The recently signed Memorandum of Agreement between The University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) and the Australian National University (ANU), is a new and much expanded understanding between UPNG and ANU, to strengthen the PNGAUS Partnership and relationship through academic teaching and learning initiatives, and collaborative research and outreach.

The Annual PNG Update Conference has been a highlight for both universities, for many years. This year, UPNG was privileged to host the Vice-Chancellor of ANU, Prof. Brian Schmidt, who visited Papua New Guinea for the first time and to be present at the 2023 PNG Update, alongside UPNG’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Frank Griffin, to sign the MoA. The MoA is an opportunity which provides the framework for greater cooperation between all Schools in UPNG, not only the School of Business and Public Policy.

The two Universities have had long-term links at the highest levels since UPNG’s “creation” by ANU in the mid-1960s. It is for those reasons that both universities plan to build and strengthen their relationships into the years to come.

The partnership between the UPNG’s School of Business and Public Policy (SBPP) and the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy (Crawford) commenced in 2012. In 2015, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two national universities, through the two schools (SBPP and Crawford), provided a strong foundation for this collaboration. Given the active collaboration between the two Schools, it is timely that the Universities revived the MoU that has been in place over the last several years.

During the Opening of the 2023 PNG Update, Prof. Schmidt gave reflections on the UPNG-ANU relationship, and said that the partnership between the two Schools had helped create the success of the current event that will go on for decades. Prof. Schmidt said that it is the success of the previous MoU that gave him great enthusiasm and conviction to sign the MoA.

He added that more recently, through the partnership between the two Schools, four young economics lecturers had been trained, and are now able to do both research and teaching at the forefront.

“This is a great highlight which shows what UPNG and ANU are trying to do,” said Prof. Schmidt.

Speaking during the closing session of the 2023 PNG Update, the Deputy Dean of SBPP, Dr. Lawrence Sause said that UPNG, through the SBPP, saw the fruits of the partnership with ANU, and the deans, divisional heads, and all the leaders in the other Schools must put in the hard work to see more great things happening.

“The recently signed MoA is not just between SBPP and ANU, but other schools as well, and it is a challenge for everyone at UPNG to implement the MoA alongside UPNG’s Strategic Plan 2022–2025, and maintain the partnership,” said Dr. Sause.

The current ANU Chancellor and former Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, has been a long-term advocate of partnerships between PNG and Australia, and had done a great deal to strengthen the ANU-UPNG relationship and partnership.

During her recent visit to UPNG’s Waigani Campus, Ms. Bishop had discussions with the UPNG’s senior management, to build on the partnership through the SBPP, and establish a broader strategic framework agreement between the two national universities. Hence, the ANU Vice-Chancellor’s visit to UPNG to correspond with the 2023 PNG Update, provided the opportunity to progress the new agreement.

Moreover, ANU has played an important role in the education of UPNG staff, including the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Griffin, who attained his Masters of Science, and his predecessor, Prof. Albert Mellam who attained his Ph.D. in Psychology. The two universities have links that go from teaching to research, and it is those people-to-people links that ultimately are what will strengthen their relationship.

The UPNG’s Chancellor, Robert Igara, who witnessed the signing of the MoA, said that UPNG will continue to partner with ANU, and that the partnership does not exclude UPNG’s current and proposed partnerships with other national universities. He further said that a preliminary discussions with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China for similar partnership with a Chinese University, have already taken place.