Making UP a World-Class University

Making UP a World-Class University

A former classmate of mine who was then starting her PhD in University of Michigan once told me that, introducing herself in one of her classes, she confidently told the group that she had her bachelor and master’s degree from University of the Philippines (UP). The group posed this question: “Where is that?… never heard of it before.”

University of the Philippines has always been considered the country’s top performing university as can be seen through its outstanding performance in research, national licensure examinations, and performance of its graduates. This is the case in so far as the contextual setting is the Philippines.

While UP has had a decent standing in the annual world university rankings in the past years, its standing has seen an unremitting decline in these later years. If Times Higher Education’s top 400 universities (2011–2012) and 100 most reputable universities (2012) were to be our basis, then there is a grave reason that UP has to wake up from its slumber. University of the Philippines (along with other reputable Philippine universities) failed to enter the list.

Given the fact that UP is a government-funded university which can share only a small amount of the annual national budget for education, it would seem nearly impossible for UP to keep pace with the performance of the world’s top universities whose funding/resource is remarkably a mile greater.

On the “lofty assumption” that UP has enough (if not more than enough) funding from the government and that its top-earning alumni graciously contribute to the university’s academic fund, then something can surely be done to make UP a world-class university.Perhaps, the following proposalsmay be considered:

1) A cheap tuition fee. By having a cheap tuition fee, UP can attract more top-performing high school students from all over the country (and from other countries) to take the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT) and eventually, have competent students who are willing to take the hard grind for scholastic pursuits.

2) Updated library resources. This means having a good quantity and quality of books and access to updated local and international journals whether in print or online.

3) Faculty members must be sent to top-performing universities abroad whether through university funding or scholarship grants from a foreign university—for graduate courses, research fellowship, or as visiting professors. This is one of the best ways to upgrade and further develop the capacities of UP’s faculty members.

4) Faculty members and students must be granted funding to present their researches in local and international conferences. Also, this is one of the best ways to upgrade and further develop the capacities of UP’s faculty members and students.

5) Invite or hire professors from top-performing universities. Through a high salary and/or an acquaintance, UP could attract professors from top-performing universities.

6) Undergraduate and graduate programs must be highly research-oriented. Being able to (regularly) publish research should be one of the course requirements for students, especially graduate students.
7) Small class size for both the undergraduate and graduate programs. This would encourage better participation and exchange of ideas during classes.

8) Scholarship grants and awards for top performing students. This would encourage academic excellence on the students.

9) Culture of critical thinkers. It is by instilling in the students the value of critical thinking in classroom discussions and research that we preserve or enhance UP’s culture of critical thinking.

10) High salary of faculty members. This would not only compensate the dedication and hard work of professors but also attract professors from other top-performing universities to teach in the university.

While the above are more important, the following proposals must be considered also: improved security in the campus, exposure through local and international competitions, having world-class engineering and science laboratories, academic freedom and freedom of expression,reduced or no teaching load for professors working on their research, exchange student program, and joint-program and affiliation with top performing universities.

I understand that the foregoing proposals—grounded on a lofty assumption of sufficient funding—purely makes UP’s being a world-class university an ideal—for now. But, at least, this might serve as a blueprint in the future—a distant future.

Yes, not at this time when the government needs to give a bigger share to the health sector than to education. Not at this time when the government couldn’t even control unremitting oil price hike. And, not at this time when the Philippines is still faced with the problems of poverty, corruption, and the non-participation of perhaps the majority of its citizenry.