UP Diliman: A nation builder for the Philippines

Maureen Anne Araneta_Diliman
UP Diliman Director Maureen Anne Araneta

The University of the Philippines Diliman (UP Diliman)  is the biggest constituent university of the University of the Philippines system in terms of the number of degree-granting academic units, student population, faculty complement and library resources. RA 9500, also known as the UP Charter, proclaims UP as the country’s national university, mandated to “perform its unique and distinctive leadership in higher education and development.” Inside Investor asked Director Maureen Anne Araneta about the prestigious university’s perception of the country’s education system and the prevailing brain drain phenomenon.

Q: UP Diliman is regarded as the most prestigious university in the country. What presidents and famous alumni have graduated here and what departments is the campus best known for?

A; The University of the Philippines (UP) is a system of seven autonomous campuses, with UP Diliman as the main campus. UP Diliman had a student population of 22,031 for the second semester of the academic year 2012-2013, 15,299 of whom were enrolled in the undergraduate and 6,455 in the graduate programmes. In the same period, UP Diliman offered 70 undergraduate, 109 masters and 68 doctoral programmes in its 27 degree-granting units. These academic units are under the helm of 1,526 full time faculty members. UP Diliman has become etched into the psyche of the country as a place where future leaders come to learn. Its prestige as the leading academic institution in the Philippines is widely known in the country. Of the current-serving senators, 14 out of 23 are UP alumni. Of the 57 national artists (those who are recognised by the country for excellence in Philippine arts), 34 are from UP, while of the 37 national scientists, 35 are UP alumni. Most of them still reside in the country. In addition, several UP Diliman faculties are on secondment to other government agencies: 2 with the Supreme Court; 1 with the Commission on Higher Education; 1 with the Department of Agrarian Reform; 1 with the Department of National Defense; 1 with the Department of Science and Technology; 1 with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority; 3 with the National Economic and Development Agency; 1 with the National Historical Commission; and 1 with the Cultural Center of the Philippines. One UP Diliman faculty is also on secondment at the Asian Development Bank.

Q: In the lead up to 2015, the year the Philippines’ BPO industry is set to overtake India by revenue, can the education sector produce enough graduates to fill in high-end BPO jobs, for sectors such as medical, IT and financial services? What output targets have been set for these departments and what is the passing ratio?

A: Colleges in UP Diliman are given a measure of autonomy in developing their respective curricula, which is subjected to regular review, any changes of which are deliberated during university council meetings (attended by the faculty of the entire University), and with final approval given by the University’s Board of Regents. We do not think of filling in a workforce per se; we drive for honour and excellence in chosen fields instead. We envision UP Diliman as a source of sensible solutions and best practices as answers to the complex challenges facing the nation, which go hand in hand with the nation’s dynamic and enduring nature within a global economy. As far as graduates that would fit in the BPO industry are concerned, the College of Business Administration, the College of Engineering, which has the Departments of Computer Science and Industrial Engineering under it, as well as the Technology Management Center would be where these future leaders in the BPO industry could most likely come from. Concerning passing ratios, UP Diliman is usually always in the upper bracket of national licensure examinations. For example, in the 2012 Bar Examination, the bar passing rate of UP Diliman was 93.66 per cent, the highest in fourteen years. On average, the bar passing ratio is 80.19 per cent.

Q: What is UP Diliman doing to ensure students of these fields are globally competitive; i.e., let them study abroad, offer them internships?

A: As of March 22, 2013, UP Diliman has a total of 191 agreements in 31 countries, of which 187 are with foreign universities. These are generally short-term programmes that last one year or one semester and concentrate on promoting standards in respective fields of study, be it in science, technology, the arts or humanities. There are over 250 foreign students currently enrolled at UP Diliman, who come from South Korea, Bhutan and several nations of the African continent, among others.

Q: Does UP Diliman largely contribute to brain drain? What has been the common trend and are students coming back?

A: UP Diliman acknowledges that graduates must fulfill their personal goals, but at the same time, trust that their quality education at the national university engenders both a sense of pride and commitment to the country. Since UP is the place where national leaders are groomed, many alumni do in fact stay here or come back to become influential members of society. The number of national artists, national scientists, and faculty in top government positions (who are also usually UP Diliman alumni) are indications of this.

Q: The Mindanao Development Authority recently said that animation BPO graduates were better than their counterparts in Metro Manila. What do you have to say about this trend?

This is something we have not heard of yet. Regarding our technological ability, UP Diliman has various online services available to its students, such as the Computerized Registration System, which is a UP Diliman-grown system. Faculty of UP Diliman were also directly involved with the development of the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards, or NOAH project with the Department of Science and Technology. Late in 2012, the trial version of Learning English Applications for Pinoys, or LEAP, a computer application developed by UP Diliman faculty, was launched. The software was developed to address deficiencies in basic English language skills among Filipinos.Many such technological innovations and initiatives are in the works within each institute and college.