Our Urgent Need: S&T Universities

Manila Bulletin, January 28, 2007 | Go to article overview

Our Urgent Need: S&T Universities


Byline: Dr. FERNANDO A. BERNARDO Former State College President (1974-1984) and Deputy Minister of Education (1984-1986) in charge of SUCs

WHY should concern for university management focus on universities of science and technology? What is the difference between management of S&T universities and other kinds of universities? Answers to these questions may be appreciated better by first reviewing the historical development of universities, especially in Asia and the USA.

A. Historical Background

The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in the 1700s with the development of coal deposits and iron, and the introduction of power-driven machinery and a new form of factory organization. This was enhanced by the development of the steam engine.

Before the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing of goods was done in small shops and in the homes of rural people. Textile manufacturing, for example, was done as a cottage industry with spinning wheels operated by foot. Since the cost of labor was high and the process was slow and inefficient, not to mention the lack of quality control, the price of clothing materials was high. The Industrial Revolution changed that. Efficient textile machines were invented and machines and workers were organized in assembly lines that produced quality textiles efficiently and cheaply.

During the Renaissance (1400-1600), universities developed the concept of the liberal arts. Thus language and literature, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy became important. This rebirth and revival of learning created a general desire to enlarge the boundaries of learning and ushered in some interest in science. During the Renaissance, great universities developed in Europe. Some developed to become comprehensive universities teaching the liberal arts as well as training professionals in education, law, medicine, engineering and architecture. But a few in Great Britain, Germany, and the USA gained a reputation not as comprehensive universities, but as institutes and colleges of science and technology that advanced the frontiers of knowledge in engineering and industrial manufacturing, energy, transportation and communication, etc. These technological institutes and colleges provided the scientific and technological innovations in various fields of engineering that facilitated further industrialization of these countries. Many grew to be huge, of university proportion, but they preferred not to change their names to university because of the reputation attached to the old name. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one example. Others changed their names to universities but made sure they maintained their strengths in science and technology such as the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the Tennessee Technological University, and the Iowa State University of Science and Technology.

B. S&T universities facilitated Japan's industrialization

The first universities of science and technology in Asia were those established in Japan. How did this happen?

Portuguese sailors were the first Europeans to reach Japan in 1543. In the 1630s, Japan cut its ties with the outside world. After more than 200 years of isolation, Japan opened its two ports to US trade following the visits of Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1853 and 1854. News about the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the USA reached Japan.

Emperor Mutsushito, who adopted the title Meiji (enlightened rule), issued an Imperial Charter Oath in April 1868, which announced the government's intention to modernize Japan and turn to Western countries for new ideas and technology. Thus begun the Meiji Reformation period (1868-1912). The Meiji Reformation encouraged and supported organized programs of sending students abroad, inviting foreign instructors to the country, translating foreign educational materials, and scientific books to Japanese, improving practical education in science and engineering, and establishing many technical schools. …

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