Private universities’ quest to improve degree quality and graduate employability in the Philippines

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Roberto Laurel
Roberto Laurel

Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) is a private institution with five campuses throughout the Philippines. LPU’s strategic direction is the alignment of research with all facets of curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities of the university. Roberto Laurel, son of LPU’s founder, is chancellor of three of its campuses. Tony Martin asked him about the demands of providing higher education for the country’s 100 million population.

Some 2,300 higher education institutions (HEIs) serve the Philippines’ 100 million population. What are the main challenges that face universities and colleges in the Philippines in fulfilling the country’s needs for skills and economic development?

The quality of teaching and learning, mismatch between skills taught in higher education institutions (HEIs) and skills required by industry, lack of researchbased instruction, inadequate investment in research and development by both public and private sectors, weak academeindustry-government linkage, lack of government support for priority areas/disciplines, the brain drain of trained manpower, and the massification of education are among the challenges faced by HEIs in the Philippines.

What accreditation schemes exist within the Philippines to help students to make their choice of a university?

There are at least three accreditation levels that guide students in their choice of a university. First, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) vertical typology identifies schools according to status granted – autonomous, deregulated or regulated – with the autonomous status granted the widest latitude in terms of freedom from CHED supervision. The horizontal typology classifies schools into professional schools, colleges, and universities. Second, several independent accreditation agencies evaluate the quality of academic programmes by level of excellence, with level IV as the highest. Third, passing the respective professional board examination is a requirement for practising certain professions. Autonomous universities with accredited programmes and with high board passing percentages are market signals for quality education that guide students in their choice of tertiary-level education.

Several East Asian countries are developing as regional education hubs and attract many international degree students. Does the Philippines have similar aspirations and, if so, are they led by government or by individual universities?

The Philippine aspiration to be a regional education hub is both government- and university-led. Internationalisation is now integrated into the strategic plan of higher education institutions, with some universities marketing their programmes to foreign students.

What are the relative merits of public and private universities in the Philippines? Is there a marked difference in the employability of graduates between the two sectors?

Public universities offer free or low tuition to students, enjoy government subsidies, and are the priority for CHED research and institutional grants, among others. Private universities are tuition-run, offer market-driven programmes, generally submit to voluntary accreditation, and are the preferred institutions for parents who intend to provide their children with access to quality higher education. There is a perception that graduates of public national universities are at par with graduates of quality private universities, in terms of employability. Graduates of private universities are more employable vis-à-vis those from public universities (except for a few quality public HEIs) due to the quality education and social capital, among others, of the former.

Turning to Lyceum University of the Philippines, what is your overall market and academic position within the diverse nature of Philippine higher education?

With a new vision to be an internationally accredited university dedicated to innovation and excellence in service of God and country, Lyceum of the Philippines University aims to strengthen its trifocal functions: research, instruction, and community extension.

The main theme throughout LPU’s strategic direction is the alignment of research with all facets of curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities of the university.

There are only 26 out of 2,300 higher education institutions with CHED autonomous status. Thus, LPU belongs to the top 1% in the Philippine higher education hierarchy. Further, LPU is one of the 80 HEIs (3%) designated as Innovation and Technology Support Office (ITSO) by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL). CHED and IPOPHIL have recognised LPU’s outstanding academic programmes and its commitment to knowledge creation/innovation, protection and utilisation.

LPU’s major accomplishment is the conferment of the Philippine Quality Award – Commitment to Quality Management. This prestigious national award was conferred on LPU by the President of the Philippines.

Other significant academic awards are the grant of Centers of Excellence for Hotel and Restaurant Management, Tourism, Custom Administration, and Business Administration, IQuaME Category A by the Commission on Higher Education. Furthermore, LPU is deputised for Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) by CHED for liberal arts, business administration, computer engineering, information technology, tourism and hotel and restaurant programmes.

Currently, on its third cycle, LPU Manila is ISO-certified for complying with the requirements of ISO 9001:2008 and the Environment Management System ISO 14001 international certification standard – the first school in the Philippines with EMS certification.

The university, through its College of International Tourism and Hospitality Management, has been granted full accreditation by the International Center of Excellence in Tourism and Hospitality Education (THE ICE). The entire LPU system (Manila, Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite) enjoys the privilege as the first and only university system in the Philippines to be awarded an international accreditation for its tourism and hospitality programmes.

In the area of quality assurance through local accreditation, the university has obtained an academic scorecard of 100% accreditation for all its undergraduate programmes in various levels.

Indeed, LPU, its faculty members and its students have garnered major national and international recognitions in various competitions. They are all monumental successes that attest to our status an autonomous university. These achievements did not happen overnight but over time through the concerted efforts and hard work of all the members of the academic community. The university has a tradition of strong leadership, which is one of LPU’s organisational strengths.

Philippine Association of Colleges & Universities Commission on Accreditation Award

LPU elected to be evaluated by QS Intelligence Unit and has achieved a QS 3 Star rating. How will the university benefit by this form of recognition?

This recognition will attract the clientele, both local and foreign, interested in providing their children with quality education as an investment for their future. A QS Star-rated school is a market signal that the university produces quality graduates, easing their entry into the competitive global and productive workforce. As the first non-sectarian university in the Philippines to be QS Star-Rated, LPU will be ranked market leader when other Philippine universities follow to be internationally QS Star-Rated as well.

LPU has five campuses. What are the main distinctions between them? What are the challenges in maintaining equal quality levels of admission across the campuses?

The LPU campuses were established to serve the specific needs of each province/region. For instance, LPU Manila caters to the service industries of tourism, hospitality, customs administration, and international relations. LPU Cavite and LPU Laguna, located near Export Processing Zones, provide a supply of industry-trained engineering and biomedical graduates, among others. LPU Batangas, located close to the Batangas Port and home to several Export Processing Zones, produces top-notch graduates in the maritime, manufacturing, and service industries. A challenge in maintaining equal levels of admission across the campuses would include the divergent profile of prospective students. The admission requirements could include a variation in admission scores, based on the skill and academic content of the programmes.

The Lyceum of the Philippines University is an institution of higher education located in Intramuros in the City of Manila. It was founded in 1952 by Dr José P Laurel, who became the president of the Second Philippine Republic. He named the institution after lykeion, the grove in ancient Athens where Aristotle taught his pupils. LPU is the only university founded by a president of the republic. Many disciplines are taught in the university, with International relations (diplomacy, international trade), business administration, customs administration, arts, hotel and restaurant management, and tourism consistently being the university’s flagship courses. The College of Law has a separate campus in Makati City, known as the Lyceum of the Philippines University – Makati.

The Lyceum of the Philippines University–Batangas (formerly Lyceum of Batangas) is a higher education institution located in Capitol Site, Batangas City. It was founded by Dr Sotero H Laurel in 1966 using the educational philosophy of his father, former President José P Laurel. Its flagship courses are allied medical programmes, such as nursing, medical technology, pharmacy, x-ray technology, marine engineering, marine transportation, tourism, hospitality management, accountancy, business management, and customs administration.

The Lyceum of the Philippines University – Laguna (formerly Lyceum Institute of Technology) is an institute of higher education located in Calamba City in the province of Laguna. It was founded by Senator Sotero H Laurel on 18 January 2000 as the third LPU system campus. LPU Laguna offers undergraduate and graduate programmes in various fields, including computer studies, engineering, arts, business administration, accountancy, tourism, hospitality management, allied medical programmes and medicine.

The Lyceum of the Philippines University – Cavite is an institute of higher education located in the City of General Trias, in the province of Cavite. The campus opened its doors to the public in 2008. The university bills itself as “The First and Only Resort Campus in the Philippines” due to its modern and elegant architectural design. LPU Cavite offers undergraduate and graduate programmes in various fields, including engineering, computer studies, architecture, education, arts, business administration, accountancy, tourism, hospitality management, law, and allied medical programmes.

Research and internationalisation are two key elements of university advancement. Is LPU prioritising development in either or both of these areas? If so, what form does this development take?

The university has made research and internationalisation its priority. In the area of research, students are now partners in knowledge generation, dissemination, and utilisation. There are substantial investments in online research trainings, databases and methodologies to capacitate each student and faculty researcher in publication in international peer-reviewed journals and in the creation and protection of intellectual properties. Research is now made a requirement for all professional subjects with LPU Manila designated as the Innovation and Technology Support Office by the Intellectual Property of the Philippines. As to internationalisation, each college is now active in partnering with QS-ranked universities to attract both students and faculty into LPU. An International Affairs Office has been created for each LPU campus to institutionalise internationalisation.

What message would you like to convey to university leaders around the world to encourage them to engage with LPU and with Philippine higher education in general?

LPU exerts market leadership in several programmes such as hospitality management, tourism, customs administration, international relations and diplomacy, among others. Having the first-mover advantage, LPU’s innovative approaches have become industry standards, encouraging programme administrators to push for innovative strategies to sustain the market leadership. For global university leaders, partnering with country leaders will ensure maximum impact and presence in the local and global economy. In Philippine higher education, LPU has established a market niche; thus, there is no cut-throat competition for quality education, only creative cooperation. Creative cooperation is necessary to fast-track Philippine economic development. The Philippines is a member-country of the ASEAN, a regional association of ten vibrant and dynamic economies with an aggregate population of over 600 million. Engaging with an institution of higher learning with a high reputation and market niche in the Philippines places one’s foot in the door of the huge ASEAN market.

Roberto Laurel is chancellor of three of the five campuses of the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) System. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in economics from the Ateneo de Manila University, his Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Philippines and his Master of Laws from Columbia University. Bobby hails from a family of lawyers and educators. Prior to joining the academe, Bobby specialised in labour and corporation law for close to 20 years. A founding partner of the Roxas Delos Reyes Laurel Rosario and Leogogo Law Firm in Manila, Bobby joined LPU in 1998 to assist his father who was the president of LPU at the time, and his brother, Peter, now president of the LPU System for its Batangas and Laguna Campuses.