The University of Goroka (UOG) had its humble beginning as a Teachers’ College established in the 1960’s mandated to develop and train High School teachers for the growing high schools in the pre-Independence period where high school teachers in Papua and New Guinea then were predominantly expatriates. Many of us will remember that because we were taught by the expatriate staff from Grade 7 to 10. Even some of our primary schools had expatriate teachers.
Those were the days when under the United Nations assistance program saw the establishment of the Goroka Secondary Teachers College. By 1975 at PNG’s Independence, the then Goroka Teachers College came under the auspices of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) and was known as the ‘UPNG Goroka Campus’.
The Campus was producing Secondary School Teachers, which gradually saw the localisation of high school teachers throughout Papua New Guinea’s High School or Secondary School system. Even then the Campus was also producing secondary school teachers not only for PNG schools system but also those of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu which had similar developments needs to localise their secondary schools when they joined PNG among the newly independent nations in the Southwest Pacific region.
Establishment and Development of University of Goroka
By 1997 the University of Goroka Act was enacted and certified by the Speaker of the House to become a full-fledged university with its founding Vice Chancellor Dr Mark Solon. Since then the University of Goroka has seen massive infrastructure development in the likes of the Library named after the founding Chancellor of the University Mr Steven Eka and the Auditorium named after the founding Vice Chancellor Dr Mark Solon.
Professor Mark Solon is now the Executive Director of the School of Postgraduate Studies at the University. The latest addition to grace the Humilaveka landscape is the Student Dormitory that was opened in 2014 by the Prime Minister Hon Peter O’Neill.
Not only did UOG see physical infrastructure development over the period of 20 years. The University saw academic landscapes changed from high-school-subject based departments to academic Divisions under School of Science & Technology, School of Education, School of Humanities, Institute of Technical and Vocational Education & Training (TVET), and Institute of Distance & Flexible Learning and Open Campuses with physical UOG presence in Honiara (Solomon Islands), Mt Hagen (WHP), Port Moresby (NCD) with Study Centres being established in Kundiawa (Simbu) with additional interests shown from our partners who are intent on establishing similar centres in Central Sepik at Maprik (ESP), Malalaua (Gulf), Popondetta (Oro), Lae (Morobe), Madang, and elsewhere in the Highlands region. The academic programs have changed from the humble beginning at (1 Year, 2 Years and Three years) Secondary Teaching Diploma qualification to diversify into (1 to 4 year) undergraduate Degree and Diploma programs including Postgraduate degrees in Master degree level (MEd, MSc, and MA) and Doctorate Degrees (PhD) being offered.
While the challenge remains unmet for many years, the academic staff qualification levels have also increased incrementally over the twenty-year period with Papua New Guineans obtaining Masters and Doctorate degrees who are making significant contributions towards building a cadre of young Papua New Guineans who will enter into the many fields of endeavour. The University of Goroka is also developing or diversifying into producing human resources not only for the High School or Secondary school teachers in PNG or Solomon Islands and Vanuatu but is actively involved in the development of human resources in other sectors.
The student numbers at then Goroka Teachers College grew exponentially since. There were around 300 to 400 students at the then UPNG Goroka Campus and by 1997, the year in which UOG was established the number has reached about 500 plus. Twenty years on in 2017 the student numbers have now reached 4,125. By 1997 at the time when UOG was established there were nearly 300 students who graduated in that year with Secondary Teaching Diploma. By 28th April 2017 Graduation day we will see 800 students who will graduate in the different degree and diploma programs and we expect to witness several graduating with Master’s degree. Cumulatively over the years since its establishment as the Secondary Teachers College the institution has produced over 20,000 graduates majority of them are now making their unique contributions towards the development of Papua New Guinea in various capacities.
University of Goroka’s Vision for the next 20 years
The University’s Vision for the next 20 years is to continue to diversify into the development of Academic programs to offer Postgraduate programs across the Schools in various Disciplines, Develop new Schools (such as the School of Business and Management, School of Medical Health Sciences, School of Tourism and Hospitality, School of TVET and School of Agri-Business and SME).
Under our current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) arrangement with the Department of Agriculture and Livestock the UOG is expected to have the user (reservation) rights to the 365-hactare land at Menifo, outside Goroka, to develop School of Agri-Business and SME to utilise the land for future expansion of the current University of Goroka with a possible ‘Menifo Campus’ added to the future directory of the University within the next 20 years. The current land at the Humilaveka Campus has developed and grown so fast over the last 20 years, which saw the current plateau heavily congested with no room for further physical expansion and development.
Such congestion makes it difficult to show clear demarcation of Academic Precinct, Residential Precinct, Student Amenities Precinct, Social Amenities Precinct, Administration Precinct, Commercial Precinct and clear flow-through of vehicular and human traffic accessing the university facilities and services.
The PNG University of Technology and the UPNG were established by the Australian Government in preparation for PNG’s Self Government and Independence. The Government of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea has for the first time among many institutions established the University of Goroka and the University of Natural Resources and Environment (UNRE). The government of PNG created two new universities in PNG in 1997. The third one (The Western Pacific University) is being established in Ialibu (SHP).
The next 20 years will be a challenging one for University of Goroka to compete with the five state Universities and the handful of Private Universities including Divine Word University, Pacific Adventist University under a newly perceived and mooted Relative Funding Model if ever this gets the nod from the new Government after the 2017 National Election.
The next twenty years will be a challenging one because the trend over the past five years saw declining state budgetary support to the University of Goroka. Without the benefit of the Relative Funding Model as is currently being proposed by the PNG Vice Chancellors’ Committee there is no respite for the University to raise its own Internal Revenue through the university’s business vehicle, UNIGOR LTD. There is huge potential for the University of Goroka to explore the possibilities of diversifying into several revenue generating opportunities to find a fall back in the event of a budget shortfall.
The opportunity that the 365-hactare land at Menifo being made available to the University of Goroka is such a golden opportunity not to be missed to develop further. The Vision of the University of Goroka is: To be the Pacific’s leading university committed to the development of a climate of excellence, recognized as a source of innovation in teaching and learning and to lead the region in the integration of research, scholarship and community development towards nation building (UOG Strategic Plan 2013-2017). This visioning can be realized when we develop and transform the University of Goroka with the land available now at Menifo under our current concept of building a ‘University City” in the next 20 years.
The full and unequivocal transfer of the Menifo land and generous financial endowment to the University of Goroka will allow the University to establish new Schools and Research Centres and offer many more academic programs to meet the demands in the country. With increased activities and programs we hope to treble the graduate output that will make their contributions to nation building in the many opportunities available.
With the availability of the new land UOG could also venture into the many Business opportunities available to generate Internal Revenue to meet the financial need of the university and to support the increased activities likely to be brought about as a consequence of the increased activities in academic and research programs.
As the UOG’s motto clearly states: Creating the Future, the creative initiatives of our fore bearers are what we see in the first twenty years of this institution being a university. Our current creative initiatives will be realised by the future generations. It is our uncompromising responsibility to create a better future for those who come after us.
Professor Musawe Sinebare (PhD)