Second expat vice-chancellor goes as PNG universities turn nasty
Village on broken mountain - PNG quake plight continues

PNG media silent as another vice chancellor is lost

Prof John Warren
Prof John Warren - thwarted egos & political games are costing PNG talented university administrators (& a craven local media remains silent)

STEPHEN HOWES

CANBERRA - Last month, University of Natural Resources and the Environment Vice Chancellor Professor John Warren quit his post and Papua New Guinea after receiving police threats.

Professor Warren, who only took up his position in 2016, was previously Professor of Botany at Aberystwyth University in Wales. PNG Attitude has released his letter giving his account. It seems that he fell out with the chancellor and then with the university council.

After receiving threats of being reported to the police, first from the Chancellor and then others, he resigned and left PNG as quickly as he could.

UNRE is clearly a troubled institution. The previous vice chancellor had his appointment terminated following allegations of mismanagement of funds, and was referred to the fraud squad following allegations made by Rabaul MP, Dr Allan Marat.

University students protested last year following the re-appointment of two senior staff. Student are once again protesting, this time at Prof Warren’s departure.

(The EMTV news item reporting the protests is the only mention by the press of this scandalous case that I have been able to find.) 

Earlier in the year, Unitech vice chancellor Albert Schram quit after a dispute with the Unitech Council.

He was subsequently arrested and had his passport confiscated on the trumped-up charge of fraudulently claiming to have a PhD (trumped-up because he did indeed have the PhD he claimed to have), a turn of developments engineered by a former senior Unitech leader Schram had earlier crossed.

John Warren explains in his letter that the treatment of Dr Schram, and a warning that he too would be arrested, led to his decision not to hang around for the end of the academic year, as he was requested to do by PNG’s higher education secretary.

Both the Schram and Warren cases – whatever their details and whatever their differences -- will have a devastating impact on the reputation PNG’s higher education sector.

Will PNG ever again be able to attract an international candidate for a tertiary leadership position?

There are many outstanding PNG nationals fighting the good fight, and standing up for justice and the national interest.

But there are also too many powerful individuals in PNG who use the police for their own interests to harass those in leadership positions. The damage to the national interest is immense.

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John Burton | DevPolicy Blog

Three down really, if you count the removal of the top tier of management from the University of Goroka in 2015.

The capers at the top distract from more basic facts PNG’s state universities are funded at a fraction of the level they were in 1975 (at 17th of the level according to one ex-prof https://johnmenadue.com/allan-patience-the-serious-under-development-of-papua-new-guineas-university-system/).

A colleague has been pursuing anything recent written on science education in PNG but, unless there is a hidden trove of unpublished PhDs somewhere that he hasn’t found, in the last 20 years the field seems to have gone dark.

It presages rather badly for the critical shortage of useful people like doctors, civil engineers, and properly qualified provincial disaster managers (Madang’s is a former seminarian). Nothing is surprising here.

We have polio back, such that several DWU staff needing to travel later in the year are going for boosters at Modilon this morning. Sadly to say, but the fifth funeral on our small campus for this year is scheduled for this afternoon.

Stark fact: members of our university die faster than we can graduate new ones with higher degrees to grow the teaching body. Four to five deaths is the average for the last six years.

At what point will PNG’s governmental idleness to provide for its own development future, coupled with emerging bio- and health threats, cause its regional neighbours to begin classing it as a menace to other countries in the region, I wonder.

Albert Schram

Prof Howes has visited PNG and Lae many times in the past years, and has visited the campus and presented for the University Council.

His dire predictions, unfortunately, that the university will be unable to hire foreign academics are already happening, and one head of department and several staff have already left.

There is no free lunch, if you want to ride the horse of xenophobia and corruption, you will pay the price.

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