University of the Philippines Los Baños

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 [To view the University of the Philippines profile on the Times Higher Education website, please click through this graphic. Graphic from THE.]

 

 

Expanding its coverage, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings now includes institutions from 10 more countries for 2016-2017, including one from the Philippines, its national university, the University of the Philippines.

In its communication to UP, THE said UP ranked “in the band of >800 this year out of 980 institutions” from 79 countries. UP got its highest scores in knowledge transfer and lowest in research influence.

THE ranks universities based on five “pillars”: 1) teaching or the learning environment (30 percent); 2) research volume, income, and reputation (30 percent); 3) citations or research influence (30 percent); 4) international outlook of staff, students, and research (7.5 percent); and 5) industry income or knowledge transfer (2.5 percent).

“Your strongest Pillar was Industry Income where you ranked in the fifth decile. Your weakest Pillar was Citations where you ranked in the ninth decile,” THE informed UP.

In its website, THE defines industry income as a university’s ability to help industry with innovations, inventions and consultancy. “This category seeks to capture such knowledge-transfer activity by looking at how much research income an institution earns from industry (adjusted for purchasing power parity), scaled against the number of academic staff it employs.”

“The category suggests the extent to which businesses are willing to pay for research and a university’s ability to attract funding in the commercial marketplace – useful indicators of institutional quality,” according to THE.

UP’s industry income score was 40.8, a few points higher than the median score of 38.9 in a box plot where the highest was 74 and the lowest was 32.1. Its ranking in this category was 431.

UP’s second highest ranking was in international outlook, where it ranked 512th. In teaching, it placed 695th; in research, 848th; and citations, 859th.

Universities were excluded from the THE World University Rankings if their research output amounted to fewer than 200 articles per year over a five-year period. UP is the only institution from the Philippines ranked thus far.

According to its website, the rankings “are the only global university league tables to judge research-intensive universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.”

According to Phil Baty, editor of the THE rankings, THE World University Rankings is now on its 13th year. “Going from strength to strength,” it is now drawing on 150 separate data points on each of 1,313 of the world’s leading research universities.

“Our data analytics tools, available to universities through THE DataPoints, allow institutional research teams to interrogate this data alongside that from two annual THE Academic Reputation Surveys, providing 250,000 items of data, and bibliometric data from Elsevier, based on more than 56 million citations to 11.9 million research publications (including 528,000 books or book chapters) over five years,” Baty informed UP.

THE’s communication to UP did not include the rankings of other global universities, which the Times supplement is set to release on September 21, 2016, 9:00 PM (BST).

On 25 August 2016 incident at the Board Room in Quezon Hall

5 September 2016

Dear Members of the UP Community:

Last 25 August, as you may have already heard, a group identifying themselves to be students mainly from UP Los Baños and UP Diliman stormed into the UP Board Room in Quezon Hall shortly after the adjournment of the Board of Regents (BOR) meeting, but with several Regents still around. The students came to decry, among other issues, the alleged “failure” of the new computerized registration system, known as the Student Academic Information System (SAIS), during the registration period in UP Los Baños this semester.

While I definitely do not condone the disruptions the said group caused, I can understand the reasons for their distress. Evidently, information on what we are doing to address UP’s perennial registration problems and improve administrative efficiency has not been adequately disseminated.

I have decided to write this letter not only to those students who came to the BOR for “answers”, but also to the University community at large, whose members deserve to know the pertinent facts behind these issues.

At the heart of the protesters’ complaints was the SAIS, which is an integral part of the eUP program we launched in 2012 to integrate and harmonize the information and communication technology infrastructure across all constituent universities (CUs) of the UP System. The eUP program has, in addition to SAIS, other key information systems covering human resources; financial management; supply, procurement and campus management; and executive information.

The eUP program also has other components, such as, upgrading of fiber optic networks, increasing bandwidth for faster Internet connectivity, and providing computers and other equipment to our various campuses—things which the University needs regardless of what information systems we implement and which accounted for about 70% of the P750 million spent on the eUP program.

SAIS was specifically designed to streamline such familiar and often tediously complicated processes as admission, enlistment, cross-registration, advising, study program planning, shifting, transferring, and alumni tracking, as well help faculty members and academic units do longer-term planning to meet future demand for courses. SAIS is meant to eventually banish the long queues that have remained an embarrassing hallmark of the UP registration system in this digital age.

We agreed to adopt SAIS because its particular features address our needs. And more significantly, SAIS has worked, and worked well, for over 700 of the world’s leading universities and colleges (e.g., NUS, NTU, SIM, Universiti Malaya, Chulalongkorn, HKU, HKUST, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, Princeton, Cambridge, Oxford, ANU, RMIT, UNSW), including some local higher education institutions. Properly implemented, SAIS can do much more than the respective registration systems previously or currently in use in the CUs can handle.

SAIS has already been successfully implemented previously in three CUs—in Manila, Baguio, and Cebu. This semester we introduced SAIS in UP Los Baños, and after a few initial glitches at the start, SAIS settled down to its normal operation, thus enabling registration to proceed up to its completion. The fact that there were initial glitches cannot mean that the system per se is fatally flawed, and thus, to be rejected.

We already expected that the adoption of any new system, such as SAIS, will have birthing problems. But in the case of UPLB, the problems were compounded by a massive and apparently malicious Denial of Service (DoS) attack on our server at around the start of registration, which is now under investigation by the authorities. Apparently, someone out there wanted SAIS to fail, for reasons only he or she can tell.

I assure you that we are dealing with operational problems as well as certain issues being raised by the students and will make SAIS work as it should, while taking cognizance of everyone’s needs and concerns.

There have been suggestions, for example, that we should have sought a cheaper, open-source alternative. We already did. We discovered in 2012 that a consortium of US universities, known as Kuali, had been trying to develop a student administration software. However, we found out that a consortium member (University of California Berkeley) had pulled out after five years of waiting and another one (Florida State University) had left a couple of years earlier. Both of these universities that pulled out of the consortium subsequently decided to adopt the Oracle PeopleSoft Campus Solutions software, which we call SAIS, for their student information system.

The original quote for the software suite we got was not cheap, but we were able to secure the perpetual license at a huge discount. In any case, the benefits we expect it to bring us would far outweigh the costs. And I would like to make it clear that whatever funds we have spent on the eUP program did not, and will not, diminish any of the pre-existing funding commitments of UP prior to our administration.

The reality is that during the past five years we have been able to mobilize very substantial increases in the funding for UP from government and other sources.

This availability of funding resources has enabled us to pursue not just the eUP program, but also many other important and much bigger initiatives. For example, we have been able to provide substantial merit promotion (P800 M) and monetary benefits (P2.8 B) to our faculty and staff members; to invest in more than a hundred new buildings and renovations in our various campuses (P9 B); to modernize the hospital equipment of PGH (P3 B); to support interdisciplinary research of our faculty (P950 M); to support their PhD and Master’s studies; to provide them research dissemination travel grants; to recognize their achievements through professorial chairs, enhanced scientific and arts productivity awards, and other academic awards; to send students on exchange programs abroad; to provide undergraduate and postgraduate student assistantships; and to meet other priority needs of the University and its constituents.

I understand and accept that dramatic political action is part of our hallowed tradition of dissent. In a sense, this is good as it provoked more questions about and drew more attention to what eUP is all about and what it will mean to the University’s future.

As I approach the end of my term, I can only hope that as a university—indeed the national university—we can continue to discuss and resolve our problems in an atmosphere of reason and sobriety, impelled by our common love of this institution and our desire to seek only the best for it and its future. That desire should include openness to new ideas and new technologies to improve the way we work.

As a community of scholars, students, and workers dedicated to the truth, we cannot allow malice, ignorance, and disinformation to derail the University’s growth or block the way forward.

Should you have any more questions about any aspect of eUP or SAIS, my office will only be too happy to receive and to answer them.

There is an urgent need for us to catch up with our peer universities in the region and the rest of the world. Please join me in this continuing quest to bring our beloved University up to the highest global standards—to be a model for the other local higher education institutions. Much of the future of our country will depend on the future of the University of the Philippines.

Thank you for your attention and support.

Yours sincerely,

Alfredo E. Pascual
President

 

 

To view the signed letter from the President, please click here.

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Yes, it’s time. Now that Ronn Bautista has made public their thesis on eUP, it’s time that we in the eUP Project Team also inform the public about our comments on the thesis and its misleading claims, questionable conclusions, and false allegations.

At the outset, we would like to highlight that we provided the thesis authors all the documents and data which he sought from us for his so-called investigative report. In his FB post yesterday, Mr. Bautista admits he is “grateful for the access to information” we have given him. The disclosure we made clearly demonstrates that we have nothing to hide.

This statement addresses what we consider as our major concerns among the issues raised by Mr. Bautista in his FB post. We intend to address in due course the more specific issues, which are operational in nature and have been or may be addressed in the actual systems implementation work, as well as the more specific claims in the thesis which we find to be inaccurate, if not outright untrue.

Intent of the thesis

In the introduction, the thesis states, “So far, the university faces many challenges that stunt its growth as a leading figure in operational excellence: long queues during enrollment periods; slow, manual processing of transactions and documents; isolated information and communication systems across its CUs; inadequate ICT infrastructures; lack of or poor appreciation of ICT among teachers, students, and staff, among others.” Agreed. These are the challenges that the eUP Project aims to address by modernizing and integrating the UP’s information infrastructure and systems.

In the statement of the problem, the thesis explicitly recognizes that UP “needs an efficient and unified ICT system to manage its ever-growing population’s data and affairs.” This statement clearly implies that the existing fragmented legacy systems cannot meet UP’s information requirements going forward. And yet the thesis laments the impeding termination of these legacy systems. It would have been more logical for the thesis to show how the changeover can be facilitated.

The thesis says, “the efficiency and efficacy of the multi-million eUP project is yet to be seen as glitches and inaccurate prediction and coordination of necessary tasks hound its delayed implementation.” Indeed there have been delays in implementation, but the various systems, including SAIS, have been demonstrated to work well in certain units of the University. The resistance to change is a major cause of the delay.

The thesis has not evaluated the inherent quality and robustness of the eUP core information systems nor has it identified viable alternatives.

Rather than being an objective analysis of the eUP systems done for the benefit of the University, the thesis appears to be a piece intended to derail an important initiative that will modernize and improve the operations of the University. It maligns the eUP Project based on speculative opinions and personal views of those with vested interests, and attempts to confuse and influence the readers through sensationalism. A serious evaluation of the quality of the system would have instead featured conclusions backed by accurate, objective scientific and technical data.

The thesis raises many of the same worn-out arguments that critics have been spouting against the reform measures being implemented by the UP administration. It contains unsubstantiated insinuations of fraud, magnifies minor problems, and blows issues out of proportion. It presents criticisms that are not valid evaluations but instead are merely opinions of individuals who are not technically qualified experts, or who have their own agendas and biases against the UP administration. Even when qualified and objective individuals are cited, either the wrong questions were posed to them or their comments indicate that they may not have had the time or access to information needed in order to sufficiently study the issue they were addressing. Important information given by the eUP Team and UP officials were left out and a very obvious intention to present a biased view is seen.

Rather than helping the University achieve its goals of administrative efficiency and improved service quality (which the thesis admits are laudable goals), it hinders the task by inviting further resistance to change. The thesis authors are doing the University a great disservice by supporting those who seek to block progress in the University. At best the thesis is an example of poorly conducted research work and at worst it is a witch hunt disguised as an academic endeavour.

The timing of the investigation

The proper time to conduct an evaluation of an information system of the type attempted by the thesis is after completion of implementation, when the system has stabilized and its impacts (good and bad) are already apparent. This is how a professional evaluation would be conducted. In many ways the thesis evaluates the eUP project as if it is already finished, which is unfair to the implementation team.

An example of a properly done review is the University of Texas Health Science Center’s Post-Implementation Review of the campus solutions system (the same system as SAIS), which can be found at: https://www.utsystem.edu/sites/utsfiles/documents/information-technology/uthsch-campus-solutions-post-implementation-review-audit/uthsch-campus-solutions-post-implementation-review-audit.pdf.

This aforementioned review was conducted when the implementation was substantially (97%) completed (at an actual cost of USD7.8 million or about P367 million for one campus). It followed audit standards according to the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing, used an appropriate framework (ITIL) and used it correctly, and followed a clear and organized process. Results were reported in a clear and concise manner without emotional undertones. The thesis proponents purported to have used a framework but failed to properly execute such use.

Alleged violation of the Procurement Law

According to Mr. Bautista, “through extensive interviews and analyses of key Project documents, this report found that eUP’s procurement activities violated Section 18 of the Government Procurement Reform Act by prematurely naming ERP software vendor Oracle, Inc. in its Terms of References” (ToR).

Nowhere in the ToR is it stated that Oracle or any other specific brand must be purchased. The thesis proponents even questioned the statement in the ToR that reads “The application should be able to connect to/migrate from all major types of relational databas systems such as Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MS SQL, and DBF.” This clearly shows lack of discernment or just deliberate malice on the part of the thesis proponents.

Reference to brand names is a common practice in government procurement, particularly for technical items including ICT hardware and software. This is due to the difficulty in specifying quality and functionality in generic terms. There are numerous examples of purchase documents on the GPPB website that include brand names ostensibly for clarity of specified requirement. A list of these examples was given to the thesis authors but they have chosen to omit any reference to them in the thesis. The reason is obvious. Facts about actual procurement practice would have nullified the legality issue he has raised in the thesis. In any case, here are some examples of purchases that mention brand names:

  • MSU Iligan Institute of Technology published in 2012 a requirement for which they mentioned a brand name, namely, CISCO IP Phone.
  • Department of Public Works and Highways (Batangas) mentioned a brand name, Toshiba, for required laptops.
  • Department of Public Works and Highways (Region IV-1) mentioned for the required computers: Intel Core IS, Intel Chipset, Licensed Microsoft Office
  • Bureau of the Treasury Procurement of Oracle Licenses and Support required for the implementation of the enhanced National Collection System (eNCS) with a total Approved Budget for the Contract of Twenty Two Million Pesos (PHP 22,000,000.00).
  • The Government Procurement Service (http://procurementservice.gov.ph/home/ – see website drop down menu: “What we sell”) even sells Microsoft Licenses.

The word “equivalent” is often stated whenever a brand name is indicated in the ToR to ensure that bidders have a clear and uniform understanding of the specific requirements of the end-user. Sometimes, multiple brands are listed in order to give a range of possible options or capabilities (e.g,. various operating systems). The requirements were always clarified during the pre-bidding conference with prospective bidders.

Brand names are used for ease of communication, in order to clearly convey the user requirements to the prospective bidders. This also conveys the level of quality required by the user, in order to avoid purchase of low-cost but sub-standard items.

The concerned Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) is fully cognizant of the restriction on the use of brand names in specifying items to be procured. That is why this is thoroughly discussed between the user unit and the BAC during the pre-procurement conference.

The ToR should be taken as a whole. Individual lines from the ToR should not be taken out of context. Insinuations of fraud are unjustified and unprofessional given that there are no tangible proofs given in the thesis. Note that all eUP contracts have been awarded through open public bidding.

eUP project costs

The project name “eUP” is a comprehensive term we adopted to label our overall effort to modernize and integrate the information infrastructure and systems of the entire UP System, which consists of eight (8) constituent universities/college (UP Diliman, UP Los Banos, UP Manila, UP Visayas, UP Baguio, Mindanao, UP Open University, and UP Cebu), and including the Philippine General Hospital and UP System Administration.

For this effort, our projection in 2012 was that we would need to invest around P750 million over the 5-year period 2012-2016. Around two-thirds (2/3) of this amount have so far been spent on equipment (computers with software, scanners, printers, server), infrastructure (fiber optic networks, renovation of facilities, aircon, generator), bandwidth (144 Mbps in 2010, 6,235 Mbps now), and other IT support systems. These expenditures are needed to achieve the upgrading of the ICT infrastructure of the University for an integrated information system and would be incurred regardless of the software applications used. The aggregate amounts of these expenditures were published by the Philippine Collegian in its issue of 18 March 2016 (see the infographics in the article).

The subject of investigation for the thesis appears to be mainly the eUP core information systems which constitute the unified information system now being implemented across UP campuses. This consists of the FMIS, HRIS, SAIS, SPCMIS, and EIS. The software applications for these systems were supplied by Oracle at a price of P43 million. Payment to Oracle, as well as to the implementation partners, was built into the P134 million contract with ePLDT, our systems integrator. The implementation partners are the expert outfits who are assisting us in the deployment and integration of the core information systems.

But we have also contracted individual experts, mostly from UP, to form teams that serve as local counterparts in the implementation partners. No doubt, retaining IT experts in UP is a continuing challenge given more financially attractive options elsewhere. We are happy that “homegrown talent” is very much present in the eUP Project Team, particularly at the leadership level.

We have so far invested P204 million in the acquisition and deployment of the eUP core information systems, including salaries of home-grown talents and honoraria of internal Subject Matter Experts.

The eUP core information systems will address the major information gaps and infirmities of our fragmented legacy systems and provide UP with a unified information system across campuses.

The thesis tends to equate the eUP Project with the Oracle-based core information systems. The Oracle systems are just components of the eUP Project. The eUP Project Team, in fact, have also been developing non-Oracle applications for other various academic requirements of UP.

Glitches in the implementation of SAIS

Understandably, SAIS is the information system of immediate concern to students. As has been or being experienced in the four (4) CUs that use SAIS for student registration (UP Baguio, UP Manila, UP Cebu, and UPLB), there were glitches in initial stage of implementation. While we don’t want them, these minor operational problems do usually happen during the initial runs. At this stage though, we expect all students from the 4 CUs to complete their registration using SAIS for this first semester of academic year 2016-17.

As we have already explained earlier, the slowdown and inaccessibility of the SAIS for UPLB students during the first few days of the registration period this semester was brought about by the unexpected Denial of Servic (DoS) attacks on our SAIS website. But we are happy to report that as soon as we were able to block the unwanted attacks, the SAIS system performance improved and stabilized.

We encourage those who criticize the glitches experienced with SAIS during the start-up phase of implementation in the different campuses to check for themselves with people who know, the difficulties encountered when CRS was introduced in UP Diliman and the SystemOne in UPLB.

Feedback

We continue to conduct eUP information campaigns throughout the UP System to ensure that stakeholders are well informed. We also do these forums in order to promote transparency.

Should you have any query about the eUP project, please send an e-mail to our eUP Communication Team at [email protected]

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MaejoUnivPres2016

The UPLB Graduate School (GS) held its 2016 Hooding and Recognition Ceremonies on June 24 at the DL Umali Freedom Park. Of the 279 graduates, 229 obtained master’s degrees and 50 earned doctorate degrees.

In his opening remarks, Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. expressed confidence that the graduates will exceed expectations around them. “UPLB has prepared you to become leaders who have the intellectual capacity and the heart to contribute to your respective communities,” he said.  He also encouraged the graduates to use the knowledge they gained from the University not only in pursuing academic and intellectual endeavors, but also in addressing social concerns. 

This year’s GS recognition and hooding keynote speaker is Dr. Chamnian Yosraj, president of Maejo University in Thailand and an alumnus of UPLB (MS ‘83, Ph.D. ‘90). He reminded the graduating class that earning a degree is not the end of learning. “It is just the beginning of a lifelong process, Never stop learning, try to overcome every obstacle and never be afraid of the journey.” He also urged the graduates to adapt to the changing environment, to take risks and to be ready for change.

Leading the Ph.D. graduates this year is Adeliza A. Dorado (agricultural engineering). In her speech before the GS Class of 2016, she acknowledged the role of UPLB in building a competitive nation through research. She noted that in the quest for higher learning and advanced technologies “one should not forget to work for the betterment of our more needy countrymen.” She also reminded her fellow graduates to always uphold what the Oblation represents – that is selfless service to the country.

On the other hand, Glaiza J. Visitacion (agrometeorology), the top MS graduate, said that she urged her fellow graduates to give back to the country through “genuine service.” According to Visitacion, service stands for selflessness, excellence, respect, volunteerism, integrity, courage and enthusiasm.

Dr. Jose V. Camacho, Jr. and Dr. Mark Dondi M. Arboleda, dean and secretary of the GS, respectively, spearheaded the ceremonies. Present during the event were Dr. J. Prospero E. De Vera III, UP vice president for public affairs, UPLB officials and graduate faculty members of UPLB. (Maribeth C. Jadina