Pursuing academic excellence in UP through faculty development
Pursuing academic excellence in UP through faculty development
STAR SCIENCE - Gisela P. Padilla-Concepcion, Ph.D. (The Philippine Star) - January 23, 2014 - 12:00am

The University of the Philippines, the country’s premier institution of higher learning, is also the country’s premier research university. UP has over 55,000 students drawn from the country’s best and brightest; a corps of faculty members and researchers with outstanding track records in research and creative work. UP has the country’s most state-of-the-art laboratories and multidisciplinary research centers in the sciences, engineering, agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, biotechnology and biodiversity; centers for the arts and humanities; and regional and cultural studies centers in strategic locations across the country. With its vast scope and reach, the diversity of its programs and fields of study, and its verdant campuses, UP is a fitting home for the country’s largest community of scholars.

As the national university, UP is mandated to perform its unique and distinctive leadership role in teaching and research; to harness its considerable body of knowledge in the service of the Filipino people; and to produce from among its students the ethical, committed and progressive leaders who will steer the nation toward true and lasting development. In this globalized, highly competitive and rapidly changing world, where knowledge, information and innovation are the driving forces behind development, UP will play an even bigger role in shaping the country’s future.

The faculty: UP’s heart and soul

Critical to achieving this is the faculty, considered to be the heart and soul of any university. It is the faculty who are principally involved not only in the transmission but also in the creation of knowledge. It is the faculty that gives UP its institutional character. The success of UP’s transformation into a research university with national and regional relevance and a global orientation will depend on its faculty. Key to this is to significantly increase the number of high-quality faculty — excellent, highly trained, expert faculty — with Ph.D. degrees and postdoctoral training in key research areas; faculty who will be responsible for the research mentoring and leadership training of the students, and who will play a major role in establishing, nurturing and sustaining a vibrant research culture and productive research environment in UP through the generations to come.

However, UP is currently losing its faculty, some to retirement, others to greener pastures in private universities or abroad. To fulfill its mandate to conduct research and serve the country, if it is to become a world-class and internationally recognized research institution, UP must increase the number of its Ph.D.-level faculty. With this in mind, UP has embarked on several programs, each with the goal of boosting the number of UP’s high-quality faculty.

The UP Expanded Modernization Program-Doctoral Studies Fund

The UP Modernization Program-Doctoral Studies Fund was established under UP president Francisco Nemenzo’s UP Modernization Program, with its vision of a 21st-century university. The Doctoral Studies Program aimed to develop 100 Ph.D. faculty members across the UP System. Over the years, however, it has become clear that the program’s current conditions for support have yet to translate to any significant increase in the number of Ph.D.-holders in UP.

Following a review and revision of its terms and conditions, the Doctoral Studies Program was expanded to make it more flexible, more open and responsive to the needs of the UP faculty and to present-day realities. Through the UP Expanded Modernization Program-Doctoral Studies Fund, UP subsidizes the doctoral or postdoctoral studies of its faculty within the university or abroad, with preference given to faculty pursuing studies in leading ASEAN universities and other Asian universities.

All regular UP faculty with a good track record and a recognized potential for contributing to a research field, with or without MA or MS degrees, may apply for doctoral support. The length of the fellowship has been extended from three years to a maximum of five years. For full-time local fellowships, the Doctoral Studies Fund provides the fellow with free tuition and other related fees, a monthly stipend, book allowance and other benefits. For foreign fellowships, fellows are provided pre-travel and clothing allowances; funds for tuition and related fees, foreign travel, a living allowance and other benefits. A government passport is used for travel. The Department of Foreign Affairs is informed of the fellowship and the pertinent embassy or consulate is updated on the status of the fellowship and the financial obligations of the faculty fellow to the university.

The UP Visiting Professor Program

To increase its number of Ph.D.-mentors for young faculty working on their doctoral and postdoctoral degrees as well as to improve and encourage the culture of research among its faculty and students, UP has also established the UP Visiting Professor Program under the UP Expanded Modernization Program. Inspired by the Department of Science and Technology’s short-term Balik Scientist Program, the program aims to attract foreign-based Filipino and foreign professors and researchers willing to help mentor and produce Ph.D. graduates in UP, and to participate actively in the development of UP as a research university. The visiting professor is matched with a counterpart UP faculty researcher as a potential research collaborator. A work plan is made to build and support the research collaboration involving the two professors and their graduate students.

UP provides support for the UP visiting professor for one to two months each year, including the roundtrip airfare and a reasonable living allowance.  With strong justification, the visit can be as long as six months to a year. An official appointment is given so that he/she becomes part of the UP’s faculty roster and thereby contributes to UP’s international ranking. Research agreements, sandwich Ph.D. programs or joint-degree granting programs are strongly encouraged between the visiting professor’s university and UP.

The Honors Faculty Fast-Track System

From the ranks of the UP students may emerge the most promising mentors and professors, able to guide the generations of students who come after them. Under the Honors Faculty Fast-Track System, UP aims to recruit the honor graduates of its undergraduate programs to become faculty members and to pursue an academic research career in UP. Honor graduates are offered an attractive academic research development package, including higher instructor positions — Instructor 3 to cum laudes, Instructor 4 to magna cum laudes, and Instructor 5 to summa cum laudes.

The young honor-graduate faculty is guided in planning his/her graduate studies so that this is aligned with the institute’s research priorities. This aims to create a critical mass of research faculty with expertise in related fields and to promote the growth of the institute’s research capabilities. Other components of the academic research package for honor graduates are: protected time for research, with a 3-6 unit teaching deloading to enable him/her to continue the undergraduate thesis and publish a paper; intensive training by a senior faculty on leadership, research mentoring and research-based teaching; funding support for doctoral studies, either in leading institutes within UP or in the best universities abroad.

The Foreign-Trained Filipino Ph.D. Faculty Recruitment Program

Like the UP Visiting Professor Program, the UP Foreign-Trained Filipino Ph.D. Faculty Recruitment Program is based on the DOST’s long-term Balik Scientist Program. UP aims to increase the number and improve the quality of UP faculty, and reduce the tendency for inbreeding, by embarking on a massive campaign to recruit Filipino doctoral and postdoctoral fellows abroad to return to the Philippines and become UP faculty. Incentives include a start-up research grant of ~P2.5 million; a fair and attractive faculty rank depending on the number of high-quality publications and other academic qualifications of the doctoral or postdoctoral fellow; a relocation package of about  ~P0.5 million, and other economic benefits and incentives.

Serving UP, serving the country

The faculty and students are the heart, life-blood and pride of UP. The university exhorts its faculty and students to do more, to become more, to aim even higher, through continuing education and self-improvement, through excellent teaching and mentorship, through rigorous and dynamic research and creative work, and through a commitment to use one’s knowledge and learning in true service to the country and its people. A university is only as good as the people within it. Through the continued renewal and development of its faculty and students, UP has what it takes to attain academic excellence and become the great national and regional university it is meant to be.

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GP Padilla-Concepcion is a professor at the Marine Science Institute, UP Diliman where she teaches graduate courses and leads research on marine drug discovery and related biomedical research. She is an academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology. She is currently serving as the vice president for academic affairs of the UP System. E-mail at gpconcepcion@gmail.com.  


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