Photo courtesy of http://centennial.up.edu.ph
The University of the Philippines caught itself in an almost trance-like situation when the 2008 Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) released its top 500 universities in the world that ranked the university 276 while it’s neighbor in the nearby Katipunan Road, Ateneo de Manila University got a higher ranking of 254. De La Salle University ranked 415th and University of Santo Tomas 470th.
The University defended itself by saying that it has never agreed to participate in this survey and that it was asked to pay 48,930 USD or roughly two million pesos to have a banner advertisement on the website of the organization which the University declined and therefore, as the tone of the press released by the UP System Information Office on Oct 23, 2008 and published in The Philippine Star on October 31, 2008 suggested, caused the University to be unfairly ranked.
UP officials added that UP was not invited to participate and therefore had not provided any data; they do not know where and how the figures were obtained on which the ranking was based.
This caused an outrage, not only because the University was ranked using dubious research methodology but also because the Ateneo de Manila, a private, Jesuit-run university ranked higher than UP. It wouldn’t cause too much stir in the University when it got the ranking it has this year, which was a giant leap from 398th last year to its current 276th rank had Ateneo got a ranking lower than UP’s. This contention may be repudiated by most of UP constituents but this cannot be truer.
The University still maintains snobbery amid reality that in a globalized world survival means being pitted against competitors and being ranked in the process for the benefit of the market, for a consumer to choose the best commodity in exchange of his hard-earned capital.
Ranking Universities based on established parameters such as peer evaluation has long been in practiced in the US to give prospective students a guide on the best university they can enroll themselves in with the discipline of their choice.
UP decried that data for indicators such as student-to-faculty ratio, the number of foreign faculty and foreign students in the university, and the number of citations in internationally accredited publications “depend on the information that participating institutions submit. An institution’s index may be easily distorted if it fails to submit data for the pertinent indicators, or if it chooses not to participate.”
Then allow me to ask, why didn’t UP provide completely all the information asked? Why did it have to hold back to these information if UP does not fear to be found wanting?
UP, by not participating in this survey, is simply trying to evade the bigger issue – its decline. A declining quality of education that has as many reasons as the number of degrees offered in the university, but that can be summed up in quite a simple sentence: UP lacks fund.
But with the new charter, UP can now take advantage of other means to finance itself aside from the appropriations provided by the Philippine government.
The country’s education system is a good way of predicting the future of the nation. If the supposed best Filipino university is crumbling like its old infrastructures and has gone obsolete like its collection of books in its libraries, then the future of this country is also as bleak.
Instead of giving justifications why it was ranked 276th (and Ateneo 254th) UP must tackle the real problem of decline. It may challenge the veracity of the result but it can never challenge the fact that UP has been left behind by the premier universities of its neighbors in Southeast Asia.