Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997

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The Higher Education Modernization Act of 1997, also known as HEMA or Republic Act No. 8292, is a law that provides the uniform composition and powers of governing boards, and the manner of appointment and term of office of the president of chartered state universities and colleges. It is an educational measure authored by senator Edgardo Angara.

To meet the goal of providing an adequate and integrated system of higher education in the Philippines, the governing boards of chartered state universities and colleges are modified to make them more effective in the formulation and implementation of policies. They should be able to provide a more relevant direction in their governance and ensure the enjoyment of academic freedom in order to achieve a more coordinated and integrated system of higher education.


The governing boards


The governing body, which is the Board of Regents for the state universities and colleges (SUC) and Board of Trustees for colleges, shall be composed of the following:

  • Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education as chairman
  • President of the university or college as vice chairman
  • Chairmen of the Congressional Committees on Education and Culture
  • Regional director of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) where the main campus of the university or college is located
  • Regional director of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for science and technological colleges; or the regional director of the Department of Agriculture for agriculture colleges; or the secretary of Education for an Autonomous Region. In line with such representation, the commanding generals of the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy shall sit as members of the Board of Philippine State College of Aeronautics and the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy, respectively.
  • President or representative of the faculty association (faculty regent)
  • President of the supreme student council or the student representative elected by the student council (student regent)
  • President or representative of the alumni association of the concerned institution (alumni regent)
  • Two (2) prominent citizens who have distinguished themselves in their professions or fields of specialization. They would be chosen among the list of at least five (5) persons qualified in the city or province where the school is located as recommended by the president with consultation of the chairman of CHED based on the normal standards and qualifications for the position.

It should be noted that the faculty and student council shall be represented by their respective federations in multi-campus universities and colleges. The private sector representatives shall be appointed by the Board of Regents or Trustees upon the recommendation of a duly constituted search committee.

Members shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed for necessary expense incurred in their attendance of meetings of the Board or in connection with their official business.

Powers and duties of Governing Boards

Primarily, HEMA allows the governing boards to enact rules and regulations for the SUCs. Among its specific powers and mandates are to:

  • Receive and appropriate the school's budget, as well as entering into joint ventures with private entities to gain maximum income.
  • Determine the tuition and other school fees and provide socialized tuition and scholarship program for poor students.
  • Privatize management and non-academic services.
  • Appoint school officials and faculty members.
  • Authorize te enhancement of school facilities and the establishment of research and extension centers.
  • Approve the curricula, institutionalize new programs, and absorb non-chartered tertiary institutions.
  • Establish policy guidelines for participative decision-making and transparency within the insitution.

HEMA also assures that all institutions of higher learning shall enjoy academic freedom and institutional autonomy. It also says that no student shall be denied admission to any university or college by reasons of sex, nationality, religion, political affiliation, or physical disability.

Except for the chairman of the Board, HEMA does not affect the charter of the University of the Philippines System as well as the charter of the Mindanao State University.

Challenges and criticisms

According to an article written by Ramon Guillermo, spokesperson of Congress of Teachers for Nationalism and Democracy, there are “three major areas of concern” in education as underlined in the Medium Term Education Development Plan (MTEDP). These are “(1) increasing access to and improving of the quality of basic education; (2) liberalizing the regulation of private schools, and; (3) rationalizing the programs of SUCs."

He said that the “rationalization” of SUCs entails the transformation of these educational institutions to being “income-earning entities.” It also means that in order to justify their continued existence, they must "increase their self-financing capacity through income generation and cost-recovery programs." Also, they shall accordingly receive "incentives of entrepreneurial activities." He therefore concluded that “rationalization” translates into the "commercialization" of SUCs in three important aspects:

  • The previously non-profit public institution shall be turned into a profit-generating public agency since the HEMA permits the SUCs to "enter into joint ventures with business and industry for the profitable development and management of the college or institution, the proceeds from which are to be used for the development and strengthening of the college and the university..." Guillermo said that this has been called the corporatization of SUCs. Guillermo added that the ways a public educational agency engages in entrepreneurial activities can take into many forms like the increase in tuition fees combined with the removal or reduction of automatic subsidies for the state scholars and commercialization of “idle assets.” “Idle assets” refer to lands and other properties allocated for commercial use but have not been developed for such use despite the need for facilities because of lack of funds. “Commercialization” takes place when the said lands are leased out. An example of this is the joint venture of the University of the Philippines (UP) with Ayala Land. UP leased out one hundred hectares of land for as long as a hundred years or three generations of Filipinos and built the U.P.-Ayala TechnoHub in order to gain the maximum possible profits.
  • The food, dormitory, and other services within the University or College shall be run by private concessionaires. Guillermo termed this as the “privatization” of services within the public institution since HEMA states that the governing board shall have the power to "privatize, where most advantageous to the institution, management and non-academic services such as health, food, building or grounds or property maintenance, and similar such services..."
  • Educational institutions that previously insulated from market forces must bow to the “harsh discipline of the market.” Guillermo said that state propaganda propagates the idea that any “state-run institution is bound to be inefficient and 'undisciplined; compared to a privately run, profit-driven enterprise.” By “privatizing” institutions of higher learning, the state must clamp down on the proliferation of non-viable campuses and course offerings.

According to an article by Zambo Times, higher education is now perceived as mere commodity where only the privilege few could avail since the implementation of HEMA. The poor are forced to drop themselves out from formal education.

On the other hand, according to Renato Malate in his study entitled “Corporatization of State Universities and Colleges: Impact on Higher Education”, corporatization is effective in improving access, fiscal autonomy and quality of education of SUCs. However, one must note that the significant effect is only limited to growth indicators like program offerings, number of faculty, and extension projects.

A study by militant youth organizations Sanlakas Youth and Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan revealed that despite the existence of HEMA, costs in private Higher Education Institutions (HEI) are going up beyond people's capacity to pay forcing to transfer to public HEI like SUCs and Local government Unit Colleges (LUCs). However, the meager SUC budget cannot allow SUCs to absorb the college entrants and transferees, forcing them to pass the cost to the students like the 300% tuition fee hike in the UP System in 2007. The students who are not able to enter college have nowhere to go, slowinh down the net growth of college students. Thus, the said groups pushes for the allocation of at least six percent of the country's gross national product to education, which is in consonance with the United Nations standard in funding education.

In addition, the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. proposed policy recommendations to improve the quality and governance of higher education. Priority proposals include:

  • Rationalization of tuition and other fees. Tuition ceiling, determination of fees to be collected from students and CHED's compliance with the policy on incremental processes on tuition increase (70 percent for teachers’ salaries, 20 percent for improvement of school facilities, and 10 percent for school profit) should be taken into consideration. The government should also expand the “study now, pay later” program to improve access to higher education.
  • Creation of additional laws to implement the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Convention requirements to realign maritime curriculum with international standards required by IMO and Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW). Scholarships and investments on educational facilities in rural areas where potential seafarers and officers come should also be maximized. The government should also provide for more infrastructures for schools, state-of-the-art mechanisms for consortium, and rationalization of curriculum over training. The government should also set up institutional facilities for apprenticeship training.
  • Increase in budget allocation for SUCs. Due to the declining government subsidy for higher education, SUCs are resorting to privatization and commercialization. While HEMA allows SUCs to enter joint agreements with private corporations to increase income, the government should continue to prioritize strong investments for SUCs.
  • Magna Carta of Students. Student groups have long been wanting a Magna Carta to recognize and guarantee the students' democratic rights inside campuses. This will empower them as equal partners in improving the system of learning in the country.




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