The Republic of the Philippines is the second most populated of the ASEAN countries, and with a forecast for 2045 as the 10th most populated country in world, the development of human capital is a urgent issue to contend with. Hence, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Agency for tertiary and graduate education in the country, stressed the need for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to be responsive to international challenges as it affects the regional and global competitiveness of the Philippines. Indeed, in order to accompany the socioeconomic development, there is an urgent need to accelerate human capital development and commit to the internationalization of HE. The commitment involves strategies like accelerating national and global inter-university research collaboration, ensuring that curricular programs are aligned with international standards, training graduates who can demonstrate 21st century competencies in global knowledge economy, and even promoting diversity in faculty roster by engaging international talents.

The ASEAN Integration is one pressing challenge. The Philippine Government is cognizant of the fact that the country lags behind many of its ASEAN neighbors in producing knowledge builders, researchers, innovators, job creators, solutions seekers, and solutions providers needed to effectively function in a knowledge economy. Part of the response, is the CHED´s development of a Policy Framework and Strategies on the Internationalization of Philippine HE in 2016. Such Policy Framework encourages HEIs to pursue their international strategy (Quality, reputation, international academic community and International cooperation with the rest of the world). The CHED has both a developmental and regulatory role in promoting the internationalization strategy that is programmatic and holistic. The nature of support and assistance depends on the level of development of the HEIs according to the tier they belong. There are four tiers, tier 1 being the highest. Universities seek for opportunities for Int. linkages, but with the huge number of HEIs in the country (1,600+ private schools and 220+ state schools as of 2014), the CHED can only involve a limited number.

The current state of the art is that the country is only warming up to internationalization. The policy framework and strategies on the internationalization of Philippine HE has just been crafted by the CHED in 2016. However, the effort to ready the universities towards internationalization is still wanting. While there are policies from the CHED, implementing rules and guidelines still have to be further clarified. Indeed, student mobility policies have been revised, but procedures are still unclear how the universities are going to strategize on their own towards internationalization. Capability building is essential as there are very few trained to do internationalization in the universities. The enabling environment has to be heightened by the oversight bodies to encourage the universities to get into internationalization. Funding support is essential to upgrade the facilities and capabilities of the universities to be at par with possible international partners that have already achieved a level of quality success in their programs.

The current project is very relevant since very few initiatives are being taken along this line especially in the Philippines. Universities can better face internationalization if an enabling environment may be provided to reduce the costly trial and error methods that typify current practices. Besides, the challenges which arise from being a partner country for the EU Erasmus+ programme suppose a need and a desire for the harmonisation of practices (such as quality, accreditation), but this also requires the appropriate structures and knowledge to be in place in order to undertake exchanges, joint projects, or other international activities.

From meetings and discussions with the partner institutions, it is clear that, institutionally speaking, International Relations (or, IRR) has not been a priority for them until now, nor has it been treated as a strategic process. The IRO or, Cooperation Office in the Philippines is usually a small structure, dealing mainly with outgoing students and the few incoming, if any exist at all (with some exceptions). On average, there are one or two staff members dealing with IRRs, and it is not uncommon for the staff members to be also dedicated to either teaching or other administrative tasks at the same time.

The ANTENA consortium has identified various problems that cause the low level of internationalisation of Philippines HEIs: lack of specialised staff in IRR, unbalanced mobility flows with regards to students and academic staff, lack of internationalisation strategies, difficulties regarding the recognition of credits/titles, lack of international networking, etc. The ANTENA project will focus basically on 2 crucial issues, a macro-level problem and a micro-level problem. The micro-level or institutional challenge is the lack of specialised staff in IRR, which is an impediment to the progress of the Philippines universities in the internationalisation process. The macro-level or national problem is related to improving the Philippines credit recognition system and international research activities, which will ensure seamless academic mobility. Other identified problems will be also considered, basically as consequence of the synergies coming from tackling those challenges.

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