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Development assistance in the Pacific

Pacific regional – education


This page gives an overview of Australia’s work in the Pacific education sector, under Pillar 2 (Stability) and Pillar 3 (Economic Recovery) of Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery: Australia’s COVID-19 Development Response. It also outlines key related initiatives and summaries of programming and related documents.

Investing in education outcomes for all children and youth across the Pacific has been a long-standing objective of Australia's aid program. Our education investments are guided by the Pacific’s Regional Education Framework (PacREF) which outlines a shared, regional education reform agenda among Pacific regional organisations and national education systems up to 2030.

A key focus for Australia’s aid program is supporting education and employment pathways for Pacific people. Through the Office of the Pacific, Australia invested $236.83 million in 2020-21 in education and skills partnerships.

The regional aid portfolio comprises regional scholarships, investments in regional education institutions, technical support for national education systems, research grants and educational linkages between Australia and the Pacific.

The Australia Awards provide scholarships for students to undertake university study, research and professional development in Australia and the Pacific. The Pacific Secondary School Scholarships Program has been paused since January 2020 due to COVID-19.

DFAT bilateral education programs support the implementation of Pacific island country national education plans in predominantly school and Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) sectors.

The University of the South Pacific (USP) Partnership

$84 million, 2019 to 2025

Australia has been investing in the USP, the region’s pre-eminent tertiary organisation, for five decades. USP is a key source of graduates to industry and government in the region, providing the critical workforce for economic development, particularly in areas of new technology and responding to challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, renewable energy, and oceans, which are important to Australia’s interests. 

Our current partnership is worth $84 million over six years from 2019 to 2025. The partnership provides flexible funding to support implementation of USP’s Strategic Plan, including efforts to meet the tertiary education needs of the Pacific.

The partnership will also support the Pacific to implement the Pacific Regional Education Framework, with a focus on improving the quality of teacher education in the region. Additional information can be found on the USP website.

Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC)

$191 million, 2018 to 2023

The Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) is Australia’s flagship skills investment in the Pacific region. It is focused on supporting inclusive skills development and ensuring training meets the needs of Pacific employers and those industries hardest hit by COVID-19. This is achieved through sustained and targeted delivery towards three strategic outcomes:

  1. Graduates have improved employment outcomes
  2. Co-investment in skills training increases
  3. Selected TVET partners demonstrate quality TVET provision

APTC works in partnership with local and national technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions across ten target countries (Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, and Solomon Islands) to deliver prioritised skills training. APTC works in coalitions with these institutions and their governments, alongside development partners and other stakeholders to support TVET systems strengthening at the national and regional level.

APTC delivers Australian qualifications at Certificate II, III, IV and Diploma levels to Pacific islanders across five campuses (Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands), as well as skill sets and micro-credentials.

Qualifications are prioritised and delivered in support of each country’s skills needs across industry sectors including health and community, agriculture, automotive, manufacturing, construction and electrical, tourism and hospitality.

APTC has trained and graduated over 17,900 graduates with Australian qualifications, including 7354 women (source-APTC June 2022).

Graduates in key sectors include Arts and Humanities (233, 81% female), Business, Administration and Law (2133, 48% female), Education (1335, 38% female), Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction (6289, 6% female), Health and Welfare (3125, 79% female), Information and Communication Technologies (324, 29% female), Services (4522, 59% female). In response to climate action, APTC has trained 482 graduates (4% female) in Certificate III Electrotechnology, which supports solar panel technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity for APTC to explore more flexible learning modalities (distance learning where practical), increased micro-credential offerings and support for workers to move into alternative fields of work. For example, APTC-trained hospitality workers in Australia were reskilled to work in aged care, unemployed hospitality workers in Fiji were trained in digital literacy to support job readiness in the new economic environment, and APTC expanded its counselling training, recognising the social impacts of COVID-19.

DFAT has facilitated a partnership between the Pacific Labour Facility and the APTC to build strong outcomes to meet Australia’s workforce shortages, including job-ready workers and Australian-qualified graduates in aged care and disability services and support Pacific Islanders to become work-ready in the meat processing industry.

In 2020, DFAT commissioned a strategic review of APTC to ensure the program was positioned to support the Pacific’s economic recovery from COVID-19 through skills development. You can find further information at APTC Strategic Review.

Related documents*

Name of document Year published Type
APTC3 Strategic Review 2021 Review and management response
APTC3 Investment Design Document 2017 Design document
Independent Review 2014 Review

Related links

APTC website

Educational Quality Assessment Programme (EQAP)

$18 million, 2017 to 2023 (with option to extend for five years)

Australia’s partnership with EQAP ($18m, 2017-23) provides technical education services to Pacific Ministries, in particular in assessment and using data to inform education policies and planning. EQAP administers the Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment every three years.

Related documents*

Name of document Year published Type
Mid Term Review of the Education Quality Assessment Program Business Plan 2019-2022 2021 Mid term review
Pacific Register of Qualifications and Standards (PRQS): Strategic review report and management response 2017 Review and management response

Related links

Shaping the Pacific's greatest resource through quality education | Educational Quality & Assessment Programme | Pacific Community (SPC)

Pacific Research Program

Phase 1 - $23.25 million, 2017 to 2022

Phase 1 of the Pacific Research Program (PRP I) undertook high-quality research to inform evidence-based policy-making and program design by the Government of Australia and its partner governments and organisations.

Phase 2 - $20 million, 2022 to 2026

Phase 2 (PRP II) builds on Phase I of the program to foster strong partnerships between Australian and Pacific universities, and teach and train the next generation of Pacific researchers. Over the next four years, PRP II will also take forward new and ongoing research in key priority areas of: gender, inclusion and social change; labour mobility and integration; politics, governance and economic resilience; Papua New Guinea (and Bougainville); and security, regionalism and geopolitics. Phase II of the PRP will continue to be delivered by the DPA, Devpol and Lowy Institute consortium.

Related documents*

Name of document Year published Type
Independent Review of the Pacific Research Program and Management Response 2022 Review and management response
Pacific Research Program: Phase 2 Design Document 2022 Design document

* The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is committed to high standards of transparency and accountability in the management of the Australian aid program through publishing information on our website, including policies, plans, results, evaluations and research. Our practice is to publish documents after the partner government and any other partners directly involved in the delivery of the initiative have been consulted. Not all material published on this site is created by the Australian aid program and therefore not all documents reflect our views. In limited circumstances some information may be withheld for reasons including privacy and commercial sensitivity.

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