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Inbound, outbound and TNE: the Philippines’ commitment to mobility

The Philippines has a young population – over 30% are under 15 years old. Combined with a fast-growing economy and a new transnational education strategy, the opportunities for student mobility – inbound, outbound and transnational – are worth paying attention to.

In 2023, 16 HEIs in the Philippines made QS' list of of the best Asian universities. Photo: Unsplash

In 2019, The Philippines passed the Transnational Higher Education Act

Outbound student mobility

IDP’s 2022 Emerging Futures survey shows that Canada remains the most popular first-choice destination for 38% of Filipino prospective students, closely followed by Australia with 31%.

According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, in 2022, Canada’s 32,455 Filipino students accounted for 4% of the total make up of inbound international students, only preceded by China and India.

Career development, followed by education quality and knowledge were the top motivations for studying abroad, the research found.

“Filipinos opt for Canada due to its promising employment opportunities, while Australia is favoured for its exceptional education quality. However, both countries are equally popular for being safe for international students,” a spokesperson for IDP tells The PIE.

Education consultant Christel Chantoiseau of family-owned RSS Outbound Consultancy Service shares with The PIE her students’ motivations.

While some are seeking high quality education, many choose Canada as they already have relatives living there who can offer accommodation and help with other financial costs. With Filipinos being among the top diaspora groups in Canada, it makes sense that students are seeking it out as an education destination.

“Over the years in our international research studies, we have seen Canada and Australia being strongly preferred over other English-speaking countries and they have respectively led the demand by a large margin, however, our data suggests that the UK is slowly catching up,” IDP’s spokesperson adds.

However, 68% of Filipino respondents said they are reassessing their plans to study abroad due to the increased cost of living, the company’s research also indicated.

With 44% saying they fund their study abroad experiences through part-time work and 43% getting help from their parents, there is a strong intention for Filipino students to work part-time while studying abroad. Some 87% hope to do so, IDP says.

There is also a strong intention to work in the study destination after graduation, with 92% of students applying for a post-study work visa indicating they are confident they will find a job after obtaining the permit.

“From the very start, they come to me and they are very dedicated that they really want to study abroad. They are willing to give up everything in Philippines to have a new life abroad,” says Chantoiseau.

Inbound student mobility

The Philippines is making its mark on inbound student mobility too, with 22,247 international students choosing it as their study destination in 2022, a growth of 52.7% since 2021. According to data from IIE’s 2022 Project Atlas release, some 74% of inbound international students were studying STEM subjects.

The majority of the country’s international students – some 16,013 – come from India, with a further 4,462 coming from China, the data shows.

“Normally, markets this small wouldn’t be significant enough to warrant the attention of the big four. But the Philippines gets interesting when we examine the nationality breakdown of its new student,” says ApplyBoard in its insights article on the next big destinations for international students.

“Once Indian students penetrate a market, history tells us that the market will skyrocket in popularity. Not just among Indian students, but all international students,” it continues.

According to Laurene Chua-Garcia, vice-president of external relations and internationalisation, De La Salle University, institutions in the Philippines have a lot to offer international students, starting with the medium of instruction being English.

“Most higher education institutions have a good number of teaching and research faculty who have been trained in leading educational institutions all over the world,” Chua-Garcia tells The PIE.

“We are current and content is relevant across different disciplines. There are regular updates through the different global collaborations and significant recognition in the research domain.”

Some institutions are also rated higher in Times Higher Education than others in first world countries, he adds.

“So, education in the Philippines is actually comparable with the good ones out there.” In 2023, 16 higher education institutions in the Philippines featured in the QS list of the best Asian universities.

Photo: CHED

“As higher education institutions continue to rise in global university rankings, the Philippine Commission on Higher Education commits to prioritising internationalisation and setting milestones in nation-building,” the country’s Commission on Higher Education said at the time.

Inbound international students can enjoy the warm hospitality of Filipinos, says Chua-Garcia, adding that they are “very accepting of diverse cultures”.

“You can see that in the many multi-ethnic people we have. I alone come from a mixed heritage comprised of Spanish, Dutch, British and Chinese bloodlines,” Chua-Garcia tells The PIE.

Transnational education

In 2019, The Philippines sent a message to the world about its readiness to welcome higher education institutions into the country, as it passed the Transnational Higher Education Act.

The law opened up an array of TNE avenues – academic franchising, branch campuses, joint degrees, online blended and distance learning, Open Distance Learning, twinning and validation arrangements.

So far, the act has seen 10 universities in the Philippines linked with nine UK universities.

The passing of the bill was a “welcome development”, Lotus Postrado, director Philippines, British Council, tells The PIE, noting the organisation’s previous work towards improving TNE opportunities in the country.

“In 2016, prior to this law, we partnered with CHED to pilot a TNE project that eventually yielded more than 15 postgraduate degrees with the UK. This policy was a signal of the country’s deep commitment to further internationalise its higher education sector,” says Postrado.

Since, the British Council has launched multiple TNE collaborations with CHED, including ‘Access and Competitiveness through Internationalisation of Higher Education‘. Through the new three-year program, the British Council is working with a growing number of Philippine and UK universities to develop new TNE degrees, launching in 2024.

Through the £1.8m project, the British Council will also support the professional development of Filipino university staff through a scholarship grant for existing UK-Philippine TNE programs, Postrado tells The PIE.

The program will work to mobilise various government bodies to create the national TNE strategy in support of the TNE law, including enabling a whole-government policy support.

“As demonstrated by the policy and the government’s huge investment in TNE, we’re starting to establish an environment that would be conducive to these types of collaborations,” Postrado continues.

A unique feature of the Philippine government’s approach to TNE is that it is being used for development purposes; capacity building, talent strategy, and achieving sustainable development goals.

“There’s a strong focus on creating programs in niche areas critical for national development”

“There’s a strong focus on creating programs in niche areas critical for national development such as food sustainability, meteorology, robotics, and data science, among others,” she adds,

“The Philippines’ aspirations on TNE have helped open more opportunities for the UK market.

“We’re not talking only about UK universities creating degree programs, but also having wider engagements with education bodies such as Advance HE and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.”

One example of this is the signing of an MoU between CHED and QAA in London earlier this year, during the Education World Forum.

In signing, QAA committed to supporting CHED in developing a TNE strategy for the Philippines and continued participation to develop Philippine quality assurance and accreditation activity, QAA’s statement reads.

This project involves designing a bespoke training program for CHED representatives and supporting the development of a governance structure, as well as implementation of Philippine TNE law, it adds.

‘This agreement marks a significant milestone in the growing relationship between QAA and CHED and our shared mission of developing quality assurance mechanisms in the Philippines,” says Vicki Stott, chief executive, QAA.

Most recently, the British Council entered into a new partnership with the Philippine government that would enable it to showcase best practices and integrate TNE and internationalisation in the country’s ongoing education reform, Postado tells The PIE.

Chua-Garcia champions the country’s potential for TNE opportunities and partnerships, but is keen to warn potential partners of a few pitfalls some fall into, highlighting how institutions often expect a one-way partnership when collaborating with universities in the Philippines.

“They just want to tell us ‘bring your students to us, bring your students to us!’ What happened to a bilateral or fair exchange?” she said.

“The Philippines may have been relegated to being a third world country in ASEAN but we are well-trained and the training continues.”

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