UK FCDO Minister Nigel Adams (left) and CHED Director Atty Lily Milla (right) ink new UK-Philippine ACT-IHE project in November 2020, expanding internationalisation and TNE opportunities in the Philippines
UK FCDO Minister Nigel Adams (left) and CHED Director Atty Lily Milla (right) inked the new UK-Philippine ACT-IHE project on November 2020, expanding internationalisation and TNE opportunities in the Philippines.

By Lotus Postrado, Head of Education

May 2021

The British Council in the Philippines is about to set off on our second major transnational education journey, spanning the next three years.

To get to where we are now, the path has been arduous at times, but infinitely rewarding.

In 2016, a British Council study on the country’s TNE landscape revealed:

  • a pervasive lack of knowledge about TNE programmes in the Philippines
  • a distinct lack of trained faculties
  • government processes ill-equipped to facilitate TNE initiatives.

Only one local institution offered a UK TNE degree. Filipino students were only able to take UK TNE courses in person or through distance learning.

Fast forward to 2021 and the ground covered on this fast-evolving journey now include:

  • the first British Council-CHED (Commission on Higher Education) collaborative UK-Philippines TNE project worth over £1m
  • the commitment of 10 Philippine universities
  • 17 UK-Philippines dual and joint postgraduate degrees on courses previously unavailable in the country. Thirteen of these courses focused on building local expertise in fields such as big data, designing education, agriculture, food sustainability and robotics.

The project has specifically addressed local capacity gaps as Dr Trixie Marie Sison, Dean of Education at Miriam College explains, ‘It (TNE project) has provided an opportunity for universities in the Philippines to develop unique and relevant programmes which address the human resource needs of the country’. And at governmental level, our project led directly to the enactment of a new Transnational Higher Education Law in 2019, mandating TNE to support the country’s human capital development agenda. 

Transnational Higher Education Law, Republic Act (RA) 11448 supports the setting up of a national TNE strategy to open opportunities for higher education institutions to develop and co-deliver locally relevant TNE degrees in the undergraduate with graduate and post graduate levels with foreign institutions.

Our partners have responded commendably. Dr Ravelina Velasco, Acting Dean at the College of Fisheries at Central Luzon State University (CLSU) shared her enthusiasm for an initiative which provided  CLSU the …rare opportunity to partner with a world-ranked university and access international recognitions --all of which we thought were not possible until now.’ This was CLSU’s first TNE programme initiative. They teamed up with the University of Liverpool for a dual PhD degree in Food Sustainable Systems and has catapulted the institution, for the first time, into the QS Asia University Rankings.

At present, all the ingredients needed for TNE to thrive are present in the Philippines – a growing population (especially young people) and economy, a high level of English proficiency and solid support from the Philippine government. British Council, Higher Education Statistics Authority and Student Insight survey data all point to the significant demand for tertiary education in the country.

ACT-IHE is a three-year project between the British Council and the Commission on Higher Education that seeks to widen access of learners to quality higher education and to build the competitiveness of Filipino higher education institutions. ​

The next destination for TNE in the Philippines is ACT-IHE, a £1.8m project for Filipino learners to gain wider access to quality higher education and build more globally competitive Filipino universities. Through ACT-IHE, we can further strengthen the UK’s TNE ties in the Philippines considerably increase our numbers and deepen collaborations. Together with our partner, CHED, we will:

  • establish five new and niche UK-Philippine postgraduate degrees
  • support UK postgraduate studies of 20 academics and the professional development of 15 subject experts
  • create a pool of over 100 TNE experts and 50 English master trainers
  • provide capacity building on teaching to over 1,000 university faculties
  • connect 20 UK universities with over 50 Philippine institutions.

ACT-IHE will purposefully build on what we have achieved so far on our TNE journey to provide even more partnership opportunities for the UK with select Philippine state universities, and with the full backing of the Philippine government: ‘This ground-breaking project will provide that crucial impetus for our state universities to be capacitated, prepared and set up for a future on the international stage’, Dr J Prospero De Vera III, CHED Chairperson.

Through this initiative, we will continue to play a key role in boosting, shaping and reforming this burgeoning sector. 'Filipino national hero and writer Jose Rizal’s words remain as relevant as ever: ‘Without education and liberty, which are the soil and the sun of man, no reform is possible, no measure can give the result desired.’

(Left to right) Representatives from Liverpool Hope University, University of Reading and Saint Louis University in one of the partnership meetings conducted during the pilot TNE
(from left) Representatives from Liverpool Hope University, University of Reading and Saint Louis University in one of the partnership meetings conducted during the pilot TNE programme in 2017. ©

British Council

The first batch of students to take the UK-Philippine postgraduate degrees gathered in a send-off party in September 2018, two years after the launch of the TNE programme. ©

Rekz Sarmenta

New partner universities from the Philippines joined the British Council and CHED at the ACT-IHE project launch ceremony during the 1st National Higher Education Day in May 2021. ©

Commission on Higher Education

See also