The ‘Best’ University of Parasites?

The University of the Philippines, a public school that survives on taxpayers’ money, was recently named the best high education institution in the country. UP, along with Ateneo De Manila University, a private education institution, was among the top 50 best English-teaching universities in the world in this year’s New Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings by Subject.

An online report states:

Among the universities teaching the English Language and Literature around the world, the University of the Philippines ranked 34th while Ateneo ranked 35th, according to the QS World University Rankings.

The two prestigious Philippine universities bested other universities around the world, including the University of Manchester (43rd) in the United Kingdom, and Georgetown University (49th), Dartmouth College (51-100) and Fordham University (151-200) in the United States.

Also on the list of best English-teaching universities worldwide areDe La Salle University in the 50-100 bracket and University of Santo Tomas in the 101-150 bracket. QS did not provide specific ranks for universities outside the top 50.

UP and Ateneo are also the sixth and seventh best English-teaching university in Asia, respectively, after National University of Singapore, Peking University, University of Tokyo, University of Hong Kong, and Kyoto University.

Okay. Now that UP was adjudged the best university in the Philippines I believe it’s now high time to prove its alleged competence and ability. Now is the right time to prove whether this public school that survives on taxpayers’ money can maintain its status without heavily relying on government alms and support. If UP is indeed the best university in the country, then there’s no doubt that it can guarantee its survival without being a parasite. It needs to achieve financial self-sufficiency by finding extra resources through alumni help, business partnerships, entrepreneurial activities, and student fees.

UP cannot be ‘best’ in terms of so-called international recognition alone; it must be able to show and prove that it’s the best in terms of self-sufficiency, independence, and real actions. Thus, this state-funded university must be able to prove that it can exist and maintain its alleged international prestige in a free market without heavily relying on government financial and legal supports.

In reality, UP is the best parasite in the public education sector. While private universities struggle to find effective, creative ways to upgrade their facilities, to recruit and pay competent professors, to finance research and to offer privately funded scholarship grants to deserving students, UP and the more than 100 publicly funded colleges and universities simply rely on taxpayers’ money and government help and protection.

The existence of these more than 100 state universities and colleges makes the government the biggest monopoly in the country’s education sector. This government-initiated monopoly has  lots of  negative impacts on private universities that rely on the inventiveness, creativity, competence and ability of their respective school officials and administrators. The existence of ‘second-rate’, ‘non-reputable’ private universities is way more beneficial to the country’s poor and middle class and to the economy because these non-parasitical private colleges and universities do not survive on government money and support.

Unlike the more than 100 SUCs that cannot survive without taxpayers’ money, private colleges and universities for poor and middle class students survive by improving and developing their entrepreneurial skills and by observing the market forces. The latter’s existence is highly beneficial to the country’s economy, as they are crucial part of market forces– they pay the salary of their professors and employees, they generate business opportunities for other individuals and they offer scholarship grants to both wealthy and poor deserving students out of their private funds.

Now let’s look at the statist plan of the current president of UP, Alfredo Pascual.

In his vision statement titled “Remaking a Great University: UP in the 21st Century”, Pascual states that “a great university takes a leadership role in the educational, cultural, social, and economic development of the country it serves.” For this reason, he believes that UP “must give paramount consideration to national concerns” and “should pursue its teaching, research and extension service functions not only within the framework of its many academic disciplines but more so in the context of national development needs that are ever changing and becoming increasingly complex.”

He adds: “In the 21st century, this must include efforts to help the country become a significant and positive player in global society.”

The last statement raises the question: To help the country become a significant and positive player in global society at WHAT PRICE?

Pascual, being a highly educated man, knows the answer to this question. His statist goals will be get the necessary funding through the following methods:

  • Ask for more government or taxpayers’ assistance: U.P. needs a long-term funding commitment from the government above what is currently being allotted to it annually.
  • Apply some “MOOCHING STRATEGY”: Pascual states: “the UP leadership must prepare a 10-year development plan that convincingly builds the case of U.P. as a key to national development. This development plan will be used as the basis for negotiating an increase in the level of annual appropriations for U.P.” What a very clever idea! So Pascual and his academic minions (who are perhaps Marxists) are going to try their best to convince our politicians that UP needs more taxpayers’ money.
  • Propose to increase TAXES!!!: Pascual’s statist vision further states: “In funding the plan implementation, one possible source that can be explored is the corporate income tax, among others. A certain percentage of this tax may be earmarked.” How can our current administration attract more foreign investors to do business in our country with this highly outrageous and mindless proposal of the new UP President? The only good thing about Pascual’s vision is that he understands that his plans require more taxpayers’ money.
  • Turn to alumni: “To supplement direct government funding, U.P. must intensify efforts to generate support from alumni as well as other donors and philanthropic sources.” The question is: are its alumni generous enough to part with their money?

In reality, UP and the more than 100 SUCs are a big burden to the already cash-trapped, highly indebted government. However, the so-called “education” problem cannot be solved by abolishing and/or privatizing UP and all SUCs alone. There’s a need to look at the very root of this “education” problem, including all of the country’s economic problem: the 1987 Constitution.

There’s a need to revise the current charter in order to open the country’s economy to foreign investors. However, I don’t believe that this is the right time to change the Constitution considering the kind of statists surrounding the president.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte believed that there’s a need torevise the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution.

“We just talked about it. No set mind but something must be done. We cannot go on and on and like this. Talk about alleviating poverty without doing the very substantial thing really to address poverty. We are moving the road blocks to the creation of jobs in the country,” Enrile said.

This online report states:

Enrile is referring to foreign investment which, he said, should be increased by widening the foreign participation in the investment climate in the country.

At present, the Constitution limits the foreign ownership on investment to only 40 percent against 60 percent to Filipino. Foreigners are also prohibited to own land in the country.

“Under the present situation, if they (foreign investors) want to build hotel here, they have to use dummy to buy the land because they cannot own the land. I’m not saying that I’m right in this but it is about time that I am advocating that we, as a nation, must be enlightened enough to discuss this,” Enrile said.

“We have to revise because who will come here to invest their money if they are only minority?” Enrile asked.

Enrile clarified that he is not opening the floodgates for the foreign investors, saying, “we are going to have a gatekeeper and it’s up to the people to select the best gatekeeper.”

Enrile said his intention to change the Constitution is only for the economic provision.

Should they revise the current charter’s economic provisions, this means that foreign investors would be allowed to put up foreign-funded and -owned colleges and universities in the country. The existence of more economic players in the country’s education sector means more competition, and more and higher level of competition means these players would be compelled  by the market forces to lower the price of their services and to improve their facilities, instruction, research and scholarship grants.

I stated in a previous blog the following:

Furthermore, in a fully privatized economy there would be more private companies and corporations to offer scholarship grants to poor yet deserving students. This means that the government doesn’t have to shoulder the schooling of poor children. The Western concept of “corporate social responsibility” would also somehow compel private corporations and companies to embark on private charity to help poor children and poor people. This is what is happening in most highly developed country. Most importantly, the essence of privatization of education is the free-market of ideas. Private schools are free to embark on scientific and technological research in order to boost their image, to attract more students, and to establish partnerships with private firms. If a certain school or university failed to perform its job, it would cease to exist. Only those better performing schools would continue to survive. This may sound harsh but in reality, competition encourages innovation and productivity. If we allow the non-performing schools to flourish by giving them government subsidies, it would have a negative impact on the people and on the economy, as this knee-jerk scheme would only encourage these incompetent schools not to innovate and, most importantly, it would also affect the performance of the students.

This government must be humble and honest enough to admit that it can no longer continue with the current setup- that it can no longer support and finance the country’s SUCs and other government programs without relying on the taxpayers and destroying the country’s economy. A number of countries in Europe have been willing to face reality.

For instance, former Britain prime minister Tony Blair said that Europe’s universities “must start considering innovative new methods of raising money if they want to stay competitive.” Ironically, this statement came from the leader of Britain’s left-wing Labour Party.

In his article entitled Paying the Price published in Newsweek in 2006, Blair said in part:

Throughout the developed world, a growing proportion of the population is accessing higher education. Across Europe, there are now upwards of 17 million students, 20 percent more than in 1997. In England, 10 percent of secondary-school graduates went to university in 1966; today 42 percent of those under 30 have college degrees–a proportion we expect will rise to half by 2010.

Student numbers are growing as the economy places knowledge at a premium and traditional blue-collar jobs migrate in search of lower wages and production costs. So today’s graduate must be ready to work in a world where jobs are rarely for life and where adaptability is as prized as knowledge and creativity.

This presents governments and universities with big challenges. With the demand for college graduates increasing rapidly, the costs of higher education can no longer be borne by taxpayers alone. Universities have to find extra resources through student fees, overseas recruitment, industry partnerships and alumni donations.

The reasons are clear. In the U.K., we are fortunate in having many great universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. But to remain world leaders, they need to continue to provide the highest standards of instruction and research. To remain competitive our universities must attract the right level of public and private investment. The European Commission has calculated that across the EU there is a spending gap with the United States of 150 billion.

European universities, some of which stretch their lineage back to the Renaissance, find these challenges difficult; their governments even more so. Free tertiary education has been regarded as sacrosanct as free primary or secondary schooling throughout much of the Continent.

Yet those who benefit from higher education earn substantially more than their fellow citizens, whose taxes pay their fees–which is why tuition fees are increasingly on the agenda. European governments are starting to recognize that it is no longer feasible to continue providing wholly free higher education from general taxation, and many are considering fees.

In England, we have introduced undergraduate fees of up to 3,000 ($5,000) a year from this September (they were 1,175 until last year, but, before 1998, no fees were paid). Students effectively borrow the cost of tuition along with money for their living expenses, and repay it alongside their income tax after they graduate and start earning. There are grants available for lower-income students.

Fees are not enough on their own. The U.K. government provides substantial research funding to its universities, but research is increasingly supported by industry and business foundations, too. Such links can help make research more useful to economic development. The United States has had a long tradition of giving by alumni; U.K. universities are starting to build similar programs, and have reported a growth in donations.

Each can and should play to its strengths. But to thrive and survive, universities cannot stand still. There will be more mergers and partnerships. Innovation will be an increasingly prized commodity. European governments must give their great universities the same freedom to innovate that their American–and even Chinese–counterparts enjoy through strong independent governance.

2 thoughts on “The ‘Best’ University of Parasites?

    • There’s none. Privatization is the only way to improve the country’s education system. However, it should be done very gradually. And I think it’d be very economically disastrous to effect abrupt privatization without freeing first the economy. The goal of economic freedom or economic liberalization is to allow investment and jobs to flourish. People need to have jobs first and be economically stable and independent.

      I discussed this issue three years ago— http://fvdb.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/separate-state-from-education/

      “I have stated several times that privatization of ALL public schools, colleges, and universities is NOT the first reform. It would be economically, socially, and politically dangerous to execute an abrupt, unplanned privatization of all public SUCs without addressing first other government areas that could be subject of the ‘initial reform process’ so as not to cause damage to the economy. I’m not an economist, but I think that the first wave of reforms must start within the government. Depending upon how government officials and lawmakers weigh things out, they may start with the most burdensome, high-spending government agencies, corporations, and other state instrumentalities, particularly the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR). The fundamental process is to revise the 1987 Constitution in order to establish a Republican-federal government, the role of which is purely limited by the fundamental law of the land.”

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