Friday, September 16, 2011

University of the Philippines President reveals two-pronged strategy to cement U.P.'s status as First among Equals

By Chanda Shahani

University of the Philippines (U.P.) President Alfredo E. Pascual revealed yesterday a two-pronged strategy to cement U.P.'s status as the country's premier university during his investiture speech during rites held on September 15, 2011 at the University Theater at U.P., Diliman.

Pascual said that academic excellence and operational excellence were the two main strategies that would bring back to its customary role as first among equals of other Philippine universities

He said that academic excellence entails developing students, researchers, staff and faculty members into “a pool of responsible and competent leaders who create world-class innovative and practical technologies that can address the problems of the country with food, energy, environment, industrial development, livelihood and employment; who produce creative works that can uplift the spirit of our people and articulate the essence of our culture and national identity; and who conduct exemplary extension services that can transform our communities.”

As regards operational excellence, Pascual said that it is achievable only through administrative efficiency and financial sustainability, the quickest approach of which is to put in place “an integrated information and communication system that will tie our units together into one UP.”

Recognizing the need to have decision-making based on accurate and real-time information, he said that UP will soon launch the e-UP which will interconnect and harmonize ICT systems and infrastructure across all UP campuses.

Pascual explained that U.P., would only succeed with “the support staff, alumni, students and with the grace of God.” He added that while U.P. was once a great center of learning in Asia, “comparative surveys now show that U.P.'s preeminent position has failed.”

“U.P.'s path of greatness lies not just in the past but beyond,” he said, adding that U.P.'s role in national development was critical in helping to tackle problems which have resisted solutions for decades. “The magnitude is daunting.”

The remaking of U.P. as a great university can only be achieved with the collective labor of everybody involved, he said. “There is one U.P., seven (7) constituent universities and one autonomous college – but still One U.P.,” he said.

That One U.P. is actually enormous. Pascual said that the entire U.P. System is made up of 5000 faculty, 50,000 students , 10,000 staff and 260,000 alumni.

As the country's only national university, U.P. has to lead the country to national development and global competitiveness, he said. U.P.'s academic excellence were critical in solving the problems besetting the country, he said and called for students, researchers, and faculty to be combined into a pool of operational excellence.

Pascual identified mission critical areas for research for U.P. and the nation in the areas of food, energy, industrial development, livelihood, and creative works (national cultures and extension services).

Speaking amidst applause from a mostly U.P. audience, Pascual reminded them that U.P.'s track record of excellence remained: with 37 national scientists out of 39 being from U.P.; and with having 20 centers of academic excellence as certified by the Commission on Higher Education and Development. He also said that the U.P. faculty had the most number of publications in international and refereed publications

“But we can do more,” Pascual said. He said that he wanted to see more Iskos or Iskolar ng Bayans “regardless of economic status.”

“We need to review the U.P. College Admissions test (UPCAT) and the Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) as well as improve scholarship programs,” he said. Pascual also tacitly acknowledged the seminal speech on the diminishing character of the University of the Philippines given on June 25, 2010 by former Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo at U.P. Diliman when he stressed that U.P. needed to take more steps “to improve the public character of the university.”

To buttress his point, Pascual said that U.P.'s general education program has to be improved so that ethics, civics, public and national concerns were included. It was also necessary to “give the students a global orientation,” he said. U.P. must also expose students to the basic tenets of entrepreneurship through business enterprises,” he added.

Amidst applause from the audience, Pascual said that U.P. will also finance advanced studies for junior faculty and provide educational materials. He said that it was important to confer the recognition of professors emeriti only from among the most outstanding professors in their fields.

Referring indirectly to U.P.'s inadequate budgetary allocation as submitted by the Department of Budget and Management to Congress, Pascual said that government support for U.P. should “not be regarded as an expense but as an investment that yields copious dividends for the country and the people.”

“Education should be accessible to the people and this is not because we have as reputation to protect, but because we have a country he said,” to warm applause from the audience.

In terms of strategic initiatives the land assets of U.P. needed to be maximized in a optimal manner, he said. There needs to be a proper appreciation of all properties and a master development plan for resource generation for the entire U.P. System is being worked on,” he said.

He also referred to the issue of intellectual property as the BOR has approved the revised UP intellectual property rights policy.

On the issue of raising resources independent of the budget from the national government, Pascual said the process of bringing a viable research finding from the laboratory to the market needs acceleration so that U.P. can better be able to generate resources to fulfill is mandate.

Pascual, a former Alumni Regent on U.P.'s Board of regents, said “there will be a seamless partnership between U.P. and the U.P. Alumni network in the service of the university. He said that the Univesity of the Philippines Charter of 2008 (R.A. 9500) granted 150% tax deductibility to donations to U.P., and “this can be considered a material inducement to prospective donors.”

Stressing the need for higher state subsidy, Pascual stressed, “Government financial support for UP is not an expense, but an investment that will yield copious dividends for our country and people.”

“We must continue to demand increases in state subsidy for (the University of the Philippines), increases in the pay of our faculty and staff, and the upgrading of our facilities deserving of a national university,” he said.

He said that the UP community will not waver in the efforts “to restore UP to its preeminent status in the world of higher education and to ensure that the education it offers is accessible to the least of our people.”

“As the national university, UP must lead our country toward true national development and global competitiveness while nurturing the spirit of our nationhood,” he said.

Another project is the Green UP which aims, among others, “to make…campuses environment-friendly while saving on the cost of utilities, such as electricity and water.”

 Describing the ideal that would lead to the formation of young minds from the bellows and forges of a U.P. experience, Pascual quoted from Murray Bartlett, the first U.P. President and an American, who stressed on December 20, 1911 that:

"The atmosphere of this place must be filled with those great ideals that throughout the pages of history have been the true cause of greatness of men and nations. The real wealth of the country is not to be found in its material resources, but in the strength and courage of its manhood and the purity of its womanhood. The university must be a training ground for the development of character. Our alma mater is not to breed aristocrats, but unselfish workers for the common good."

In his speech, the U.P. President also quoted from Jose P. Rizal's "Letter to the Women of Malolos," written on February 22, 1899, where Rizal urged the women of Malolos to: 

"Awaken and prepare the mind of the child for every good and desirable idea – love for honor, sincere and firm character, clear mind, clean conduct, noble action, love for one’s fellow men, respect for God – teach this to your children. And because life is full of sorrows and perils, fortify their character against any difficulty, strengthen their hearts against any danger. The country should not expect honor and prosperity so long as the education of the children is defective, so long as the women who raise the children are enslaved and ignorant. Nothing can be drunk in a turbid and bitter spring. No sweet fruit can be picked from a sour seed"
Drawing the analogy between the past and the present, the U.P. President went on to praise such U.P. Diliman graduates as John Gabriel Pelias, who has had the highest grade point average of U.P. Diliman summa cum laude graduates and who went on to serve his country by returning to U.P. to teach. He also praised the 2011 Miss Universe beauty contestant, U.P. Diliman graduate Shamcey Supsup who graduated magna cum laude and who topped the architectural board exams. He called her a combination of "brains and beauty."

Pascual said that U.P. students' ingenuity were at the forefront of their being able to maximize their learning experiences at U.P. despite antiquated facilities and a lack of resources.

(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary. He has an A.B. Comparative Literature degree from U.P Diliman and a Master in Entrepreneurship (M.E.) degree from the Asian Institute of Management. He is also a former business page reporter of the Philippine STAR).

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