The University of Auckland (UoA) and the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), have shown interest in building partnership with the universities in Papua New Guinea, following a recent visit to Auckland, by students from the University of Papua New Guinea.

The winning team of the 2023 UPNG SRC Luther Wenge Debate Competition, travelled to Auckland, New Zealand, last week, and was hosted by the University of Auckland, and the Auckland University of Technology, in a week-long meaningful engagement, including activities such as panel discussions, campus tours, and cultural activities. The engagement was supported by the Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Pacific, for both UoA and AUT, which resulted in both universities showing interest in seeing this program grow and continue in the future.

The UoA Pro Vice-Chancellor, Prof Jemaima Tiatia-Siau indicated that the University of Auckland wishes to establish a long term partnership with UPNG, and Papua New Guinea, through this opportunity and that she is open to discussions. This was the same feedback from the Pacific Advancement Office in AUT who were keen on seeing more PNG Students in Auckland, New Zealand.

The AUT Assistant Pro Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Rennie Atfield-Douglas also said that AUT is looking forward to building this engagement and relationship.
This is a first-of-its-kind opportunity where a student-led initiative has seen international engagement and partnership between UPNG and UoA, and there is hope for more meaningful international engagement so that UPNG students get much needed exposure to international universities.

One of the major prizes of the 2023 UPNG SRC debate competition was to see the winning team travel to New Zealand, as part of a promising partnership between the 2023 UPNG Student Representative Council, and the Commonwealth Students’ Association (CSA). Hence, the University of Auckland in partnership with the CSA and the New Zealand Union of Students Association (NZUSA), supported the initiative to have the winning team hosted in Auckland, New Zealand. This is an initiative of the 2023 UPNG SRC, under the leadership of the President, Luther Kising, supported by the CSA through its Pacific Regional Representative, Bradley Yombon-Copio.

The relationship with NZUSA and their willingness to support UPNG SRC in future events such as student exchange programs and debates, will see students exposure to world standard institutions and learn from a country well rooted in culture.

As the former president of the UPNG SRC, Yombon-Copio said he would like to see this program grow and he is so thankful for all the support he had received to drive this initiative.

“This engagement opened the door to opportunities such as international exposure and learning experience for students from UPNG, as the students not only represented UPNG but the Country as whole, and I hope to see the support from the University’s administration in the future, given the potential this engagement has shown,” said Yombon-Copio.
He added that UoA is one of the top 100 universities in the world along with AUT, and they have amazing support services for Pacifica Students, and so they would be amazing partners for universities in PNG, to share knowledge and resources, in order to help universities in PNG be better in the Pacific Region.

Moreover, there is hope for more meaningful regional and international student engagements from Universities within PNG, as such engagement is an avenue to share knowledge and resources if long term partnership is established, and also to strengthen relationships between students and the universities.
This is a milestone engagement for PNG to see such initiatives led by students and young people. Education is a priority and initiatives like this have the potential to influence change, and this program will see young people representing PNG at the regional and international level.

The winning team led by Bradley Yombon-Copio, includes the 2023 UPNG SRC Female Vice-President, Gloria Mabiria, and the students, Lovanchor Dotson, Edna Kiisaku, and Clive Akuru, who travelled to Auckland on the 22 October, and returned to Port Moresby on the 29 October.

The 2023 UPNG SRC Luther Wenge Debate Competition commenced early in semester 2 of 2023, and was sponsored by the Governor for Morobe Province, Hon. Luther Wenge. The funds were then allocated by the UPNG SRC’s Debate Committee, for financial support for the students’ trip to Auckland, as well as additional financial support from Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited.