Opportunities and Challenges in the Internationalisation of the Philippine Higher Education Sector. 

This report, published by British Council, provides an analytical insight into the higher education system in the Philippines and its readiness to engage internationally. It reviews the Philippines’ economic and demographic outlook and their implications for the higher education sector, within the global and regional context. The report raises fundamental questions about the future direction and strategy for both government and the sector, the answers to which can determine the country’s roadmap on internationalization of education.

The methodology comprised desk research as well as a scoping visit to the Philippines that involved a wide range of consultation meet­ings with higher education agen­cies and organisations.


The continued growth in wealth in the Philippines is expected to increase future demand for higher education. This trend will be further boosted by steady growth in the university age population (20 to 24 year olds) as far into the future as 2050. The ASEAN region’s use of English as its official language potentially positions the Philippines’ higher education sector favourably within the region. The ASEAN economic community will be enabling highly skilled mobility across the region and further increasing demand for higher education.


Overall, the Philip­pines compares favourably with ASEAN peer countries. However, an area of weakness is the relative lack of the openness to interna­tional students and academics. The process for stu­dent visa applications is complex and similarly, interna­tional academics face significant difficulties should they wish to practise their profession in the Philippines.

Philippines has a comprehen­sive transnational education (TNE) strategy, which sets out the terms of engagement between domestic and international higher education institutions (HEIs). From an overseas HEI perspective, however, the lim­itations on operating through a local partner institution, which must have at least 60 per cent owner­ship of the venture, represent a significant setback. HEIs with strong global brands, many of which will be keen to retain ownership and di­rect control over the quality of the education being provided. Philippines’ ability to retain and attract talent is less strong than its peers. So, too, is the number of researchers per million of the population. However, even though research output is low compared to ASEAN peer countries, citation impact is the highest. The Philippines performs competitively in terms of research capacity on environ­mental sciences and agricultural and biological sciences. From among its ASEAN peer countries, Philippines has the lowest number of international students suggesting that the competitive advantage of the English language has not yet been realised.


The research raises a number of fundamental questions about the future direction and strategy for both government and the sector. Answers to these questions can help determine the country’s roadmap.

  • How will the Philippines meet the major challenge of future growth in demand for higher education?
  • How can more Filipinos be encouraged to study overseas?
  • Can foreign HEIs be encouraged to move into the Philippines?
  • How can foreign HEIs be used to build capacity?
  • What impact will the ASEAN single market have?
  • Could – and should – the Philippines become an education hub for the ASEAN region?

There are major opportunities and risks for the Philippines in a growing ASEAN region – and these provide paths for the development of the country’s IHE roadmap and strategy. Seizing these opportunities comes with significant challenges. The future of the country’s IHE sector will largely be determined by the path it will take coupled with the scale of its ambition and level of commitment to achieve this goal.


Opportunities and Challenges in the Internationalisation of Philippine Higher Education Sector was prepared for British Council by IHE experts, Pat Killingley and Dr Janet Ilieva.