Skip to main content

Pascual's Wager

UP President Alfredo Pascual gives his views on research at the UP
With apologies to Blaise Pascal we paraphrase his famous wager as

"If the fact that UP is really a top notch university cannot be revealed by reason alone, then a rational UP alumnus should wager as if UP really is tops!"

This probably was in the mind of UP President Alfredo Pascual when he spoke to the scientists and researcher academics at the latest "Kapihan" at the UP Marine Science Institute newly refurbished auditorium last Friday, August 5, 2011. Diliman Diary has reported on what was discussed.

Do you notice what is wrong with the above wager? Answer: Any rational mind will be able to conclude that the wager has a false predicate! UP is not tops! To insist it is, is to hold on to a delusion!

The University of the Philippines is faced with a serious and increasing budgetary shortfall. The coming fiscal year saw the university budget slashed by Congress to the tune of 800 million PhP. This piece of news was told on the eve of the UPCAT (admission) exams, which 70K high school seniors took, the highest in UP's history.  The situation is serious enough that the frank Fred Pascual had to entertain the possibility that the undergraduate admission may be reduced so that academic excellence many not be compromised.  But Mr Pascual said that he hopes it doesn't come to this.

The 2008 UP Charter names the UP as the "national university" which also is a research university. The university has to give emphasis in research but it is hindered by many factors. Foremost of which is that the median age of professors is in the early 50s. Since the retirement age is 65, many of these professors will retire before 2025. And there will be very few who would replace them. Without younger replacements, no graduate students can be trained and ergo, no research outputs that will make the university more competitive.

The longstanding debate on the standards for research was noted by Pascual. But it is clear to him and most of us that UP needs to identify specific areas for research prioritization. This will entail a large dose of political will in central administration since some pet research foci of some academics will not be prioritized. Since the budget is small, there is a need to consolidate resources at the university system level. This would make research grant applications more competitive. With the increased competition, those who come up with innovative ideas will be more likely to win grants.

Academic Affairs Veep Professor Giselle Concepcion unveiled the plan and mechanics of this new systems grant. What I noticed as major innovations include the emphasis on external review, publication output, patents (for technology research) and the training of post-docs and graduate students. If the plan works, then it is possible that the UP will be able to attract post docs (most likely Filipinos who are based abroad) to eventually be appointed as assistant professors. This may be a great opportunity to rebuild and reorient UP as a real research and innovative university. We all know that the majority of post docs abroad don't get faculty appointments.

Only when you have these outward looking young professors can we see real change in how UP does research. But this has been implemented at the department scale by Professor Ed Gomez of marine science. It has to be replicated in all departments but according to their competencies and disciplinary bounds. An MSI clone will not work!

But that would require a major cultural change in UP, especially in the Diliman campus. Pascual also mentioned his concept of a "one UP" which would link and make operations of all the constituent universities more efficient. Since I have worked with an international agency for most of the 1990s, I see where Fred Pascual is coming from. He spent most of his working life in the Asian Institute of Management and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). At these international institutions, there is a different kind of accountability associated in coming out with outputs whether these are for development or planning. The top honchos of institutions like these are accountable to the board of trustees who obviously are the representatives of States that fund these development organizations. Such is not part of the UP culture, which is premised on academic freedom and institutional autonomy.

Thus one colleague remarked to me that the research plan just unveiled is like what an academic has to come up when he/she applies for EU or USAID funding! If Pascual's wager works then we can expect that institutional autonomy will be less at UP. It is the "corporate scenario" that UP academics fear!

No one in Diliman ever mouths the words "educational provider". But in foreign universities, the corporate nature of the university is simply that. Academics will have to face this reality and work with corporate planners to ensure the university is successful and efficient.

If Pascual's wager works then the UP will make its final transition from being partly medieval, colonial, ideologically petrified to post-modern!

Of course we cannot hold to the old wager I first stated. To do so is to hold on to the Diliman Delusion which I will discuss in the future. I am in discussion with UPIS alums now professors. They have a good view on what this delusion is!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Kartilla of the Katipunan

In celebration of Andres Bonifacio Day on Nov 30, I am blogging my English translation of the Katipunan's Code of Ethics or Kartilla (Kartilya). Recruits to the revolutionary association had to learn these by heart. The code was first written by Emilio Jacinto. The Kartilya remains as relevant today as in 1896 .

My apologies for errors in translation. I know there are better translations than this one.

1) A life not spent for a holy and noble cause is like a tree without shade or a noxious weed.

2) Acts that stem from pride and selfishness do not come from a desire to help others..

3) True holiness comes from helping others, charity towards others and the measure of such is in each reasonable act or word.

4) Dark or white your skin may be, all men are equal though one may be greater in knowledge, material wealth, beauty these do not add to one’s humanity.

5) Those who are men of goodwill put honour before concern for self and those who do no good puts the self before honour.

6) For an ho…

President Manuel Luis Quezon's Code of Ethics

Being a denizen of Kyusi, in honour of the man who gave my city its name and for being the most colourful prez the Philippines ever had, I have the pleasure to post Manuel L Quezon's Code of Ethics on his birthday. Let us profit from the wisdom of the Kastila.

1. Have Faith in the Divine Providence that guides the destinies of men and nations.

2. Love your country for it is the home of your people, the seat of your affection and the source of your happiness and well-being. It's defense is your primary duty. Be ready to sacrifice and die for it if necessary.

3. Respect the Constitution which is the expression of your sovereign will. The government is your government. It has been established for your safety and welfare. Obey the laws and see that they are observed by all and that public officials comply with their duties.

4. Pay your taxes willingly and promptly. Citizenship implies not only rights but obligations.

5. Safeguard the purity of suffrage and abide by the decisions of the…

Simoun's lamp has been lit, finally.. not by one but by the many!

"So often have we been haunted by the spectre of subversion which, with some fostering, has come to be a positive and real being, whose very name steals our serenity and makes us commit the greatest blunders... If before the reality, instead of changing the fear of one is increased, and the confusion of the other is exacerbated, then they must be left in the hands of time..."
Dr Jose Rizal "To the Filipino People and their Government"
Jose Rizal dominates the Luneta, which is sacred to the Philippine nation as a place of martyrdom. And many perhaps all of those executed in the Luneta, with the exception of the three Filipino secular priests martyred in 1872, have read Rizal's El Filibusterismo. Dr Rizal's second novel is a darker and more sinister one that its prequel but has much significance across the century and more after it was published for it preaches the need for revolution with caveats,  which are when the time is right and who will instigate it.