The reception of higher education partners at the residence of Her Majesty’s Ambassador Laure Beaufils was held last 8 June and hosted by the British Embassy Manila and the British Council in the Philippines. (Photo © British Embassy Manila)

The British Council and the British Embassy Manila recently gathered leaders and alumni from 32 universities and institutions from the UK and across the country to celebrate partnerships in higher education between the United Kingdom (UK) and the Philippines.

Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Philippines Laure Beaufils hosted the event on June 8, 2022, at her residence, where she highlighted the strength of collaboration between the two countries on education, touching on the transnational education partnerships, outstanding scholarship opportunities such as the Chevening programme, cutting-edge research partnerships through the Newton Agham and innovations in EdTech through some of the world’s most competitive companies.

Through these partnerships, the UK and the Philippines have continuously fostered innovation, strengthening capacities and expanding the global reach of both countries.

Lotus Postrado, British Council’s country director, discussed the UK’s partnership with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) that has paved the way for the Transnational Higher Education Law to be passed. This new law, passed in 2019, allows foreign universities to provide education services in the country through local universities and the UK-Philippines transnational education partnerships are examples of this. Through the three-year CHED-British Council project, Joint Development for Niche Programmes (JDNP), the introduction of the transnational education programme in the Philippines has enabled more Filipinos to gain specialist expertise through dual, double or joint degrees, with a university in the UK and a university in the Philippines.

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The British Council and CHED are embarking on their second transnational education partnership through another three-year project called Access and Competitiveness through Internationalisation of Higher Education (ACT-IHE). This collaboration seeks to widen the access of learners to quality higher education and to build the competitiveness of Filipino universities.

Sharing their transnational education (TNE) journey, Director Anna Firmalino from the University of the Philippines Los Baños and Miriam College School of Arts, Sciences and Education Dean Trixie Sison presented the benefits of their respective partnerships with UK universities. Firmalino and Sison highlighted the innovative teaching and research practices from the UK, coupled with the cutting-edge knowledge from their partners being at the forefront of their respective academic disciplines. Their experiences have also resulted in positive student experiences and revitalised programme designs that are more inclusive and human-centred.

Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) re-engineered its curricula to be more responsive to globalisation and industrialisation to address the setbacks they encountered in pushing for internationalisation.

‘As a humble university in the far north…we were aware of our limitations and challenges…But what we lacked in resources, we overcame with recognition,’ MMSU President Shirley Agrupis said. Apart from re-engineered curricula, MMSU also developed its English language programmes and intensified the integration of technology in teaching and learning, among others. Along with four other Philippine state universities, they are now part of the ACT-IHE project and are poised to co-develop new postgraduate programmes with the UK, adding to the growing roster of UK-Philippine TNE degrees.

‘We are very fortunate to be part of [the ACT-IHE] project…internationalisation is part of our goal for quality assurance,’ said Western Mindanao State University Director (WMSU) Mario Obra Jr. WMSU is one of the 17 universities across the Philippines mentored to become English as Medium of Education (EME) champions in their region, contributing to efforts to strengthen multilingual education in the country.

Insendi Regional Director for Asia Pacific Danny Bielik, on the other hand, spoke about the opportunities brought about by British Ed Tech: new technologies adapted to the Filipino context by education professionals can achieve the same quality outcome of face-to-face education – and even more –breaking down barriers and allowing access to the best resources (books, research, teachers, professionals) from across the world.

Dean Sison summed up the aim of not just the evening, but also of partnerships in education. ‘It is our hope that initiatives like this will continue… so that [teachers] could mould their students to become more creative, critical, analytical and collaborative—skills that would make them thrive in an unknown future. We will continue to produce teachers who make a difference in the lives of the Filipino youth.’

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