Chancellor Caesar Saloma’s report is given purely in numerical terms and graphs.[1] The Chancellor presumably wants the figures to speak for themselves and reflect his own concerns relating to faculty quality and operational inefficiencies in the university. Data are provided regarding the education background of the faculty, the dominance of undergraduate instruction or conversely the small enrollment and output of graduate programs, the constancy of the admission quota despite rising demand for admission, and the under-utilization of university resources as seen in the low enrollment rate of qualified applicants, as well as the unsubscribed enrollment quotas in more than half of the university’s programs. One should add to these the serious inequality of access to UP Diliman (UPD) education. I try to discuss these issues in turn.

1. The first table shows that the university has concentrated its instructional resources on undergraduate students. Of the more than 4,500 it graduated per year in the past 14 years, only 74 or 1.6% graduated with the PhD degree and 634 or 13.9% with master’s degrees. The College of Science, which has the largest contingent of faculty with doctoral degrees, 150 in all, produced only 14 PhDs per year in the past 11 years while the College of Social Science produced only 9 per year. This allocation of instructional resources is highly inefficient considering the crucial importance of highly skilled manpower in national development. The lack of highly skilled manpower, especially in Science, Mathematics and Engineering, has inhibited the development of innovative capacity for economic development. The generally poor quality of education at all levels is partly explained by the scarcity of highly trained teachers and writers of learning materials. UPD has concentrated its instructional resources in producing first-degree graduates which are already in excess supply. The unemployment rate among college graduates has persisted at almost double-digit levels in the past three decades. UPD has operated largely as a teaching university that produces mostly undergraduates, a function also performed by 2000 other colleges and universities.

2. In his second table, the Chancellor gives the academic background and position of the faculty in each of the university’s 28 academic units. On average, the proportion of faculty with a PhD or equivalent degree was only 31.2%. This low rate has persisted for decades for there has been no serious attempt or policy to raise the ratio to 100%, the ratio found in the world’s best universities. The UP administration has neither exerted pressure nor provided sufficient incentives for the units to raise their hiring standards. It appears the units made independent hiring criteria. The percentage of faculty with doctoral degree across units ranges from 23% (Asian Institute of Tourism) to 95.8% (School of Economics, which attained 100% PhD faculty as of 2013). Notable is the large contingent of faculty (in absolute numbers) with the PhD degree in the College of Science, 150 in all. This unit in principle possesses the capacity to boost the country’s scientific and innovative manpower. Yet it graduates only14 PhDs a year. (Table S1)

3. There is much under-utilization of resources in the university. Its admission quota has remained virtually constant at about 3,800 despite significant increases in demand for UPD places in the last decade.  Consequently, an increasing proportion of applicants get rejected each year. Moreover, an alarming proportion of those who qualify for admission do not enroll. In 2012, only 64.8% of those who qualified for admission enrolled (Table 7). This means that as much as 35.2% of the quota for available places was wasted or some 1,300 bright students failed to benefit from UPD education. Over time, the lost UPD students amount to several thousands. This calls for a study and serious discussion of the reasons for the no-shows and which qualified applicants tended not to enroll.  The fact also raises the question why the university has not found solutions to the long-standing problem. Having an effectively scheduled wait-listing for the thousands on the borderline of the UPCAT cutoff score could have readily replaced the no-shows.

4. The UPD admission quota is a summation of the quotas decided by the academic units. Most of the units have not changed their quotas despite changing demand, hence the constancy of the university-wide quota.  Some units have experienced increasing excess demand, others falling demand. The Chancellor reports that more units (36) have undersubscribed quotas than those that have fully subscribed quotas (32). (Table 11, Table S1).  Correspondingly, the student-teacher ratio also varied, ranging from 7.7 to 43.4.[2] The adjusted ratio was 7.7 to 52.3.To be noted is the under-subscription of physics in the College of Science and geodetic and mining programs in the College of Engineering. Physics is a fundamental field with wide application, while geodetic and mining expertise faces high potential demand in our growing energy and mining industries. The situation deserves serious deliberation within each unit and in the university as a whole.

5. Finally I call attention to the serious inequality of access to UP education. UPD stands out among the nearly 2,000 colleges and universities for its avowed quality. The college-bound youth appreciate this fact so that large numbers of them apply for UPD’s limited quota. In 2012, 48,486 applied for the 3,800 UPD slots. More youth from well-off families with more than P500,000 annual income applied than the youth from the poorest families with less than P100,000 annual income.  Relatively fewer poor applicants pass the UPCAT. The qualifying rate (number qualifying /number applying) increases as the applicants’ family income increases. In 2012, the qualifying rate among the poorest was 3.5%, the next poorest, 5.7% and the richest, 16.0%. The chances of poor students qualifying for UPD admission appears to decline through time as seen in the declining qualifying rate of the poorest youth from 2008 to 2012. (Table S2). Poor applicants who have inferior formal and informal college preparatory education have had to compete against an ever increasing number of applicants that included an increasing number of rich youth. Note that not all qualified applicants decided to enroll. A higher no-show rate may be expected from the very rich and the very poor qualified applicants. The rich face a wider choice of schools for they can afford to enroll in high cost universities here and abroad. They may decide not to enroll in UPD even if qualified. The poor from provincial areas who have no guaranteed support for enrolling in UPD may find studying there too expensive or more expensive than enrolling in a nearby school. There is a strong possibility they have not been adequately informed of the STFAP. Here we fault the University’s authorities on student admission and scholarship for not coordinating their effort for effectively and timely advertising the STFAP and available scholarship and loan programs for poor students. These offices need to develop an effective information campaign to encourage poor bright students to apply to UPD. Information on STFAP and other support programs must be widely and promptly disseminated before the deadline for application. The application for admission should include an application for STFAP and available scholarships. Information on admission and STFAP and other scholarship grants should be given simultaneously so that the student can prepare for enrollment in UP.  The benefits must be guaranteed and made available at the very instant a student arrives to enroll at UPD. Timely information and other measures will encourage high school students to study harder and choose a higher quality high school in order to qualify for UPD education. Democratizing UPD education may also entail closer advising and remedial instruction for poor students.

6. Except for UP Manila, which attracts many applicants to its health education program, particularly nursing, other campuses draw small numbers of applicants relative to their quotas as compared to UPD. (Table 8, Table S3). The qualified/applicant ratios range from 35.2% (UP Mindanao) to 76.7% (UP Baguio). UPD’s ratio is only 7.7%, UP Manila, 10.9%. It is apparent that applicants are drawn by high quality. The UP System does not publicize the comparative strength of its various campuses and their programs. Is the quality of the provincial campuses so poor they are unable to attract more applicants from their locations despite expected saving of distance-related costs?  UPLB is a special case, for it has developed into a comprehensive university campus with a number of high quality programs. Yet it has not developed commensurate prestige for its strong programs. Possibly, some of its programs are underutilized. Why not publicize its strong programs?

The university definitely cannot content itself with a faculty of whom only 31% hold doctoral degrees, or with the misallocation of its resources to undergraduate instruction, or with a graduation rate of only 74 PhD’s a year. It is almost unconscionable that the College of Science, with 150 faculty holding PhDs degree produces only 14 PhDs a year. This amounts to saying that about 11 PhD faculty on average are annually required to produce a single PhD graduate. The School of Economics, whose faculty are all PhD-holders from respected world universities including UP, produces less than two a year, implying about the same ratio. We may have to look into in-breeding in some units. Even more discomfiting is the questionable quality of some UP programs and campuses. Consequently UP suffers from a very low ranking among the world’s top 500 universities and among Asia-Pacific universities because of its weak faculty and academic and research performance. Yet there has been no appreciable endeavor by any of the past and present administrations to enable UP to achieve world-class standing. There appears to be no significant appreciation of the value of advanced instruction and research for the nation’s social and economic development. The administration and many of its faculty appear to be content for UP to be just the premier university in the country. Obviously it is a very limited notion of excellence which is content to brag of its superiority over the large mass of the country’s mediocre colleges and universities. It recalls the saying: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” UP has followed the politicians’ bent to spread itself thinly instead of standing up to world notice. The university has dissipated its resources over 7 campuses, many of still unknown and unproven quality. It was a foolhardy ambition to establish a UP presence all over the country by establishing campuses. UP’s presence can be more valuably spread by granting generous scholarships to the most talented youth everywhere, for them to enroll in UPD and UPLB. That would be cheaper than replicating physical facilities and overhead expenses in so many campuses. Several campuses have only about 500 students. They could have been absorbed in the three major universities where the students would have gotten higher quality education.  Some of UPD’s units already have a critical mass of highly trained faculty that can be mobilized to produce more graduate degrees.  Currently promotion is partly based on research output. Why should not hiring and promotion be also based on academic attainment?

We need to solve the regressive distribution of students in UPD on social as well as efficiency grounds. When we concentrate our instructional resources on the rich youth, we train only a very small number of talented youth. We do not draw from the large pool of talent that exists in the lower income families. It is assumed that inherent talent is randomly distributed among the whole population. The university should try to locate the inherently bright, wherever they may be, not just from a small group of rich families in urban centers who have the advantage of superior college preparatory education.

The figures also point to significant inefficiencies in UPD’s operation. These are fairly simple problems with simple solutions, such as information campaigns, wait-listing, advising, remedial programs, and practical loan programs. Many academic units may not even be aware of the underutilization of their faculty and other resources. The authorities in charge of admission, scholarship and student services may not yet have fully appreciated the consequences of current practices that have led to the regressive distribution of admitted students and large number of no-shows.

The Chancellor’s tables are a wake-up call to address soft spots and soft thinking in UP Diliman. It would be very useful to have the other six campuses present a similar report.

[1] The tables are consecutively numbered. The reader produced the summary tables numbered S1 to S3.

[2] The number of students in each unit is adjusted upward for graduate students. The University gives 1.5 more teaching credit for graduate teaching than for undergraduate teaching.



Table S2: Please click to enlarge


Table S3