University of the Philippines and the nation

CROSSROADS (Toward Philippine Economic and Social Progress) - Gerardo P. Sicat - The Philippine Star

Last Sunday was graduation day at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman. This is the lead campus of the large UP system. Some 4,000 students earned professional degrees – a time of commencement, a celebration.  For the university, it is an event in its long evolution as an educational institution.

Of the total graduates, 700 received master’s degrees and around 60, PhDs (doctors of philosophy). Also, among the bachelor’s degree holders, 20 were summa cum laudes, 200 magna cum laudes and 800 cum laudes.

Recently, I had occasion to talk to UP president Alfredo Pascual on the problems of the UP. He also gave me some data collected by my colleagues at the UP School of Economics which he studies and learns from. Some of that discussion is reflected in what I write today.

“Statistics of graduates reveal many things.” The number and profile of the graduates enables us to understand a lot about the institution itself. It tells us about the nation’s priorities. It also provides a measure of the state of development of the institution.

Only 19 percent of the 2014 graduates received post-graduate degrees, almost entirely master’s degrees. A mere 1.5 percent of total graduates received PhDs.

These numbers tell us that UP is essentially and foremost still mainly an undergraduate university. Diliman is the premiere campus within a UP system of campuses. Any further effort to account for all the graduates will only reduce the number of post-graduate degree finishers.

This is a very sobering statistic for the nation. The premier university in a country with 100 million people has only a limited capacity to produce, reproduce and sustain its supply of scientists, administrators and technologists. We still have a long and difficult road to traverse.

“Link between investment in education and economic growth.” A recent World Bank study on the relationship of investments in education and economic growth focused on East Asian countries has re-asserted the widely known connection between investment in education and economic performance.

Commenting specifically on the issue of universities in applied research and technology in the developing countries of East Asia, the report said: “In all other countries, with the possible exception of China, there is very limited engagement of universities in applied research and technology development, or even only technology upgrading, indicative of a disconnect between firms and universities. “

With direct reference to the Philippines, the report said that the country is still some decades away from achieving the degree of technological capabilities that is observed in industrial nations between universities and industry.

To be fair, the report states that in the more technologically advanced of East Asia’s middle-income countries “only a few research universities are sources of ideas and engage in applied research with commercial applications.”

To develop future capability in this direction, the report highlights the necessity of undertaking public policies that correct for the inadequacies of the market to appreciate research, science, technology and math as well as to develop programs of assistance, through scholarships and loans for poor and disadvantaged students.

“The public support of university financing in some ASEAN countries.” To highlight the problem that the UP faces, it would be useful to examine what some of our neighbors are doing to support educational investments first, in education in general, and second, in terms of public expenditure on their premier universities.

By and large, the Philippines lags behind most of East Asia in terms of public expenditure devoted to research and development. The per capita expenditure on research and development in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, not to mention the economically advanced East Asian countries like South Korea and Japan is a high multiple of this expenditure.

(Among the industrializing countries, such expenditure is at least one percent of GDP, but is more substantial for the advanced industrial economies. The Philippine data hovers just close to 0.2 percent of GDP.)

Public expenditure for tertiary education on a per capita basis also demonstrates this lag. The per capita public expenditure on tertiary education is lowest for the Philippines when compared with the other original four ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand).

The presence of the private sector in the tertiary educational sector notwithstanding, the allocations given by the national government to UP compares very poorly with those of ASEAN state supported universities.

A comparison of the budgetary support (converted to current dollars) in some universities in ASEAN is in order. I converted these allocations in terms of equivalent budgetary support that is allotted to UP. This means using the UP funding from the government as the denominator, thus translating all the budget information for the ASEAN countries in terms of an index or a multiple of the UP budget.

Here are the data that can be summarized from my computed table. SINGAPORE: National University of Singapore has 4.8 times the UP budget; Nanyang University 3.4 times. MALAYSIA:  each of the four universities exceeds the appropriation for the UP: the University of Malaya, 1.4 times; Malaysia Kebangan Universiti, 1.14 times; Sains Universiti, 1.36 times; Teknologi Malaysia, 1.03. THAILAND: Mahidol University, 1.8 times.

Bear in mind that the UP budget is for the entire campus system. It represents the allocation of public money for a very large, almost a multiple university system. It is possible to reduce these data in terms of enrolment per student.

In this context, we can appreciate the smaller budget that is allocated by its government for the University of Indonesia which has a smaller enrolment. It has a budget that is only 0.39 times that of the UP. However, if we take account of the public expenditure per enrolled students, the budget for the University of Indonesia would probably not be that much small compared to that of the UP. I do not know the enrolment figure of the University of Indonesia, but total enrolment in the UP system is close to 60,000 students. Incidentally, by this comment, the state support for the other ASEAN universities magnifies even more because they also have much smaller enrolments compared to UP.

It is of course very difficult to make straightforward comparisons of these government subsidies for state universities, given many details that we do not know about these budgets.

What comes out clearly, however, is the small size of the government budget being allocated to the UP when compared with those of our neighbors in ASEAN.            

(To be continued)

My email is: [email protected] Visit this site for more information, feedback and commentary: http://econ.upd.edu.ph/gpsicat/











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