VP Gisela Concepcion: Internationalization helps us solve complex social problems

Welcome message at the 14th APRU Senior Staff Meeting

Dr. Gisela P. Concepcion
Vice President for Academic Affairs
University of the Philippines


On behalf of the University of the Philippines (UP), I am pleased to welcome you to the 14th Senior Staff Meeting of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU).

This year’s meeting will focus on the internationalization of higher education in the Asia-Pacific. As you will see in the program, we will be discussing future perspectives on the internationalization of higher education, and ways to develop international education strategies and build up international research partnerships in the region. 

Although we are talking about it primarily in the context of formal education and R&D, it cannot be denied that collaboration has a direct impact on and practical use to society. 

Disasters, whether natural or man-made, have grown more complex and therefore the protection and preservation of life and property and the delivery of basic services, all contributing to world peace, security and safety, have demanded more complex problem-solving approaches as well. Equally challenging would be how to greatly improve the quality of life and “happiness index” of a greater number of humans living harmoniously with the rest of nature in our planet, with ethical use of new knowledge-based products, processes and systems, including those from creative commons and industries, in a proper socio-cultural and environmental context. 

Internationalization not only helps us take advantage of science and technology-based models and lessons in coping with contemporary challenges, but more importantly it stimulates us to bring to the fore our own culture-based, age-old paradigms. For academic institutions then, we should deal with the task of internationalization on two fronts: first, enabling international partnerships, and second, ensuring that we realize benefits of a broad and long-term scope.

UP, as the Philippines’ only national university, recognizes the opportunity to internationalize higher education especially in the face of a “shrinking world” brought about by powerful technologies, efficient transport systems and more open economic policies. The rewards of a more connected world are diverse, including opportunities to collaborate towards stronger research and instruction/education, and consequently, simply, towards improved means of doing things. Yet these advantages take shape only in an environment where universities are equipped to compete globally and measure up to international standards of excellence.

Such is the challenge now to individual higher education institutions. Just last year, in a conference organized by UP, some 24 higher education institutions in the Philippines collectively called for greater support from the national government for internationalization strategies and initiatives. This was made in recognition of the need to implement structural and cultural changes – shifts in skills requirement, attitudes and knowledge –that would effect better performance and relevance in a highly globalized/internationalized landscape.

As a regional community, the challenge for APRU is to come up with better ways on how we can help one another meet our noble, unified/common goals and targets, as well as reinforce and/or capitalize on our own academic niches.

Notably, we are holding this APRU meeting in historic Mactan Island, which is where “East met West” for the first time almost 500 hundred years ago! 

Thank you for coming and I wish everyone an enjoyable and productive time in the Philippines.