By Ellson Quismorio
A Mindanao lawmaker has filed a bill that would allow the best foreign universities to establish its own campuses in the Philippines in a bid to turn the country into an even bigger hub for international students.
Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel’s proposed Higher Education Internationalization Act, or House Bill (HB) 3165, enables foreign private universities to put up Philippine branches.
“Considering that we are already drawing in a growing number of students from South Korea, India, Iran and China, we should capitalize on the hosting of international students to generate hundreds of millions of dollars every year for our economy,” said the solon, who chairs the House committee on good government and public accountability.
“Getting some of the finest schools in the United States and elsewhere to run extension campuses here is the quickest way for us to capture a bigger slice of the global international student population now estimated at 4.6 million,” Pimentel said.
He said the Philippines is a highly viable site for the future offshore campuses of American universities, including business schools and technological institutes.
“Our advantages include our strategic location and welcoming culture, plus our proficiency in English, which is not only the language of instruction, but also the language of business and technology,” Pimentel pointed out.
The foreign universities simply have to obtain a license to transact business in the country from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and an authority to operate from the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd)
Of the world’s 500 best schools in the QS World University Rankings, 97 are in America, which derives some $16 billion every year from hosting around 1.1-million international students, or almost one-fourth of the global market.
International students refer to students who are currently enrolled in universities outside of their home countries.
Ditch foreign ownership restriction
At the same time, Pimentel pushed for the abolition of a provision in the 1987 Constitution that prohibits foreigners from controlling Philippine educational institutions.
He is the second member of Congress to categorically call for the removal of the constitutional restriction on majority foreign ownership of local schools.
In a previous statement, BUHAY Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza said he favored the lifting of the restriction.
“We continue to prohibit foreign control of Philippine schools, and yet we send some of our brightest children to study abroad. We might as well allow the best foreign institutions of higher learning to set up wholly owned subsidiaries here,” Atienza said.
Under Article 14, Section 4 of the Constitution, schools operating in the Philippines should be owned solely by Filipino citizens, or by corporations at least 60 percent owned by Filipinos.
At present, only schools established by religious groups and mission boards are exempt from complying with Article 14.
Pimentel is counting on the 25-member consultative committee (Con-Com) tasked by Malacañang to review the Constitution to call for the elimination of the ban on foreign control of schools.
The committee chaired by retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno is expected to submit its recommendations to President Duterte who has said that he intends to transmit the proposals to Congress.