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Fall in World Rankings: Decline in Quality of PHL Education?

DLSUs standings in the past years.The top four universities in the Philippines failed to enter the top 300 in the Times Higher Education Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings (QS) for 2011.

Though the University of the Philippines (UP) still leads first in the country, its ranking dropped to 332nd from 314th last year, according to the QS survey. This is not the UP’s lowest as it was ranked 398th in 2007.

Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) ranked 360th this year, dropping 53 points from last year’s 307th rank while the University of Santo Tomas (UST) left the 551-600 bracket to enter the 600+ bracket.

DLSU fell from the 451-500 bracket to 551-600 – a 100-point drop from last year, very different from the University’s 2005-2006, 392nd ranking.

Critics blame the budget cuts made in 2010 by the Aquino administration.

Kabataan party list representative, Raymond Palatino, said on GMA 7’s news program Saksi, “Ang Pilipinas po ay isa sa lowest spender on education sa buong South East Asian region. [The Philippines is one of the lowest spenders on education in the South East Asian Region],” implying that there is a direct link between investments on education and its quality.

“The [rankings] give a clear illustration of the link between investment and results in higher education… Countries that have cut funding for higher education have seen a gradual decline in the international standing of their universities,” QS Advisory Board Member John O’Leary explains in an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

DLSU President Br.Jun Erguiza FSC says that most of the top universities of the world receive significant amounts of subsidy. “If you take a look, many of the top universities are really government invested. There are not that many that are private universities.”

Part of the QS criteria is the quality of research produced by the academic institution, and Br. Jun explains that producing such research is expensive. “The main function of universities is the research production – that’s the service of the university; to provide new knowledge… and that is expensive.”

In private universities, a high amount of external subsidy is crucial to the success of research initiatives.

“The main source of income for the sustainability of private universities comes from tuition fees – that is not enough. What the students paid for with their tuition is education. But students don’t pay for the research. So we have to look for other sources of income,” he furthers.

Some private universities in other countries receive external funding from government.

The University of Auckland, for instance, is a state subsidized private university, which ranked 82 in the QS survey. It is the leading research university in New Zealand and is host to four of seven national Centers of Research Excellence.

University of California (UC) Berkeley, also a remarkable research facility that ranked 21st in the QS Survey, though it receives less subsidies. It, however, enjoys infrastructural blessings from the U.S. government. These facilities are the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Los Alamos National Laboratory

The current Aquino administration’s proposed national budget for state universities and colleges (SUC) in 2012 will cut down by P500 million. Private universities, however, are not directly affected by the budget cut.

Going beyond budget cuts

Not all members of the academe see budget cuts, as a big contributor to the decline of Philippine Universities in International rankings.

Licelle R. Cobrador, a professor of the UP College of Law, believes that the budget cut is only a contributing factor to the perceived decline in educational quality.

“I think the shortcomings are across the board not just one area. The academe –administration and professors—as well as the students. The ‘publish or perish’ requirement must be strictly adhered to, professors must keep abreast of the challenges brought about the ever-changing world and students must learn to be more focused,” explained Cobrador.

Dr. John Paul C. Vergara, Vice President for the Loyola Schools of ADMU agrees with Cobrador. “It is probably unfair to directly attribute the decline in the rankings to the budget cuts, since so many other factors more directly related to the rankings are involved. Note also that budget cuts affect state colleges and universities and have minimal impact on private universities.”

Also taken into consideration is the criteria that QS uses in ranking the world universities.

There are six criteria used by the QS survey: academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), citations per faculty (20%), faculty student ratio (20%), international students (5%), and international faculty (5%). Both academic and employer reputation are based on a global survey the QS conducts each year.

Cobrador sees that less emphasis should be given to academic reputation, seeing as IVY League Universities have so much edge in that area from other universities around the world.

Vergara sees bias is present in almost any system, the QS rankings included. “What we ought to do is continue to improve in areas that we find important, and do these because we need to and because these are consistent with our mission to educate our students and contribute to national development,” he explains.

Br. Jun finds certain questionable qualifications of the survey. Br. Jun points out that the peer review criteria of the survey might be subject to bias.

The QS currently considers 2,000 and evaluates 700 universities in the world, ranking the top 400. Results of the survey are published yearly, and are released during the months of September or October. Results can be viewed online, even those of past rankings.

Michelle Lojo

By Michelle Lojo

David Pagulayan

By David Pagulayan

4 replies on “Fall in World Rankings: Decline in Quality of PHL Education?”

“The [rankings] give a clear illustration of the link between investment and results in higher education… ” Hm, I didn’t know that this is one of the influential factors.

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