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Jul 13, 2021

There may not be a single unique approach to the internationalization of research, but Philippine universities and colleges have long been exploring going global with research. The concept is not new after all, as scientific research has had an international dimension from the beginning. Scholarly peer reviewed articles are published in international journals, funding is sometimes sourced from foreign institutions, and specific results have no doubt made a global impact.

Partner higher education institutions (HEIs) of the ANTENA Project recently shared their experience as part of a series of online conferences coordinated by the University of Alicante in Spain. The HEIs typically had research awards and incentives, local and international research collaborations, and policy guidelines and basic support infrastructure already in place.

Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, for example, offers several research incentives and faculty programs. Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan has determined its specific research agenda and hosts ethics reviews for researchers. Ateneo de Manila University boasts of the country’s first online institutional repository of scholarly work by faculty, staff, and students. Ateneo also has specific research centers focused on specialized fields.

In the University of the Philippines’ experience, several programs helped boost the internationalization of research including a Balik-PhD (Returning-PhD) recruitment program, short-term travel grants for foreign post-doctorate stints, and productivity systems for scientists and artists.

But even the 2008 charter defining UP as the country’s national and foremost research university did not instantly transform the institution, which was then commemorating 100 years.

“A research culture is not established overnight. A system of incentives and sometimes, disincentives helps,” said Dr. Gil Jacinto, former UP Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs and Director for UP System’s Office of International Linkages.

He also shared that engaging with stakeholders was vital to improve understanding of internationalization’s purpose and value, as the lack of support and even opposition was a reality for the national university.

So if the internationalization of research has long been practiced, what has changed now? Dr. Robert Escarre, Director of the Research Management Service of the University of Alicante, offered many factors. For one, international researchers and faculty have become common in some universities and are contributing to better university education.

“Scientific mobility is connected to the increased number of articles and projects, so there is increased productivity and impact,” he noted. Improved communication has also resulted in greater interaction in the worldwide research community.

Dr. Escarre also noted the differences in disciplines, specifically how more attention and funding seemed to go to natural sciences and technology as against the humanities. Researchers need increased access to funding. The role of international organizations in supporting research would also have to be further explored.

For his part, Dr. Christophe Terrasse, Director – International Projects of EFMD Global, emphasized that there is no “one size fits all” model for quality international research. Institutions, whether regional, international or national, would differ on many levels. What is important is for international research to align with the university’s vision and mission. An institution’s identity would naturally influence its research direction. He concluded that research is only one dimension of several aspects determining a university’s overall quality.

“If you want to assess an institution, everything must fit together. Everything must be of good quality,” he said.