Significance of Higher and Technical Education in PNG

Human capital development is the first strategic focus pillar for Papua New Guinea’s Vision 2050, highlighting the need for the country to improve the number and quality of education opportunities at all levels for its people. The significant role for higher and technical education for PNG’s future is therefore clear.

At the same time, Vision 2050 is underpinned by a strategic intent to develop the country’s manufacturing, services, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and eco-tourism sectors and minimise the country’s future dependency on mining and energy.

A leading higher and technical education, and research, science and technology sector, is therefore essential to developing the general and specialised human and technical capacity required for PNG’s transitional economy more broadly, and consequently, for attaining Vision 2050.

Beginning of Higher and Technical Education in PNG

In 1966, the country’s first national higher learning institution, the University Papua New Guinea was established in Port Moresby. In the same year, the Institute of Higher Technical Education was also established, also in Port Moresby, although it moved to Lae and became a university known as the PNG University of Technology in the following year. During the 1960s, the government also established smaller speciality colleges, as an addition to the two universities.

Control of tertiary education was originally the responsibility of the colonial administration before it was passed on the PNG administrative government in the early 1970s. The Higher Education Act 1983 was later passed, which established the Commission for Higher Education as the peak policy body for higher education and the Office of Higher Education as its secretariat or public arm.

Current Situation

In 2014, there were approximately 31,000 students enrolled in tertiary education and the country’s current aim is to have over 124,000 student enrolments by 2024, in order to reach PNG’s Vision 2050. There are currently six universities and over 30 colleges and other institutions recognised by DHERST. These institutions offer post-secondary higher and technical qualifications ranging from certificate to diplomas, from bachelor degrees to Master and doctoral degrees.

Due to a range of factors, higher and technical education in PNG has experienced a sustained period of relative neglect over the last few decades and, as such, requires significant rejuvenation. Some challenges include: fragmented sector coordination; insufficient Government funding; deteriorating physical infrastructure; lack of quality assurance measures; and inadequate ICT.

All of these challenges are addressed in the National Higher and Technical Education Plan 2015-2024 and the Department looks forward to working with the universities, colleges and other stakeholders to address these issues over the next ten years.

Sector Governance Today.

The current governing sector legislation is the Higher Education (General Provisions) Act 2014. Under this Act, the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology is responsible for providing policy direction and coordination for the sector, including administration of the Act, together with the Science and Technology Council.

Other agencies with significant accountabilities for higher and technical education in PNG include the Ministries of Education and Health, which have responsibilities for the funding and management of TVET and teachers’ colleges, and nursing colleges, respectively. They also include the Ministry of Labour and Industrial Relations and, in particular, the National Training Council (NTC), responsible for the policy and quality assurance measures of private TVET providers, and the National Apprenticeship and Trade Testing Board (NATTB).

The Department also works closely with the Science and Technology Council, to ensure coordinated and well-implemented policies for research, science and technology.