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Mapúa University: a Philippine Non-sectarian School in the Global and Digital Age

Home|News|Posted on : February/15/2018 Skip Navigation Links Skip Navigation Links

On January 29, Mapúa University held the investiture of its first president Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea at the Philippine International Convention Center. Dr. Vea is Mapúa’s president since it received the University status grant from the Commission on Higher Education last year.

Dr. Vea graduated as magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1978. He then pursued further studies abroad and obtained an MS degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He subsequently obtained his PhD in engineering from the University of California at Berkeley as a Fulbright-Hays scholar.

Read his full speech below:

Models of the University

Oxford historian Hastings Rashdall, in his study, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, says that the university is a “distinctly medieval institution.” Its model was that of “a community of masters and students” dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. That was its “animating principle.” According to Clark Kerr, President of the University of California in the 1960’s, many of the features of the medieval universities remain to this day: “a name, a central location, a degree of autonomy, … , a system of lectures, a procedure for examinations and degrees, and even an administrative structure for its faculty.”

In the mid 19th century this model began to be supplanted by the modern university. The transmission and discovery of “useful knowledge” was beginning to hold sway. The American educator Abraham Flexner wrote in his 1930 book Universities American British German, “The modern University is not outside but inside the general social fabric of a given era…It is an expression of the age as well as an influence operating upon both present and future.” In other words, the university is no ivory tower. Kerr says that “this evolution brought departments (specializations) and institutes, vast research libraries…Instead of individual students there were the needs of society. Instead of John Henry Cardinal Newman’s ‘truths in the natural order’ (as expressed in his classic work The Idea of a University Defined and Illustrated), there was discovery of the new. Instead of the generalist there was the specialist…” In Flexner’s words the university became “an institution devoted to the pursuit of knowledge, the solution of problems, …, and the training of men at a really high level.” To him, “The heart of the university is a graduate school of arts and sciences, solidly professional schools and certain research institutes...”

Early in the 20th century Flexner’s modern university started changing into what was characterized as a “multiversity.” The term was coined by Kerr. He famously described it in a lecture that was delivered at Harvard and that is considered today as the most important piece on American higher education in the 20th century. Kerr said that as an “imperative” the modern university took on significantly more functions than simply instruction and research.

As an example, he offered his own university. The Univesrity of California of the 1960’s ” had nearly 10,000 courses in catalogues … had 100,000 students, 30,000 in graduate level and 200,000 more students in its extension courses … employed over 40,000 people … serviced and mainatined a vast amount of expensive equipment… had operations in over a hundred locations, counting campuses, experiment stations, agricultural and urban extension centers, and projects abroad involving more than 50 countries…had some form of contact with nearly every industry, nearly every level of government, nearly every person in its region… and so on” He sounded almost half-in-awe at the great “variety of endeavors” and the scale of operations of his own school. He rued the fact that less than a third of the budget was directly related to teaching.

Towards a Modern University

Mapúa, established in 1925, was born at a time when the modern university had already started taking on more roles beyond instruction and research. Mapúa was not immune to the trend. Five years after it commenced its first academic programs in architecture and civil engineering it joined the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA).

Over the years Mapúa instituted solid professional academic programs, and remained basically a teaching school. Only after 7 decades did it start to engage in research as evidenced by the 2 SCOPUS-indexed papers published by faculty members in 1996. Upon YGC acquisition at the turn of the century research was ramped up. Last year we publsihed 119 SCOPUS-indexed papers. This helped us land university status and 3-stars QS rating.

Pre-YGC, Mapúa had 3 master’s programs, with the first one, MS Chemistry instituted in 1989. Now we have 20. Pre-YGC, Mapúa had no PhD program; now we have 6.

Research and graduate education as main features of the modern university may thus be said to have come to Mapúa in a slow transformative process that I think simply reflects the pace and level of socio-economic development of the country through the past decades. Mapúa has all along been inside the fabric of Philippine society.

Towards a Multiversity: Slow Morph

The transformation towards a multiversity has been a slow morph as well. In addition to the sports program started in 1930, other roles outside those at the heart of the modern university were assumed by Mapúa over the years. A high school was instituted in 1928; engineering testing services were first offered in 1968; continuing education short courses were first held in 1986; and community activities were first extended in 1993. After the Yuchengco Group takeover in 1999, consultancy services were first offered in 2001 through Mapúa Techserv, a wholly-owned subsidiary. Patenting services came in 2012, with a Mapúa alumnus and his specialized weaving machine as the first client. Using the same capability for patenting, we applied for and got to own our first technology just 2 weeks ago. This technology pertains to the wireless and cloud-based monitoring of the structural health of buildings and other structures.This patent, a small beginning, should usher in technology commercialization as an additional facet of the multiversity that Mapúa truly is.

The Future Mapúa: A DROID

If this is what Mapúa has become over the years, what might the future Mapúa look like?

The initiatives we have pursued in the last 18 years were based on the premise that we have upon us a global, knowledge-based economy, in which the main driving force is rapid, very rapid, technological development. Knowledge is expanding while the world is shrinking, figuratively, both at very high rates. The phenomena seem not to abate and their course will thus affect, and hopefully be in turn affected in some measure by Mapúa. This has been and will continue to be the subtext of Mapúa’s playbook.

Against such a long-standing premise, which may by now really sound so worryingly trite were it not so compellingly valid, Mapúa sees itself as becoming a digital, research-driven, outcomes-based, international domain. Our mnemonic for this is DROID.

OBE: Outcomes-Based Education

As a non-sectarian, stock institution of higher learning in a global era the value proposition of a Mapúa education is the successful launch of professional careers anywhere in the world. Central to our successful delivery on this proposition is a deep understanding of the manpower needs of industry in the Philippines and elsewhere. These needs directly translate into our various academic programs’ educational objectives and desired outcomes, upon and around which our curricula and syllabi are tightly substantiated and organized. The accuracy with which these desired program outcomes are determined and the fullness with which they are attained are at the heart of our delivery on our value proposition. This then is the main reason why we have embraced outcomes-based education or OBE. This then is the reason why we have voluntarily subjected ourselves to international outcomes-based accreditation by ABET, PTC-ACBET and PICAB on top of the complementing PACUCOA accreditation of our programs.

At the risk of appearing to be blowing our own horn I have to say, in this context, that a hard evidence that our bet on outcomes-based education has not been misplaced came in a July 2017 report of Entrepreneur.Com that states that among 15 Philippine schools with the greatest number of graduates in the jobstreet.com database Mapúa graduates receive the highest average salaries in 3 of 5 job categories, which are: 1) 1 to 4-year experienced employee; 2) supervisor of 5 years and above experience; and 3) assistant manager & manager. We are second for entry level positions.

Digital Academics

There are ends and there are means. If the end is an outcomes-based education system, then a major means in this day and age would be digital education. It is possible that one becomes so enamored of the convenience, elegance and power of a digital leaning management system (LMS) that one forgets that it is only a tool. We believe that the litmus test of the value of a learning mangement system for our residential student population is whether it has helped them attain program learning objectives at a level higher than what it would have been had we not deployed the LMS.

But naturally though, with the mind-boggling spatial reach, temporal flexibility and class-size capacity of such systems, one also has to consider delivering education to people who would otherwise not have access. Mapúa is now taking baby steps in this direction with fully online master’s degree programs in engineering, the first one in Industrial Engineering, which started this month, and the rest to be started in July this year.

Meanwhile, we are deploying digital academics to get around flooding and traffic problems in what perhaps is a peculiar application engendered by the specific fabric of Philippine society. Since we have built the capability to massively, simultaneously and synchronously deliver all lectures in any given class timeslot online, we can - on class-suspending occasions such as flooding, Nazareno procession, Luneta and Lawton rallies, ASEAN summits, etc - tell our professors and students to stay home or in an internet café and conduct all classes for the entire day online on the same schedule as the face-to-face classes. This we declare as Digital Day. With this we do not have to conduct CHED-mandated make-up classes on weekends since no classes would be missed. Aside from Digital Day we also have Digital Rush, in which we open up online sections of some courses during morning and evening rush hours. Students and faculty members can then come to class later or go home earlier or both, in lighter Manila traffic.


If the internet has shaken up the world of education, so has it the world of research. It is far easier now for small laboratories to interact with larger laboratories than before and for all researchers to gain access to published technical papers and to publish. It has been said that the net has “democratized” research.

Easier as it is to engage in research nowadays, schools can actually elect to skip it and remain as teaching/professional schools. CHED’s Memorandum Order No. 46 of 2012, which is about the typology of schools, encourages schools to choose their type and be excellent within it. Under this CMO, and as universally accepted worldwide, research, in addition to the comprehensiveness of program offerings, constitutes a major divide between professional institutes and universities.

At the point of takeover by the YGC, Mapúa set a long-term objective of becoming a university because it recognized the synergy between instructions and research that could drive academic excellence in a virtuous cycle. Instructions keep intellectual capital active and provide the training and foundational knowledge for researchers. Research results expand intellectual resources and keep classrooms instructions current. Faculty members who do research absolutely have to keep abreast with the latest developments in their field.

One of the major lines of action under this strategic objective of becoming a university is the changing of the profile of the faculty. In academic year 2001-2002, the composition of our faculty was :147 baccalaureate, 42 master’s, 8 PhD; Last year it was: 0 baccalaureate, 205master’s, and 42 PhD. In 2001, we had 3 faculty members with SCOPUS-indexed publications. Last year we had 76 such faculty members.

Schools generally yearn to get the typically large research funding that comes from government and mutilateral organizations, for only then is one able to make a significant dent in research. At the start, the problem before us, as with any school, was how to break the following vicious cycle: no track record-no external funding; no external funding-no track record. To break the cycle, it seemed that the only way was to internally invest to build a track record. But with the very modest annual budgets that we could afford this can only be done over many years. This was what we proceeded to do. A few years ago we allowed ourselves a big investment in a research building that eventually housed the externally-funded, big projects that we in time were able to get. This building has been named the Yuchengco Innovation Center in honor of our former Chairman of the Board, the late Amb. Alfonso T. Yuchengco.

The efforts eventually paid off. Since 2012 DOST has given us support in the amount of P186 M. Out of one of the DOST projects came Mapúa’s first patent that I mentioned earlier. Last year, we got a P 30 M project under the CHED-PCARI program and 130,000 Euros or about P 8 M under a multi-country EU Project called Beehive.

I would like to mention a very important 10-year old partnership that has significantly helped us develop our research capability. This is our partnership with the Taiwan’s Chung Yuan Christian University (CYCU), whose officers have done us the great honor of attending today’s event. Five of our faculty members obtained their PhDs under scholarship from this school. This helped forge the personal and professional relations between our faculty members and students and theirs that bore a significant number of co-authored papers, 118 SCOPUS-indexed papers since 2008, two of which won ASEAN-wide awards in 2009. Three CYCU alumni in our faculty eventually were awarded as Outstanding Young Scientists by the National Academy of Science and Technology.


In this global age, international research partnerships such as the one we have with CYCU, are very important. So are other international engagements. International accreditation is important to our outcomes-based education system because this is where we key our desired program outcomes to global requirements. This is also where we put our graduates under the umbrella of international agreements that increase the likelihood of their success in a global environment.

International academic exchanges broaden the horizons of our students and faculty members. With exposure to different societies they develop an ability to work in multicultural teams, which is one of the desired outcomes of our programs.

Our internationalization efforts have picked up quite significantly in the past few years. Since 2011, 1742 students have gone on plant visits to Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Hongkong, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan. Since 2010, 216 students have gone on On-the-Job-Training, or OJT, to Singapore, USA, Vietnam, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Spain, South Korea, China and Taiwan. Since 2013, we have received 186 foreign exchange students and in return sent 159.


International, research-driven, digital and outcomes-based – such is the budding character of Mapúa’s domain at present. It should come into full bloom in a Future Mapúa as we seek to: implement Learner-Centered, Outcomes-Based Education to its full promise; harness digital education to its full potential; heighten research/development/innovation (RDI) to be a credible international player; and broaden the international dimension of school operations to global norms.

Our response to the challenges of the global and digital age will move us closer to a fully modern university and also towards a multiversity. The growing importance given to research will bring us closer to the heart of a modern university – knowledge generation and graduate education. The other responses will force an “accretion of functions, structures and constituencies” in the words of N.J. Smelser in his book Dynamics of the Contemporary University. Indeed we have in recent years created organizational units for OBE, online education and international programs. The additional constituencies of online students/faculty and foreign students/faculty have already appeared and will continue to grow. We will thus still be adding new endeavors as a multiversity. We are going with the times and helping define it. We are contemporaneous.

Along with accretion will be growth. The domain itself will continue to grow academically, geographically and population-wise in physical and cyber space.

To our 62 degree programs will be added more as the Philippine and global socio-economic fabric demands. This coming school year alone we will start a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Planning, a Bachelor of Science in Statistics with significant attention to big data, and a Master of Science in Business Analytics program with practicum. We will embed an appreciation course in artificial intellegence for all undergraduate degree programs.

In 2007, we started the operations of Malayan Colleges Laguna in Cabuyao. Under the leadership of Engrs. Dodjie Maestrecampo, Dennis Tablante and Maribel Songsong, we now have about 6,000 students there. This year we will start operations of Malayan Colleges Mindanao in Davao City. Engr. Maestrecampo is spearheading the effort. We continue to look for locations where we can grow organically.

We also look into acquisitions and mergers as another way to grow. As you amy have read in the papers about 2 weeks ago we are currently looking at a potential merger between iPeople, Mapúa’s mother company, and AC Education. Inc. under Mr. Fred Ayala, who is with us this morning.

From a pathbreaking acquisition in 1999, through strong organic growth over the years, to the present possibility of a pathbreaking merger, it has really been quite a ride for Mapúa.

Thank you.


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