Global awareness of the Pacific region is strong at present, from media coverage of the impact of climate change to contestation over strategic influence. There is growing acknowledgement of the importance of this oceanic realm in shaping ideas about the type of world we wish to live in.

In this context, Pacific island countries are continuing to establish, develop and evolve their tertiary education systems to meet local economic and social needs, as well as the wider issues sustainability. The dominance of western-style higher education, through colonialism and “imported” management practices, is questioned by Pasifika countries as they assert their national and regional cultures, seeking to align these with the fundamental moral purposes of tertiary education systems. Their approaches entail a whole-person, formational focus for tertiary education, rather than the instrumental production of graduates and knowledge emphasised in many western and Anglo-American systems.

A recently released (free to access until 30 June 2022) special issue of the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management on ‘Tertiary Education Advances in Pacific Island Nations’ offers examples of Pasifika-led initiatives and partnerships of academics across the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.

While there is an established body of scholarly work on distinctive Pasifika pedagogies, relationality, diverse ways of learning and the challenges of providing education under severe resource constraints, much of this work does not find its way into international tertiary education journals, where a pronounced imbalance favouring “first world problems” is evident.

To promote tertiary education studies that are truly inclusive and reflective of diverse approaches, the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, which is co-owned by ATEM and the L H Martin Institute at Uni Melbourne, decided on this special Issue as a first step.

ATEM is the only professional association for managers and administrators in the tertiary education sector across Australia, New Zealand (Aotearoa), the south Pacific and south-east Asia. There is thus a special relationship between the Journal and researchers in these regions, especially in collaborative research. Nine out of the top-10 universities for Pasifika co-publications in the Scopus database over the past decade are in Australia, together with University of Auckland.

Knowledge exchange must be ‘’both ways’’ or ‘all ways’ in tackling global problems. This requires genuine, long-term partnerships and commitments that respect and accommodate local differences as well co-setting of agendas. The journal guest editors, Unaisi Walu Nabobo Baba and Jeanette Baird, acknowledge that much remains to be discovered on the nature of tertiary education development in small island states in the Pacific region. They hope these papers, exploring a breadth of issues, offer opportunities for reflection on the importance of research that draws on local epistemologies, traditional knowledge and alternative philosophies of life.

Unaisi Walu Nabobo-Baba (Fiji National Uni), Jeanette Baird (Uni Melbourne), Peter Bentley (Innovative Researcvh Universities and Uni Melbourne), Carroll Graham (UTS),  Maddy McMaster (Uni Melbourne)


On Friday 20 May 2022 (12.00 noon – 1.30 pm; Australian Eastern Standard Time) Dr Peter Bentley, Editor in Chief of the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management and Policy Advisor at the Innovative Research Universities, will facilitate a webinar providing an opportunity to hear from authors of three articles. The guest editors will also comment. Author presentations will be followed by a short Q&A, with an opportunity for an extended conversation in the final half hour.

Register for the webinar here.


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