Pandemic expected to impact student numbers

The University of the South Pacific (U.S.P) Samoa Campus may experience a decline in regional students due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Acting Campus Director for the U.S.P Samoa Campus, Dr. Joeli Veitayaki, in an emailed response to the Samoa Observer said they normally expect 350-400 students.

“Normally we anticipate about 350 – 400, but with the financial challenges related to COVID 19 and the restrictions on travel we will be happy with whatever we get, although the lesson from last semester is that enrolment was regarded a priority by the majority of our stakeholders,” Dr Veitayaki said.

Asked if they expect the number of students enrolling this year to exceed last year’s, he said: “Yes and No.”

“Yes, because more courses are offered online now especially courses that used to be offered only face to face in Laucala. In addition, more postgraduate programmes are offered from Regional Campuses. We are very much doing all we can to meet the requirements of Samoan students and have seen more courses and programmes being made accessible throughout the region.

“No, we may experience a decline in our regional students travelling over, due to travel restrictions and financial hardships faced by those that have lost their sources of funding.”

In terms of Samoan students studying in Fiji who were repatriated nearly a year ago, Dr. Veitayaki explained that for the time being, all Samoa-sponsored students will remain in country. 

“We have managed to have these students continue with their studies from here. The Australian and NZ sponsored students have to return due to conditions of their awards,” he added. 

Dr. Veitayaki explained that some of the changes at the Samoa Campus this year include:

“A new university structure, which has the new School of Agriculture, Geography, Environment, Ocean and Natural Science (S.A.G.E.O.N.S.). This move has meant savings to the U.S.P. and strengthened teaching and learning and research.

“All University campuses are now smoke free starting on Jan 1st 2021.

“COVID-19 has redefined U.S.P.’s delivery of service. Our students can now study face to face, online, blended and remote. 

"At the Samoa Campus, we are doing all we can to do to make as many USP courses as we can accessible to our Samoan students and Pacific Islanders and others interested in agriculture.

“Samoa Campus for example will now be able to offer GIS training to its students. The challenge now is to secure Teaching Assistants who can offer Face to Face support for these newly accessible programmes.

“We are continuing our effort to build our Centre for Sustainable Island Development at Samoa Campus to demonstrate what can be done to pursue sustainable development in our Pacific region.”

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