics) but in aggregate  to the Schools (faculties today) which would reallocate internally by whatever criteria they decided on.  Hence even small departments in SSED, like Geography, would have benefited from the “windfall extra funds” brought to them by Chandra’s IFM1.
Worse, Professor Rajesh Chandra’s simplistic Internal Funding Model (IFM1) would have stripped more than a million dollars from and destroyed the School of Natural Resources (SNR or SPAS as it is known today) which went through a huge crisis and angst and understandably opposed Chandra’s proposal. Chandra proposal would deployed these funds to schools with massive enrollments and class sizes- such as my own School of Social and Economics Development.  Unfortunately, the sleepy and innumerate Head of SSED (also a good friend of mine), was lured by the extra millions his school would suddenly gt, and threw his support behind Rajesh Chandra.
My first task as DPD was to developed a more rational actual cost-based Internal Funding Model 2.

That may be read here:

I finally managed to convince Vice Chancellor Solofa to ditch IFM1 and adopt my IFM2, which had also recommended processes and ideas for further refinements.

Gunu thanksDSC00217aThe science departments were extremely grateful to me (read here the letter of thanks from Dr Gunu Pillai, the then Head of SNR) when I was leaving the post of DPD.
I also strongly recommended that USP must maintain some subject areas even if numbers fell to uneconomical levels, simply because it was in the long-term holistic interest of the PIC communities, even if government scholarships or private demand was not forthcoming.

Post-script 1

This same funding problem for small departments re-emerged in 2009 when Vice Chancellor Chandra went on a Crusade to eliminate “uneconomical” courses defined by simple minimum class sizes (30). That also would put me on a collision course with a new Deputy Vice Chancellor (Professor Susan Kelly) who was given responsibility for the cutely named STAR program, who, because of my opposition to some aspects of her STAR program, would then put the boot into me at my Contract Renewal meeting (to come).

Post-script 2

For more than two decades, USP management would hire costly external consultants who would come and draw on my knowledge and experience, and their regurgitate their “findings” for a fat fee.

I challenge any USP staff member or student to find any of these external consultants’ reports on USP’s website, or even in the USP Library.  Without any challenge, they have become “personal property” of USP managers (some select ones).  The “history of USP” is being re-written by its current Manager.

My 1992 WB  and other education consultancy reports

Pacific Regional Post Secondary Education Study: Vol. 1. Overview of Fiji, Kiribati, Tonga, Western Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. (With A. Aime, D. Hamilton, Jin He and Ian P. Morris). World Bank Report No. 11351, Country Department III, East Asia and the Pacific Region. 1992.

Post Secondary Education and the Labor Market: Issues and Options. Country Studies. Country Department III, EAPR, World Bank. (Wadan Narsey and Ian P. Morris). 1992.

Volume 2         Tracer Study on Graduates (of Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Is, Samoa)
Volume 3         Fiji
Volume 4         Kiribati
Volume 5         Solomon Islands
Volume 6         Tonga
Volume 7         Vanuatu
Volume 8         Western Samoa

Kiribati Education Sector Review (Mike Ratcliffe, Peter Braithwaite and Wadan Narsey).  Report for the Governments of Kiribati, United Kingdom and New Zealand. 1992.

Review of Technical Assistance and Training in the Pacific. Report for the Forum Secretariat and the British Development Division in the Pacific. (David Forsyth, Wadan Narsey and Ian P. Morris). 1992.

TO COME:   more challenges for a DPD.

ALSO TO COME: the causes of my eventual demise as DPD


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