Since his first term as UST rector in 1998, Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P. made clear his goals: to make UST a center of excellence in various programs, an expert in research in the applied and pure sciences, and a leader in community service. He was also keen on making the University the center of contextualized theology in Asia.
Now after seven years and on his last year as Rector of the only pontifical university in Asia, is UST still on the right track toward “Vision 2011?”
“We are making a headway,” said Lana. “Of course, we find it difficult because it needs conviction and motivation on the part of the whole academic community.”
At the start of his second term in 2002, Lana identified 10 areas he intended to develop before 2011: identity, which included student development; teaching; research; community extension services; human resources; financial resources; physical resources; expansion; public presence; and information technology.
Raising the standards
UST has eight Centers of Excellence and seven Centers of Development, at present, the same number he inherited from his predecessor.
The Rector’s attempt to have most of the University’s academic programs accredited has paid off in some, not in others.
The Faculty of Medicine and Surgery still enjoys its Level IV accreditation from the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA ) despite the problem with the implementation of the Problem-Based Learning (PBL) curriculum, which was eventually shelved.
The College of Science and the Faculty of Pharmacy still have PACUCOA Level III accreditation, while the Faculty of Engineering has Level II accreditation from Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAASCU) in all its programs.
Except for Philosophy, Literature, Economics, and Legal Management, which have Level II accreditation from PACUCOA, the programs of the Faculty of Arts and Letters have lost their accreditation. Nutrition and Dietetics, Hotel and Restaurant Management, and Physical Therapy hold on to their PACUCOA Level II accreditation.
Meanwhile, PACUCOA has down-graded the College of Commerce to Level I.
According to Dr. Helena Cabrera, executive assistant to the Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs, the College of Commerce was not informed of the increase in the required percentage of faculty members in general education with post-graduate degrees from 35 per cent to 75 per cent.
Lana seemed to have foreseen these problems when he called on the faculty members at the start of his second term to take post-graduate studies to improve the faculty profile.
In 1998, there were 319 faculty members with master’s (MA) degree and 375 with doctorate (PhD) degrees out of 1,500 teachers. As of 2004, out of 1683 faculty members 824 have MAs but the PhDs are now only 135. Lana pointed out that some faculty members had either retired or resigned.
One measure undertaken by the University is the establishment of the Research and Endowment Foundation, which subsidizes faculty members taking up MAs and PhDs. Research grants and in-house training were also provided to help teachers fast-track the acquisition of higher degrees.
Nevertheless, Dr. Armando de Jesus, vice-rector for Academic Affairs, said post-graduate courses merely increase the probability, but not guarantee that teachers could be effective. He stressed the need to improve teaching methodology.
As if the lack of professors with higher degrees did not pose enough problems, the College of Nursing even subscribed to a more drastic measure of constantly hiring instructors and professors to replace its faculty members who leave for “greener pastures.” Nursing Dean Glenda Vargas said the move was taken to prevent “brain drain.”
In 2002, Fr. Lana introduced Thomel, or the Thomasian Online Management and e-Learning System, one of the major developments which allowed the access of information on-line.
“We hope to fully implement the computerization of the systems and processes especially the administrative process, so we could do away with papers and memoranda and communicate online,” said Lana.
Thomel includes the e-Learning Access Program (e-Leap), which provides learning through the Internet and includes the full course of the Civic Welfare Service Training and Literacy Training Service. Lana is optimistic that all the basic courses in the undergraduate faculties and colleges would also be part of the e-Leap program in 2006.
The Library Online Readers Network Zone (Lorenzo), the new online public access catalogue of the Central Library and its satellite libraries, was also launched with Thomel.
Faculties and colleges undertook curriculum enrichment and realignment.
A major in Entrepreneurship was initiated in Commerce and short courses were introduced in the Conservatory of Music and Faculty of Engineering. Computer Science, Information and Communication Technology and Information Technology programs were transferred to the Faculty of Engineering while the College of Architecture is set to introduce two courses: Landscape Architecture and Interior Architecture.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Religion updated its curriculum to pursue contextualized theology, a major component of “Vision 2011.”
The Department of Accountancy separated from the College of Commerce and Accountancy to become the UST-Alfredo Velayo College of Accountancy, a move 10 years in the making. The new college will offer new curricula and tap alumni resources.
Research and academic publications
It was during the present rectorship that the Thomas Aquinas Research Center (TARC) was established, with the aim of boosting research, particularly in the applied and pure sciences. So far, TARC has been posting a high output despite questions regarding its operations. In 2004, the number of funded research projects reached 209 compared to 140 the previous year. (see related article)
Research works presented internationally and nationally, however, dwindled from 59 and 249 in school year 2002-2003 to 39 and 119 in 2003-2004, respectively.
Meanwhile, the UST Publishing House launched a project last 2001 to publish at least 40 titles a year in order to have at least 400 by 2011.
According to Augusto Antonio Aguila, assistant to the Publishing House director, works to be published could vary from different disciplines and could either be scholarly or textbooks.
Quality is ensured by the referees composed mostly of Thomasian experts who evaluate every manuscript, Aguila said.
Thomasian students also responded to Fr. Lana’s call, reaping honors for the University both here and abroad.
After 27 years, a Thomasian finally placed first in the 2005 Certified Public Accountant licensure examinations. UST also grabbed the top spots in the recent Chemistry, Medical Technology and Architecture licensure examinations.
Although there were Thomasians in the top 20, UST failed to place first in nine recent licensure examinations in civil, mechanical, electronics and communications, and electrical engineering, interior design, librarian, medicine, elementary, and secondary education.
Alumni of the PBL program posted a low 86 per cent passing rate in the last medical board exams compared to 94 per cent and 92 per cent in 2001 and 2002, respectively. The University, like all others, is also faced with the challenge of the dwindling number of Medicine students because of the high cost of the program and the lure of the Nursing profession.
Meanwhile, the Faculty of Civil Law significantly improved its passing rate to 71.91 per cent in the recent bar examinations from 2003’s 53.63 per cent.
Thomasian students also dominated nationwide competitions in science, education, fine arts, architecture and commerce.
The UST Singers ended their eight-month world tour with more than 100 concerts and major awards in different countries.
In sports, UST remained the over-all champion for the 32nd time in the 67th University Athletics Association of the Philippines general championship with 285 points—six points ahead of De La Salle University (DLSU).
Despite the feat, the constantly slimming lead has raised questions about the school’s supposedly well-designed sports program. Three seasons ago, UST was ahead by 40 points as DLSU garnered only 214 points. By the 65th season, DLSU fought its way to 272 points, reducing the lead of UST to 22 points. In season 66, University of the Philippines and DLSU tied at second place with 258 points, just 26 markers behind UST.
According to Felicitas Francisco, assistant director of the Institute of Physical Education and Athletics, the next years will be tougher since a good number of UST players will be hanging their jerseys this year.
At the start of his second term, Fr. Lana embarked on academic expansions both here and abroad, in preparation for UST’s quadricentennial anniversary.
The UST Board of Trustees’ approval of the UST Mindanao Development Institute is a significant beginning, although funding remains a problem. The Mindanao expansion will focus on research and the production of virgin oil.
Meanwhile, an invitation to expand to Sri Lanka came from the Archdiocese of Colombo. If accomplished, the University would strengthen its presence in Asia. Although the proposed programs will focus on information technology, the new school will help UST achieve its dream of becoming the center of contextualized theology in the continent.
The UST expansion to Sta. Rosa, Laguna could mean new courses and facilities on a 30-hectare land, in an emerging industrial and commercial hub. The Rector is looking forward to the groundbreaking of the Sta. Rosa campus this year.
Arguably, Lana’s commitment to 2011 is indubitable. He still has a year to disprove some claims that Vision 2011 is too ambitious.
Nevertheless, his Rectorship has witnessed the transformation of UST. Whether the change is for the better would be gleaned at the end of his term.