Law expanding global competitiveness of higher education in PH signed into law

By Genalyn Kabiling 

A measure allowing foreign universities to establish presence and collaborate with local universities in the country has been signed into law by President Duterte in a bid to enhance the global competitiveness of higher education.

University of the Philippines Diliman | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons University of the Philippines Diliman (WIKIMEDIA / MANILA BULLETIN)

Republic Act No. 11448 expands the access to educational services through the establishment and administration of transnational higher education (TNHE) in the country.

The law provides not only the framework of the operations of foreign higher education institutions in the Philippines, but also allows the overseas operations of local universities.

"The State recognizes that rapid developments brought about by globalization, including liberalization of trade in goods and services and expanding use of information and communication technologies, have created a climate for borderless teaching and learning," the law read.

"In this list, the State shall endeavor to modernize the Philippine higher education sector, and bring international quality standards and expertise into the country, with a view of making higher education globally competitive, attracting a flow of talented students, faculty and staff and improving the country's human resource base," it added.

Under the law, TNHE includes "all types and modes of delivery of higher education study programs, set of courses of study, or educational services, including distance education and study-abroad programs, which involve education systems of a State different from the State where a THNE provider operates or programs which may operate independently of any national education system or were the learners are located in a country of different from the one where the awarding institution is based."

The law mandates the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to formulate a coherent national strategy to encourage the establishment of the most effective forms of TNHE programs and institutions in the country.  The programs include academic franchising, articulation where students are guaranteed advance entry into a degree program in another country if they achieve an agreed level of performance, branch campus, international branch campus, joint degree, double degree, online learning, and open distance learning.

The new law allows a foreign higher education institution (FHEI) to engage in the business of providing educational services in the country.

Foreign universities may establish branch campuses in the country through a local partner, at least 60 percent owned by Filipino citizens, duly registered with Securities and Exchange Commission or the Department of Trade and Industry, as the case may be. It may maintain its name, offer the education programs through the branch, and award the degree or credit.

Foreign citizens may constitute up to 80 percent of the faculty and academic personnel and up to 40 percent of the administrative personnel and staff in the local branches. Foreign students, however, may not compromise more than 1/3 of enrolment.

The foreign university may likewise enter into other collaborative arrangements with local universities such as twinning arrangements or joint degrees.

The law also allows Philippine HEIs with programs recognized CHED to offer services offshore. They must preserve the reputation of the Philippines as a provider of quality higher education as well abide by the laws and rules and regulations of the host country.

The courses offered by Transnational Higher Education Institutions (TNHEIs) may include undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate degrees. CHED may determine the propriety of offering other specialized courses, including Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Medicine by qualified institutions.

The TNHEIS must also be accountable for quality assurance and control by developing, implementing and reviewing internal processes with CHED.

To facilitate the entry of high-ranking universities in the country, universities belonging to the top 500 world's best universities for three consecutive years are presumed to be compliant with international standards and shall be exempt from the standard quality assurance review by CHED.

The law also included benchmarks for ensuring quality of transnational higher education in the country. CHED may review the performance of TNHEIs based on curriculum innovation, student diversity, research and development, graduation and retention rate, job placement and career services, facilities and infrastructure, faculty and faculty diversity, alumni leadership and performance, international linkages, grant and endowment management, among others.

A Transnational Higher Education Division under the CHED International Affairs Staff will also be created to formulate policies and guidelines in the operations of TNHE programs, accept and process applications of local and foreign universities for authority to operate TNHE, and review and evaluate performance of TNHEIs.

The law also directed concerned government agencies and local government units to establishment mechanism to expedite the processing of applications, documents and permits for foreign universities to establish and operate in the country.

All revenues and assets of nonstock, nonprofit TNHEIs used for education purposes shall be exempt from taxes and duties.

All grants, donations and contributions shall also be exempt from donor's tax and the same shall be allowed as allowable deduction from the gross income of the donor. Also exempted from taxation are all lands, buildings and improvements used by TNHEIs.

The law, signed last August 28, has directed CHED chairperson in consultation with concerned agencies and stakeholders to issue the implementing rules and regulations within 90 days of effectiviy of the law.

The law takes effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette or newspaper.