The State of Higher Education in Western Visayas

By: Dr. Rex Casiple

THE opening of classes in colleges and universities in the academic year (AY) 2019-2020 has two batches.

Private higher education institutions and other local colleges opened their classes in June 2019. State colleges and universities (SUCs) and CHED recognized local colleges (LCs) will start their classes in August 2019.

In the last three years (2016-2019), the number of higher education institutions increased by 1%, from 152 in 2016 to 154 in 2019. Fifty-two percent (52%) are owned and operated by the private sector, 42% are funded by the national government, and 6% are operated by the local government units.

The conversion of public HEIs from college to university is still basically by political initiatives or legislative measures. There are 11 state colleges and universities based in the region: six universities and five colleges. Out of five state colleges, four have pending applications for university conversion.

There is a continuing increase in enrolment in higher education. Enrolment in priority courses necessary for national development and global competitiveness, such as engineering and agriculture and fisheries, is still in the lower rank. Enrolment in business education courses remained in the top occupying more than ¼ of the total enrolment in higher education in the Region. There is a noted increase in the number of graduates in Business Education programs, Information Technology, Teacher Education, Medical Related and Engineering programs.

The existing “double standards” of governance in public and private HEIs, particularly in policy measures regarding salaries, curricular offerings, financial allocations, granting of authority among others, cause unequal treatment among HEIs.

The implementation of the “Free Higher Education Act of 2017” urged more students to enroll in public HEIs rather than in private HEIs. The continuing increase in the gap of salaries of teachers among private HEIs, SUCs and local colleges, urged many of the best and brightest teachers from private and local colleges to transfer to state colleges and universities (SUCs) for greener pasture.

The continuing establishment of private HEIs as well as the intended conversion of state colleges to universities led to competition and duplication of programs. While the SUCs and CHED recognized local colleges enjoy substantial government support, the private colleges and universities and non-recognized local colleges could hardly comply with minimum requirements due to insufficient funding support.

The budget for research and extension programs in majority of public and private HEIs has been very inadequate. This caused a lack of priority consideration for research by HEIs. This is a perennial problem in majority of HEIs in the Region. Competent and highly qualified faculty to teach in courses, such as engineering, information technology, teacher education, and medical-related programs were difficult to recruit.

The salary and fringe benefits accruing to the educational qualifications apparently were constraints to the placement of qualified and competent faculty. The dearth of faculty with relevant master and doctorate degrees in programs offered partly accounted for the substandard instruction.

Higher education in the Region as a whole has likely come up to the national expectations of providing quality education and training to the majority of our college graduates that would match the requirements of the developing economy and global market. This is measured primarily by the performance of graduates in licensure examinations and the graduates’ employment status here in the country and abroad.

In this era of industrialization, there will be more demands for graduates with differentiated skills, preferably in engineering and information and communications technology. As the bridge between the world of learning and the world of work, there is still a need to improve the state of higher education in the region.