Webinar: Tertiary Education Advances in Pacific Island Nations

Knowledge exchange must be ‘both ways’ or ‘all ways’ in tackling global problems. This requires genuine, long-term partnerships and commitments that respect and accommodate local differences as well co-setting of agendas.

To promote tertiary education studies that are truly inclusive and reflective of diverse approaches, the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, has released a special issue on Tertiary Education Advances in Pacific Island Nations (free to access until 30 June 2022).

To commemorate the journal’s special issue this webinar, supported by the IRU, will provide an opportunity to hear from authors of three articles, as well as the guest editors Professor Unaisi Walu Nabobo Baba, of the Fiji National University, and Dr Jeanette Baird, Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Adjunct Professor of Higher Education at Divine Word University in Papua New Guinea. Author presentations will be followed by a short Q&A, with an opportunity for an extended conversation in the final half hour.

The webinar will be facilitated by Dr Peter Bentley, Policy Advisor at the Innovative Research Universities and Editor in Chief of the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management.

When: 12 noon – 1:30pm AEST, Friday 20 May

Register: here



CANCELLED 1. Towards a vā knowledge ecology: mobilising Pacific philosophy to transform higher education for Pasifika in Aotearoa New Zealand. By Jacoba Matapo & Judy Taligalu McFall-McCaffery

Presenters: Dr Jacoba Matapo  & Judy Taligalu McFall-McCaffery (The University of Auckland)


This article applies the concept of vā to reconceptualise and critique the tensions in higher education for Pasifika in Aotearoa New Zealand. We assert that a radical shift is needed within higher education to confront the neoliberal ideals of a knowledge economy that have permeated all levels of the institution, from the politics of academic roles to philosophy and pedagogy. The notion of academic success prescribes a particular subjectivity of the student or academic, which is often aligned with liberal and neoliberal ‘traits’ that are not always conducive to Pasifika ways of being and knowing. We argue that incorporating a ‘vā knowledge ecology’ that stands, in all its complexities, in contrast to the neoliberal ‘knowledge economy’, provides opportunity to ground Pacific indigenous knowledge systems within the institution. In doing so, we challenge the pervasive lack of recognition of or value for Pacific indigenous knowledge within the institution.

About the presenters:

Dr Jacoba Jacqueline Matapo is Associate Dean Pasifika at The University of Auckland. Jacoba’s research engages in a postcolonial, posthuman critique of Pasifika education research.

Ms Judy Taligalu McFall-McCaffery is a Pacific Academic Engagement Adviser at The University of Auckland


2. Re-examining the ‘culture of silence’ through peer-based Pasifika pedagogies in a New Zealand tertiary environment. By Juliet M Boon-Nanai, Theo Manuel, Wesley Lagolago, Tainafi Lefono, Vedant Zaveri, Sauniuni Seleni & Vaoiva Ponton

Presenter: Dr Juliet M Boon-Nanai (Auckland University of Technology)

Download the presentation poster here.


This paper draws on a study that examined the experiences of four high-achieving Pasifika physiotherapy degree level students to identify factors contributing to their success. As peer students, they identified five approaches that assisted them to become high achievers within the tertiary environment. This paper refers specifically to these approaches as peer-based Pasifika pedagogies (PbPP) and broadly as culturally responsive practices. The aim of this paper is to examine how Pasifika pedagogies, such as PbPP provide culturally responsive practices that can address the ‘culture of silence’ while promoting the vā relationality, the cultural nuances and norms of their worldview as well as aligning it with modern pedagogies or tools to enhance success among Pasifika students in the New Zealand tertiary education context.

About the presenter:

Dr Juliet M Boon-Nanai is an Equity Pasifika Academic at Auckland University of Technology. Juliet has worked in education for almost 30 years, most recently promoting the Pacific worldview as an Equity Academic for Pasifika staff and students within the Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences at AUT.


3. The challenges of building a national university in a Pacific Island Country: lessons from the first ten years of Fiji National University. By Nigel Martin Heale

Pre-recorded video: Dr Nigel Healey (University of Limerick)


Establishing a national university has been widely viewed by smaller developing countries as a means of asserting sovereignty and driving the country’s economic, social, and cultural development. This has been particularly true in the South Pacific, despite the existence of the regional University of the South Pacific. Building a national university with the limited financial resources of a small developing country presents numerous challenges.

This paper, using a critical ethnographic methodology, examines the lessons from the first ten years (2010–20) of Fiji National University from the perspective of an insider researcher. Some challenges are common to new universities created by merging smaller colleges. Others are more specific to developing countries, including the dependence on public funding and political patronage. Some challenges are more distinctively Pasifika, with cultural values of familial loyalty and respect for elders, sometimes in conflict with ‘imported’ management practices. The spectre of neo-colonialism is ever present.

About the presenter:

Dr Nigel Healey is Professor of International Higher Education and Vice-President (Global and Community Engagement) at the University of Limerick  He is currently Interim Provost and Deputy President.  He has previously served as Vice-Chancellor of Fiji National University (2016-20)


4. Creating sustainable networks to enhance women’s participation in higher education in Papua New Guinea. By Rachel Aisoli-Orake, Veronica Bue, Mary Aisi, Imelda Ambelye, Mirzi Betasolo, Tindi Nuru, Dora Kialo, Shamsul Akanda, Sogoing Denano, Lydia Yalambing, Susan Gasson, Elizabeth Spencer, Christine Bruce & Nick Roberts

Presenters: Dr Rachel Aisoli-Orake (Papua New Guinea University of Technology) & Ms Susan Gasson (James Cook University)


The challenges of raising the participation of women as leaders in higher education globally have been extensively but unevenly documented. Potential has been identified for international developmental networks to support an increasing presence of women as leaders in emerging higher education systems. Through an exploration of shared experiences and learnings in a specific developmental network of women, and some men, from universities in Papua New Guinea and Australia, the wider implications of local challenges became visible. A Collaborative Research Culture Framework has been used to highlight key collaborative principles that enable and enhance women’s participation in higher education. The authors have framed their theoretical exploration of the issues informed by their own experiences of collaborating to overcome challenges faced by women participating in higher education.

About the presenters:

Dr Rachel Aisoli-Orake is a Senior Lecturer and Research Supervisor at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology with more than two decades of experience working within the higher education industry in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Ms Susan Gasson is a Senior Lecturer and Higher Degree by Research Advisor at James Cook University.  Susan’s research focuses on research education and development, with interests in research collaboration and employability.


The Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management is co-owned by the Association for Tertiary Education Management and the LH Martin Institute at The University of Melbourne, both of which have decades long engagements with the Pasifika region through regional chapters, awards and training of university managers, and fellowship networks. This webinar is supported by the IRU.