Sunday, August 09, 2015

Anatomy of an enrolment disaster in UP Diliman

The public higher education system in the Philippines is capped by the University of the Philippines, which by virtue of its charter, is provided by the State with a high degree of autonomy in managing its own affairs and resources.

All of these is aimed in ensuring that the university is able to deliver services for its students, faculty and staff.  Students who attend the university enter into a contract with the university every time they matriculate, that they would be given all the opportunities to fulfill their course requirements as best the university can provide. And most basic of this is the provision of enough places in the courses the colleges provide.

The constituent colleges and departments of the UP at the start of the academic year try to estimate the demand for their courses. With the registration and admission processes of the university done exclusively online, data management for projecting next semester's outcomes should be simple. The maths do so are simple. A bit of Bayesian statistics may be needed. While this may sound difficultly Greek for the layperson, it shouldn't be for the University of the Philippines in Diliman. There are quite a number of PhDs in this campus who can do that since they use that in their disciplines.

As the Science and Society Program of the College of Science (SSP), we are tasked to service the whole undergraduate population and we instituted management procedures that allow us to model the potential demand for our Science, Technology and Society (STS) courses. Given the lack of faculty items in the university, it is hard for us to service the student backlog of approximately 3500 students per semester as based on our predictive models. But we are  trying to address this problem in a rational way. Rationality however can be fail when the system is stretched to the limit and begins to break down.

And this happened this semester. An unexpected additional 900-1000 students had to be serviced and there was not enough classes to do that. STS historically has had a large class size for the 9 sections offered (mean = 120) but now we have no choice but to have classes at with a mean size of 173 students (Standard deviation 18.1, Standard error= 0.48 ) since we have a total of 1381 students now.  The mean is  53 more than what STS was intended for. The excess 53 is more than the manageable 35 students that UP classes are designed for. And please note, our standard error is so small. Therefore we could be confident to say our decision to admit the excess 53 can answer for the increased demand. Or does it?

Based on our past projections, admitting an excess of 25 students per class  in proportion to the 160 mean is enough to service the "desperately needing for slots students" (a.k.a. graduating!) which we estimated at 225 students per semester. This is  around 6.25% of the estimated by the Registrar backlog for our courses. That percentage is barely servicing the desperate since one of our models estimate 10% as a better bet.  But now since we have a mean 53 students in excess we can not be sure. Enrollment trends in the succeeding semesters may give an idea but I am reasonable to hypothesize that the prognosis isn't good as the demand for UP education with the Iskolar ng Bayan law, is certainly to increase.

The STS sections should be increased to at least 20 (at the 150 including 25 prerog admissions per section) to meet the servicing demand of 3,000 students per academic year. This means we need an additional 11 PhDs to teach the course. And these PhDs should read beyond their discipline! But faculty items in UP are hard to find since we need the Budget department of the national government to give us faculty items. A typical academic department has 9 faculty items. And so 11 is unrealistic from the administration's point of view.

In conclusion the SSP is overstretched and the present state of affairs stressing our staff who manage class enrollments and academic records in order to admit more students.  With this rationality might fly out the window.

And thus we need a stiff drink!

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