THE COMMISSION on Higher Education (CHEd) has extended for another year the recognition of Centers of Excellence (COE) and Centers of Development (COD), giving the designated programs more time to implement their projects.

Existing COEs and CODs will be recognized until May 31, 2015 instead of May 31 this year, according to a CHEd memorandum dated April 28. The extension will also allow more time for CHEd to start processing the applications for the next round of COEs and CODs.

UST has seven programs with COE status: Philosophy, Music, Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Teacher Education. Ten programs have COD status: Literature, Journalism, Psychology, Physical Therapy, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Industrial Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.

Also covered by the extension are University of the Philippines Diliman which has 22 COEs; De La Salle University which has 9 COEs and 7 CODs; and Ateneo de Manila which has 10 COEs and 3 CODs, among others.

The criteria for a program to be declared as COE or COD are instructional quality, research and publication, outreach program, and institutional linkages and qualifications. COEs and CODs receive financial assistance from CHEd for scholarships, faculty development, library and laboratory upgrading, research and extension services, instructional materials development, and networking.

Autonomy also extended

CHEd also extended the autonomous and deregulated status of higher educational institutions (HEIs) to Dec. 31 from May 31. The extension will not affect HEIs that opt to renew their autonomous or deregulated status for the next five years, provided that the renewal period begins on Jan. 1, 2015, the CHEd order stated.

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UST obtained a five-year autonomous status in 2007. It was extended until May 31, 2014.

Autonomous status is obtained following three criteria: long tradition of integrity and untarnished reputation, commitment to excellence and sustainability, and viability of operations.

Also considered are the number of COEs and CODs, number of Level IV and Level III programs, clean record of compliance with Philippine laws and CHEd orders, policies, standards, and guidelines; and international and national recognitions of academic excellence.

Under the Manual of Regulations for Private Higher Education of 2008, autonomous institutions are exempted from the issuance of special orders for their graduates as well as regular monitoring and evaluation by CHEd. They also get priority in subsidies and other financial assistance.

More importantly, autonomous institutions are free to determine and prescribe curricular programs and offer new courses, open satellite campuses, offer extension classes, establish affiliates, and grant honorary degrees to deserving individuals without securing approval from CHEd. Jerome P. Villanueva

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