Youth solon links downgrade in Philippine schools’ ranking to poor gov’t policies on higher ed, inadequate spending

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino credited the recent downgrade in the ranking of Philippine universities in the London-based Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) world university ranking to poor government policies on higher education and inadequate funding for state schools.
“Budget cuts in the past years clearly have an effect on the performance of our state universities,” Palatino said.
While the University of the Philippines (UP), dubbed as the country’s national university, remains to be the top performing school in the country, it slid down to rank 338 this year from 332 in the previous year.
Also, UP is the only state-funded university in the four Philippine schools that made it in this year’s QS list.
“While UP does not reportedly participate in the QS survey, the downgrade in its ranking shows us that government policies and funding indeed have an effect on performance,” the youth solon said. “UP already receives the lion’s share of the budget of state universities and colleges (SUCs), but as we pointed out before, the allocation it receives is still not enough,” Palatino added.
For 2012, UP is set to receive P6.84 billion under the General Appropriations Act (GAA). In January, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) gave the university an additional P1.3 billion under the government’s Disbursement Acceleration Plan, bringing the total government allocation for UP this year to P8.14 billion.
“However, the P8-billion allocation for UP is still less than half of its original proposal,” Palatino pointed out. For 2012, UP originally proposed P17 billion to DBM.
“It is not surprising that other SUCs were not able to make it to the QS survey, as compared to UP, these state schools receive even less,” Palatino said. Around 50 SUCs received cuts in their budget for maintenance and other operating expenses this year.
In a statement, QS Head Researcher Ben Sowter explained that the 2012 findings reflect “government funding policies” of various countries around the world.
‘2013 budget will not impact next year’s rankings’
“While there is a 44-percent increase in the government allocation for SUCs next year, we doubt that it will have a significant impact on university rankings,” Palatino said.
The House of Representatives discussed yesterday the P37.1 billion budget for SUCs for 2013, which various student formations have described as still “grossly insufficient.”
The DBM-proposed budget for SUCs is only 67.98 percent of the total requirement of 110 SUCs (see table). DBM data also reveal that the P37.1 billion DBM-approved budget for SUCs next year is actually P17.5 billion less than the actual need of SUCs.
“Also note the low percentage approved for capital outlay (CO), which is only 22.5 percent or P3.37 billion of the P14.96 billion originally proposed, despite the fact that DBM has not been giving CO to SUCs in the past two years,” Palatino added.
Details of 2012 SUCs budget: Proposed vs. DBM-approved
Proposed by SUCsRecommended by DBMPercent approved
PS*₱31.149 B ₱27.333 B87.75
MOOE₱ 8.506 B ₱6.429 B75.58
CO₱14.958 B ₱3.365 B22.5
TOTAL₱54.613 B ₱37.127 B67.98
*PS includes automatic appropriations for RLIP
“We foresee that this budget will not significantly improve university rankings, as it will not impact key areas that QS measures,” Palatino said.
For 2012, QS based the university rankings on an index that takes into account the following: academic reputation (40%), employer reputation (10%), faculty-to-student ratio (20%), citations per faculty (20%), international faculty (5%) and international students (5%).
“As was pointed out in the plenary debate in Congress yesterday, despite the reported budget increase for SUCs, it will not impact key growth areas, including faculty research,” Palatino said.
Excluding automatic appropriation for retirement and life insurance premiums (RLIP), the fund for salaries and benefits of teachers and employees of SUCs which falls under the personal services (PS) component, will have a P2.35 billion or an 11 percent increase to P22.97 billion from the current P20.62 billion budget.
However, in the plenary deliberation yesterday, it was revealed that the said increase is mainly due to the salary increased mandated by the Salary Standardization Law. “The government did not allot additional faculty items, which means next year, our state schools will still have the same faculty-student ratio, one of the factors considered in QS,” Palatino explained.
Another impact of the lack of additional teaching items is that current university professors need to “carry extra teaching loads,” thus hindering them from producing academic output, another factor considered in QS, Palatino explained.
“If we consider the 2013 proposed budget for SUCs, we don’t foresee any improvement in the rankings next year,” the youth solon said.
‘Higher tuition doesn’t translate to better performance’
Palatino also pointed out that despite the claim of private universities that tuition increases would improve performance, the QS ratings reveal otherwise.
Only three private universities in the country were included in this year’s QS list.
From rank 360 last year, Ateneo de Manila University dropped to the 451-500 bracket this year.
De La Salle University’s ranking also downgraded, falling under the 601+ bracket from the 551-600 bracket last year. La Salle is joined by the University of Santo Tomas in the said bracket.
“Tuition in private schools has been on an all-time high in the past years, but it clearly doesn’t translate to better performance,” Palatino said. For this year, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) approved the tuition increase proposal of over 222 private universities nationwide.
CHED data reveals that the current national average tuition rate per unit is now pegged at P475.47, while the average tuition rate in Metro Manila has reached P985.05 per unit this year. The said data means that families need to spend at least P20,000-P40,000 on tuition alone per semester.
“CHED needs to review the policy on approving tuition increases in such a way that schools will be compelled to show how tuition hikes will affect their school’s performance. Otherwise, there would be no compelling reasons for school owners to adjust tuition rates,” Palatino said.
Lagging behind
“The example of our Asian neighbors show that ample government funding for higher education translates to better performance,” Palatino said.
Top universities in Asia, including those in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and China all made it to the top 50 in the QS list, joining regular A-listers such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which topped the current list for the first time this year, and UK’s Cambridge University, which ranked second.
According to the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department, the Philippines remains to be one of the countries with the smallest per capita spending for higher education. The said study revealed that the government spends only $625 per college student per year, less than the budget allotted by neighboring countries like China ($2,728), Malaysia ($11,790) and Indonesia ($666).
Also, the P37.1 billion proposed budget for SUCs is only 0.31 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) for 2013, a far cry from the 16.8 percent of GDP allotted for debt servicing, Palatino said. The P275.9 billion total budget allotted for the Department of Education and SUCs, meanwhile, is only 2.3 percent of the country’s GDP, far from the United Nation’s six-percent recommendation for education.
“It is clear that the nominal increase for SUCs does not change the government’s policy on higher education. Access remains a challenge, and funding remains inadequate,” Palatino said. “In this light, the youth will continue and even intensify the fight for sufficient government funding for an education sector that truly serves the nation,” Palatino ended.