HAS UST relinquished its laurel as the country’s foremost producer of litterateurs?

The University has been downgraded to a Center of Development (COD) in Literature after failing to meet stringent requirements set by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to qualify as Center of Excellence (COE).

Aside from UST, Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of Filipino and Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro were also declared CODs under the CHEd memorandum order issued last April 15.

The University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman’s Departments of English, Comparative Literature and Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas; Ateneo’s Department of English; and De La Salle University’s Department of Literature were named COEs.

UST’s Literature program had been a COE since 1998.

The Literature program failed to meet new criteria, which were “more detailed” and “quantitative,” despite its improved academic and research profile, said Michael Anthony Vasco, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters (Artlets).

“The criteria set last year [were] more stringent than the criteria set in 1998,” Vasco told the Varsitarian.

CHEd gave importance to refereed publications and the number of faculty members with doctorate degrees, he said. A weight of 30 percent was allotted for research and creative publications, while faculty profile was part of the 45-percent weight for instructional quality set by CHEd.

“It’s not enough that you have star faculty members. Kailangang mayroon ka talagang critical mass of faculty members with high qualifications,” Vasco said.

While the program boasts of an “impressive profile” of creative works and notable alumni, the department’s lack of scholarly output affected its rating. CHEd even required the department to produce its own journal, Vasco said.

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Among the renowned Literature graduates of the University are Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist of the Philippines for Literature; the late Paz Latorena, former literary professor and literary editor of the Varsitarian; and the late Ophelia Dimalanta, one of the country’s top poets and former Artlets dean.

Vasco said faculty members should pursue higher degrees and do more research.

“It will never happen overnight. Pero hindi ko naman sinasabi na we will not be able to get [the COE status] back,” he said. “I hope we can get it back, but we do not know when.”

Continuing excellence

The Philosophy and Music programs of the University, meanwhile, retained their status as COEs, which they have held since 1998.

Aside from UST, Ateneo was also named COE.

Department of Philosophy chair Paolo Bolaños said research undertakings and a strong faculty profile allowed the program to retain its COE status.

The department has 23 professors with PhDs. The number of PhDs increased due to the “discipleship” practice of the department, Vasco said.

“Your excellence must be vested if you can assist other schools of philosophy in developing their program,” he said. “[A]nd in our little way, we were able to improve the philosophy department of [the University of] San Carlos.”

The University of San Carlos in Cebu obtained its COD status in Philosophy this year.

UST’s Music program received the COE status together with Philippine Women’s University, UP-Diliman College of Music, St. Paul University-Manila College of Music and the Performing Arts and St. Scholastica’s College School of Music.

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Other programs of UST with COE status are Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, Nursing and Teacher Education.

Including Literature, a total of 10 programs are now CODs, namely: Psychology, Journalism, Physical Therapy, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

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