SSGM Seminar Series
Date & time
According to the University of Papua New Guinea's website, last updated in March 2007, the institution aims to be the `premier University of the Pacific'. By comparison, the 2013-205 University Grants Committee report for USP, available on its continuously updated website proclaims that it is the most successful regional institution `in terms of its longstanding positive impact on all member countries'. Stripped of the hyperbole, there is no doubt that the assessment of USP is closer to the mark than is the attainment of UPNG's long-held aim. This seminar provides a preliminary description of the effects of international aid for the differences in the two universities, each established with comparable objectives at the end of colonial rule.
While USP continues to rely upon and receive substantial funding from donors, including Japan, Australia and New Zealand, UPNG appears to be the beneficiary of little more than benign neglect. However, as this paper argues, the appearance is deceptive: UPNG's current condition has been brought about in substantial part by bad aid, primarily in the form of international advice that has consistently argued that the principal national university should not receive priority in government plans. This perverse advisory aid has assisted PNG governments to downgrade the importance of UPNG, decimate the funding per student, providing minimal resources for infrastructure maintenance and expansion. The combination of domestic neglect and bad aid has almost completely destroyed what promise the university held in its early years. This brief description of the two forms of aid is intended to extend consideration of the effects of aid beyond such frequently benign notions as governance, capacity building and effectiveness.
Scott MacWilliam is a Visiting Fellow in the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program at ANU. He has taught at UPNG and conducted research on PNG since the early 1980s. His latest book Securing Village Life: Development in Late Colonial Papua New Guinea was published by ANU E-Press in 2013. Dr MacWilliam is currently working on a further book tentatively entitled Subsistence and Informality: Mystifying Daily Life in Papua New Guinea. He also maintains an active research program on developments in Fiji, particularly those surrounding the forthcoming national elections.