20th University of the Philippines president
Calling government support an investment rather than an expense, University of the Philippines president Alfredo Pascual on Thursday called for bigger funding for the university as he lamented its slide in world rankings and its declining accessibility to poor students because of the university’s high tuition.
At his investiture as UP’s 20th president, Pascual also outlined his redevelopment plan for UP that included a review of its entrance test, increased international exchange of both teachers and students, a revamp of its general education program, system-wide information interconnectivity and greater integration of green practices on its campuses.
“While we have managed to achieve excellence despite these limitations, we must continue to demand increases in state subsidy for UP, increases in the pay of our faculty and staff and the upgrading of our facilities deserving of a national university,” Pascual said.
“Government financial support for UP is not an expense, but an investment that will yield copious dividends for our country,” he pointed out.
A pioneering investment banker and a leading financial expert, the 63-year-old Pascual gave the address before a packed UP Theater audience Thursday afternoon, when he was officially invested as UP president after being named to the post seven months ago.
He took the post just as UP suffered yet another budget cut, with the total state subsidy going down to P1.39 billion this year and tuition 300 percent higher now than four years ago.
The government is proposing a P5.54-billion budget for UP in 2012 which still has to undergo deliberations in Congress.
To cope with the continuing subsidy slash, UP raised tuition from P300 per unit to P1,000 in 2007. An average semester now costs a UP student and his parents P18,000.
Over the years, UP has seen its once premier status slide down in the world university index posted by London-based ratings and the research firm Quacquarelli Symonds. It was ranked 332 this year, falling 18 spots from its 314th place in 2010.
“UP is indeed designed to be the great university we want and the great university the country needs. But I am appalled every time a poor student who has been admitted to UP is unable to enroll because of financial inadequacy,” Pascual said.
He noted that UP had lost professors and researchers to private universities that offered higher pay.
“I am frustrated every time I have to plead with the government for more budget support for UP, the national university that Congress has given so much responsibility,” Pascual said.
In the audience were Senators Loren Legarda and Manny Villar, and former Senators Orly Mercado, Richard Gordon and Aquilino Pimentel, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives from government agencies, alumni and students.
Despite the challenges, Pascual said, he still drew inspiration from the outputs of UP, among them top graduates who manage to be at the helm of government and industry, its internationally cited research and supportive alumni.
As UP continued to grapple with funding problems, Pascual said, it would continue to maximize its land assets through a “master development plan” that would “utilize and manage its land assets in an optimal manner.”
He explained, “This master development plan will be the basis of capital improvements in the campuses and the proactive and orderly development of our land assets for revenue generation.”
He also vowed to take better care of UP’s primary asset: its people. Pascual said UP would strive to put up better programs for housing and healthcare for its faculty and staff and provide professors with more opportunities to participate in conferences abroad.
“As the national university, UP must lead our country toward true national development and global competitiveness while nurturing the spirit of nationhood,” Pascual said.
“On this day, we gather to declare that we shall not waver in our efforts to restore UP to its preeminent status in the world of higher education … We must succeed not because we have a reputation to keep but because we have a country to serve.”
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