INSUFFICIENT budget support to the universities over the years has had a serious impact on their capabilities to produce graduates to meet the ever-increasing demand for professional and highly skilled workers.
And to seriously address the issue, the Government needs to develop the right product and production capability balance to allow the universities to respond appropriately to the increased market demand.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Technology Dr Misty Baloiloi made it plain in a meeting with the independent review of PNG’s university system team, headed up by prominent intellects, Prof Ross Garnaut and Sir Rabbie Namaliu.
The team spent the day at Unitech and later in the afternoon at the National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) for preliminary consultations for the review, which has been ordered by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, with support from Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd.
At Unitech, the team met with Dr Baloiloi and the senior executive management, then with the heads of academic departments.
Emanating prominently from the two discussions was the concern over the lack or insufficient funding, which had limited any serious efforts of the university to advance academic programs, including research and development.
Dr Baloiloi again used the fable of the goose that lays golden eggs, to stress the concern.
The Government, he said, had concentrated on demanding for the golden egg, but has neglected to look after the goose itself so that it could continue to lay the golden eggs.
He said the balance between the product and production capability had been wrong, and needed to be corrected.
Dr Baloiloi said student numbers continue to increase every year, exerting a lot of pressure on the facilities and infrastructure, most of which were dilapidated.
He said as a technological university, Unitech needed more than K74 million to rehabilitate and re-develop the infrastructure and facilities to acceptable levels, but this has not been forthcoming.
The K19 million released to Unitech in 2007 for infrastructure rehabilitation was insufficient.
Dr Baloiloi said the funding constraints have also not allowed the university to recruit quality and highly qualified teaching staff, and also to provide attractive salaries and conditions to retain qualified staff developed by the university or recruited from overseas.
Funding problems have also restricted library development, communication and internet capacity development, research, student accommodation, staff accommodation and international networking.
Heads of departments, in their meeting with the team, also stressed that funding constraints have restricted their activities both in academic programs and research.
They also stressed the need for industry and the private sector to play and active role in training and development of human resource by sponsoring students, getting students for industrial training and providing scholarships.
The review team visit educational institutions in East New Britain province today.