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Volunteer Stories 

Volunteer assignments are locally-led by our University partners.  Here are some of their stories.

Solomon Islands National University (SINU) focuses on quality assurance and the student experience

SINU’s recently appointed Vice-Chancellor, Professor Transform Aqorau, contacted AAVA in late 2023 to express his keen interest in filling a highly specialised academic volunteer assignment with governance, quality assurance and academic capacity-building responsibilities.


The perfect match for this assignment came in the person of Professor Angela Hill, who had contacted Australian Academic Volunteers Abroad with an expression of interest just a month earlier. With extensive senior leadership experience in higher education that includes working in Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka, Angela was previously Dean, Learning, Teaching and Student Engagement at James Cook University and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) at Edith Cowan University.  Professor Hill’s years of experience in academic leadership and her focus on teaching and learning and the student experience, resonated with Vice-Chancellor Aqorau’s ambitions for SINU.


One of the newer universities in the Pacific, SINU was established in January 2013 to provide quality and affordable education. With 200 staff and over 8,000 students in five faculties, the University has a critical role play in the future of the Solomon Islands.  


Professor Hill’s 17-month assignment, approved and enabled by the Australian Volunteers Program, will commence remotely in August 2024, with a three month in-country component scheduled for early 2025.  The objectives of her assignment include:

  • guiding a comprehensive review of all academic programmes and policies at the University;

  • supporting the development of strategies that lead to accreditation; and

  • initiating a suite of capacity building programmes that enhance the capabilities of academic staff.

July 2024

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Professor Angela Hill
AAVA Volunteer

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Professor Transform Aqorau, Vice-Chancellor, Solomon Islands National University

Closing the leadership gap

The University of the South Pacific (USP), founded in 1968, is one of only ten supra-national universities globally. Owned by the governments of 12 Pacific Island countries, USP enrols 20,000 students and employs 1,600 staff.

Retaining, attracting and developing senior academic leaders is a key challenge faced by the University and others in the region.  To assist USP in its on-going efforts to address the senior leadership gap in many academic disciplines, Professor Graham Schaffer was engaged for a 12-month hybrid assignment to establish an academic volunteering program designed specifically to attract academic leaders who can support the disciplines and enable the careers of others.  Other specific objectives for Graham’s assignment are to support curriculum renewal and development, to develop research collaborations and to contribute to teaching. Approved and enabled by the Australian Volunteers Program, this assignment was shaped and led by USP.  

“The reality for all universities is that senior scholars are needed to lead disciplines, to foster quality teaching and research, and to partner effectively with government, industry, the professions and the community,” Graham said. 

The cause of the academic leadership gap is complex and includes tight budgets, a hotly competitive and global marketplace for talent and barriers to enabling the promotion of early and mid-career staff when senior leaders aren’t available to guide, support and enable their careers. 

Graham started working with USP remotely in February 2024, followed by a three month in-country component from April to July.  His appointment as an Adjunct Professor and volunteer will continue through February 2025.

July 2024


Professor Graham Schaffer on assignment at the University of the South Pacific

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