Kiribati, ADB Sign Loan for Upgrades to University of the South Pacific Campus

TARAWA, KIRIBATI – Officials from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Ministry of Finance and Economic Development have signed a guarantee agreement for the first loan package to the University of the South Pacific (USP), which will fund the upgrade of the Tarawa campus and boost students’ access to higher education.

“This Kiribati-ADB-USP partnership will lead to higher education becoming more accessible for Kiribati students, helping them gain the skills needed to make a more powerful contribution to their nation’s development,” said Xianbin Yao, Director-General of ADB’s Pacific Department, who signed the agreement alongside Tom Murdoch, Kiribati’s Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

ADB and USP recently signed a $19 million loan package which will help the university improve learning facilities and innovative information and communication technology (ICT)-based distance learning programs at regional campuses.

The first loan of $2.6 million is guaranteed by the Government of Kiribati, and will support improved ICT connectivity, construction of additional classrooms, and student and administrative facilities at the new Kiribati campus.

Enrolment in higher education in the Pacific region remains low, with rates ranging from 10% in Fiji to less than 5% in most other Pacific island countries. There are more than 800 Kiribati students enrolled at USP, and the number has been increasing. But lack of physical capacity and limited academic programs at the Kiribati campus have hindered opportunities for quality higher education.

For ADB, this is the first highly concessional Asian Development Fund (ADF) loan to a regional educational institution, backed by a sovereign guarantee. It is also the USP’s first development loan.

ADB has maintained a long and active presence in Kiribati, providing a range of development assistance in the form of loans, grants and technical assistance. ADB has approved eight loan projects amounting to $34.7 million and 37 technical assistance projects worth almost $15 million in Kiribati since 1974.