An in-principle proposal to establish a university is before the Parliamentary Bills and Legislation Sub-Committee, and although there's no specific time frame, Dr Rodie's confident that a bill may sent to parliament by the end of the year.
Speaker: Dr Patricia Rodie, deputy director of the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education
RODIE: The bill is basically a proposal to transit SICHE to SINU, the National University yeah, for SICHE's transit to university. It's a match of what we currently have in the SICHE Act. It's an improvement of that one, that will enable SICHE to become a university or to gain university status and it provides for the basis for its functions, governance, management and academic structure.
PODGER: It is an expensive business establishing a university. Where would the money come from? Is that being discussed?
RODIE: There is a process of looking at the bill and working on a plan for SICHE transit into university. We have actually discussed that issue with the government officials, including the Minister of Finance. And since this initiative came from the government, the current government, they have made a commitment to support the establishment of the university and its initial operations.
PODGER: Presumably that's an agreement in principle at this stage?
RODIE: That's an agreement in principle at this stage, but the government has assured us that they will make that commitment and that has been factored into their budget for next year.
PODGER: Quite separately, earlier this year, the Anglican Church in Melanesia said it would start raising money to build a university in Solomon Islands. At the time, it was suggested it would be open for students by 2015. Would it be more feasible to join forces and create a single institution or are you convinced its worth pushing ahead with plans that would ultimately have two universities in Solomon Islands?
RODIE: Yeah, I think the need for university studies is there. Solomon Islands has the human capacity in terms of its population.
PODGER: To sustain two universities?
RODIE: Yeah, to sustain the two universities. I think we have only a few, a very small percentage of Solomon Islanders are now undertaking university studies in USP in Fiji, as well as in institutions in Australia and New Zealand. But the majority couldn't make it to regional institutions because of the costs and I think having local universities or having a national university and more opportunities for Solomon Islanders to participate in university studies locally should be good for Solomon Islanders.
PODGER: Now you mentioned that the Committee hasn't given you a time frame for when this bill, if it does go to parliament, might actually be heard. But then on the other hand, you're saying that there are some funding agreements in principle from the government. Do you have sense of how long it might be before a decision is taken on this proposal?
RODIE: I think as soon as the Bills and Legislation Committees submit their report and the bill is put before parliament for debate, we will hear the outcome. I'm hoping that it will happen before the end of this month.