Bicol University qualifies as partner university of British Council, CHED on Transnational Education

Tuesday February 27,2018


Bicol University has qualified from the standards set by the British Council and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) as partner higher education institution (HEI) of the Transnational Education (TNE) program to commence this September 2018.

BU is one of the three state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country that entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for TNE implementation. Seven more private HEIs qualify the program. The other SUC qualifiers are Central Luzon State University (CLSU) and University of the Philippines (UP).

The MOA was signed during the First UK-Philippine TNE Conference and Education Fair held on February 16-17, 2018 at Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Manila.

The program is among the 18 degrees that are not offered in Philippine Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) which will be offered by 10 universities in the country and 9 universities in UK, jointly funded by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Joint Development of Niche Programmes (JDNP) through the Philippine Linkages of the British Council.

The JDNP through the Philippine-UK linkages aims to provide capacity and funding support to selected Philippine HEIs to develop transnational education partnerships with UK universities.

BU will be offering Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems (MSc in SFS) in partnership with the University of Liverpool (UoL) in the United Kingdom. CLSU is the one to offer the Ph. D. in Sustainable Food Systems, also with UoL as the partner school.

Under the program, BU, adopting the CHED criteria for study grants/scholarships, would select at least 10 students for the TNE program.

CHED would provide P5-million grant to each of the TNE qualifying schools for the two-year scholarship program.

BU President Arnulfo M. Mascariñas lauded the program forged by the British Council, CHED and the partner HEIs.

"This Transnational Education (TNE) program of CHED and the British Council has brought a lot of impact to Bicol University, especially in terms of quality assurance. Because we have to make sure that program we are offering complies with the quality standards of UoL (University of Liverpool) and at the same time comply with the TNE requirements set by CHED," Mascariñas said.

Mascariñas is known for his vision of "a world-class University producing leaders and change agents for social transformation and development."

"And in so doing, rest assured that we will be able to produce graduates that comply with world standards, Pres. Mascariñas stated.

He said that BU will offer Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems as a response to climate change and disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts in the Philippines and in the world.

Dr. Victor Soliman, BU Vice President for Research and Extension Development, said that the participation of BU in the TNE program is just the beginning of several international engagements.

"This (TNE) is just a tip of the iceberg. Expect more engagements by BU to international partnerships," Soliman told The Buzzette.

Soliman is the lead proponent of TNE program in Bicol University.


Students who will participate in this program will receive dual, double, or joint degrees from Philippine HEIs and esteemed partner UK institutions.

The Philippine universities will start to offer the new degrees by September 2018.

Lotus Postrado, head of education of the British Council Philippines said that the programs aim to contribute to the growth of the higher education sector and the economy of the Philippines.

“What made the project a success is the coming together of the institutions and the people whose passion and strong commitment to the advancement to higher education is truly admirable. We, at the British council are proud to have built the relationship with you, and it is the relationship we tend to keep long term,” Postrado said.

Marianne Joy Vital, program director, K to 12 Transition Program Management Unit of CHED said the universities were chosen through the following criteria set by British council and the commission: autonomous, the level of accreditation; capacity and readiness for international partnerships; organizational strategies that reflect international outlook and their capacity to attract students who can afford the cost of international degrees; and recognized as centers of excellence or development.

CHED officer-in-charge Prospero “Popoy” De Vera III said the commission is committed to continue the partnership for the next coming years and will also offer it to other public and private institutions.

“I think the government should be really helping the private higher institutions more especially now that we have free higher education law in the Philippines and there’s a fear in the education sector that this is going to distort the market of hiring faculty members, enrolment patterns, and there’s a real fear that they will be in the losing end of this whole thing,” he said.


Martin Mortimer, Professor of Agricultural Ecology in UoL said BU has a major commitment to the Philippine Economy especially in helping the government mitigate the effects of climate change.

“We found a lot of commonalities and interests on sustainable food systems, for very similar reason where climate change has bigger impact on global production systems. Philippine farmers are particularly adept in dealing with the variability of the weather, climate change is more extreme,” he said.

Mortimer said major programs on agriculture, crops, fish and food production are needed on a sustainable point of view and improving profitability not in the expense of the environment.

“Some people eat too much food but we’re not sure of the quality of it. What we need to do is re-balance the food system to provide food of affordable cost, which is highly nutritious and does not cause non-communicable diseases like being overweight that will lead to diabetes, impact on bone structure and your whole life,” he added.

BU president Arnulfo Mascariñas said the course that will be offered is also in response to climate change and disaster risk reduction efforts of the government.


Antonio Payonga, dean of BU Graduate School said five of the students in the first batch will come from the university.

“They will be capacitated to later on teach our students, not only in the university but students all over the country,” Payonga said.

He said that BU will coordinate with the different government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Trade and Industry and other science-related agencies to ask for assistance and support for the next years of the implementation of the program.

“We should not stop from that, we should do a pro-active approach,” he added.

Vital said the 10 universities were given P5 million each as seed fund to support the development and implementation of the programs.

“This is to help the higher education institutions to form alliances and long term linkages to UK institutions to enable them to be become globally competitive and better able to respond to an ever changing higher education landscape,” Vital said.

Aside from the initial funding, Vital said students will be given graduate scholarships but after finishing the study, there will be a return service to university.

“They are not just of course investing on themselves, after completing the study, there is a commitment for the scholars for a return service which is included in their proposal,” she added.

She said the partnership with the British Council is one of the programs of CHED in the The K to 12 Transition Program to prevent the massive displacement of higher education faculty and staff in colleges and universities.

“This is an opportunity for them that instead of being displaced, they can instead study on these programs, to retool themselves since the curriculum of HEIs are being revised to be more responsive,” Vital added.


In 2016, BU has started its training of faculty and drafting the module for the program that would fit to the standards of the UK curriculum.

Victor Soliman, vice president for Research, Development and Extension of BU said the degree aims to train professional who acquire competencies in diverse knowledge on food system, sustainable intensification, food production, supply chain and decision making, and an understanding of consumer behavior.

Among the subjects in the curriculum are Research Methods and Statistics, Works and Policies, Food Security and the research project.

“This also aims on addressing issues on hunger alleviation, sustainable food production, nutritional related non-communicable disease,” he said.

Graduates of undergraduate degree aligned in agriculture, fisheries, biology, and any other related courses can be admitted in the program.

In the first year of the study, students will attend lectures and hands-on practical activities in the university and will continue for the second year in UoL.

Multi-disciplinary lecturers will teach the students in classroom sessions, online and teleconference set up in the Philippines while in UK, there will be taught courses but students will be more exposed to facilities and thesis writing.

BU has 10 competent faculty to teach the said course.

After finishing the 45-unit degree, graduates will be given diploma on Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems from BU and Master of Science in Advanced Biology to be awarded by UoL.

Payonga, a graduate of Doctor of Philosophy in Agronomy, is encouraging those who are interested to work on their passion on research to be more efficient, productive and to provide quality food for the world‘s growing population.

“We want production of volume of products just to earn, we need to put a lot in the chain of production, but through time, these fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals that help produce good products will have an impact in the soil environment, in the microorganisms. We should not compromise the future generation,” he added. By Prof. Anacito Dematera and Prof. April Mier/CPRO Faculty Correspondent from BUCAL