UST’S electronics and communications engineering (ECE) program has “lost” its center of excellence status (COE), while chemical engineering and physical therapy were hailed centers of development (COD), following evaluation by the Commission on Higher Education (Ched).

Engineering Dean Josefin de Alban Jr. said ECE’s downgrade to a COD was not exactly a demotion. This was because Ched had decided to revise the rules for COEs and CODs amid lack of funds, and has yet to release the rules for COEs. In the meantime, Engineering applied for and was granted COD status.

The “Implementing Guidelines for the Ched Centers of Excellence / Development for Engineering Project” released in 2007 scheduled application periods during academic year 2008-2009 for COD, and 2009-2010 for COE.

Engineering programs named centers of development and excellence are entitled to financial assistance of P1 million and P2 million, respectively, in one year for a period of three years. Other programs that can qualify for the same grants are disciplines in agriculture, science, mathematics, information technology, and teacher education.

The COE status of UST’s ECE expired in 2004. When the application for COD status re-opened in 2008, UST applied and was granted the status for ECE and chemical engineering.

Under the 2007 guidelines, centers of development can only apply for grants on a “per project basis.”

UST professor and Ched evaluator Lourdes Baldelomar said COE guidelines are expected to be released this year, after which the faculty would re-apply for COE status. De Alban said the University’s engineering program remains strong, regardless of chemical engineering’s lower passing rate in recent board exams.

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UST posted a 42-percent passing rate in the Chemical Engineering board exams last April compared with last year’s 44 percent.

“The passing rate is just one angle. We should not focus on that. In fact, I see they can make it a center of excellence after two years, hopefully,” De Alban said.

Meanwhile, the College of Rehabilitation Sciences’ physical therapy program gained COD status after applying for the first time in January 2009. Ched representatives inspected the college last October, and sent a formal recognition just after a month.

Acting physical therapy department head Cheryl Peralta said published researches by faculty members and international linkages are the program’s “rooms for improvement.”

In the case of occupational therapy, Rehabilitation Sciences Dean Jocelyn Agcaoili expressed confidence the program would obtain full accreditation from the Occupational Therapy Association of the Philippines, following ocular inspections last December 1 and 2.

Other University programs that are centers of development are biology and commerce. UST’s COEs are philosophy, literature, chemistry, architecture and nursing, which just renewed its status for five more years from March 2009 to March 2012.

Nursing was the first college in the University named by Ched as center of excellence in 1995. Adrienne Jesse A. Maleficio

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