Establishing Academic Linkages: Caveat Emptor (Let the Buyer Beware); (an Initial Draft of This Paper Was Delivered at the 2004 Conference of the Association of Higher Institutions Region IV-A, at Legenda Suites, Subic, on 30 January.)

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Byline: Andrew Gonzalez, FSC

THE in-thing these days in educational circles is globalization. The term has wide ranging connotations, from international academic programs, academic linkages, student and faculty exchange, to educational travel. Basically, what the new awareness is all about is that we belong to a larger community and need to be open to the prospects of the future in view of this globalization or internationalization.

One result of this new consciousness is an awareness of the need to bring down trade barriers and allow the free exchange of goods and persons especially in our part of the globe. This is the special mandate of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and this has made it possible for us to export our products and in turn bring in goods from outside the country at a lower tariff. The objective is eventually to do away with tariffs altogether to promote competition and in the end, lower prices, to benefit all people in the region. However, this is a two-edged sword; it has advantages and disadvantages advantages, in the sense of getting easy access to goods outside; disadvantages in the senses that sometimes our goods are not competitive in price because another country (in this case, China) can produce the same goods at much lower prices. This has demanded a whole new change in our export strategy and our own plans for economic development. In the long term, free trade will benefit all, but in the short term this has meant the displacement of our exports, the closing down of factories, and the transfer of many factories to a place such as China where manpower is cheaper and more cooperative because of the countrys authoritarian culture. This has meant for us a loss of jobs, nonprofitability of some of our factories, and the need for a new strategy of development based more on agriculture and the service areas rather than industrialization.

The same ambivalent situation may occur in the case of academic linkages, which have positive and negative aspects.

Academic Linkages: Caveat Emptor

There is a Latin saying, Caveat emptor meaning Let the buyer beware lest he buy a useless product. Let me explain.

There is no doubt that academic linkages have many advantages to offer. In fact, universities in fully developed economies are eager to establish these linkages. I am especially referring to countries such as Japan and many European countries through the European Union, which has a program of tripartite cooperative projects involving a European university and two Asian universities from two different Asian countries. The EU provides funds for this including paying for transportation and living costs of the exchange professors, fellowships for faculty from developing countries to spend some time in study and research in the European country, and joint programs of research.

The negative aspect is that oftentimes the participants do not know enough of each others system, enter into an agreement that after a while they find uncomfortable, and are then put in the embarrassing situation of wanting to end the relationship.

To be specific, Philippine universities are mostly teaching universities; the level of teaching is less advanced than the level of teaching going on in a typical European university. Moreover, the European university professor is highly specialized; he can teach well in only one specialization and therefore does not have the flexibility to handle several subjects in related fields as our Filipino professors do. Also, based on the latest statistics from CHED, most of our college teachers do not have advanced degrees; as of this date, 68 percent of our university teachers still do not even have a masters degree. In Europe, the minimum qualification for university teaching is a doctorate. It will be very difficult for the average Filipino professor to teach in a university in a developed country since he does not have the qualifications or the publications to lecture on highly specialized topics. …