FIFTY-TWO faculty and staff of Philippine higher education institutions (HEIs) joined cross-visits to institutions in Singapore and Indonesia recently conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)-headquartered Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).
According to SEARCA director Dr. Glenn Gregorio, the cross-visits were part of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd)-funded project Leveling-Up Philippine Higher Education Institutions in Agriculture, Fisheries, and Natural Resources (LevelUPHEI AFAR) implemented by SEARCA.
Gregorio said the project aims to upgrade the institutional capacities of the State Universities and Colleges-Association of College of Agriculture in the Philippines Inc. or SUC-ACAP and its 75 members through capacity-building and mobility programs.
In two batches of the cross-visits, the first was held in Singapore from Nov. 13 to 17, 2023 with 23 delegates from 14 HEIs while the second was held in Indonesia from Nov. 27, 2023 to Dec. 1, 2023 with 29 delegates from 18 universities.
Gregorio said the week-long cross-visits aimed to equip participants with enhanced knowledge, skills and attitudes on research and development (R&D) as well as leadership and management, within the context of global challenges to HEIs.
He said it was also designed for the delegates to gain insights from the best practices of model universities in terms of governance structure and quality assurance systems.
According to Dr. Nova Ramos, head of SEARCA's Training for Development Unit under the Education and Collective Learning Department (ECLD-T4DU), cross-visits to local and global organizations allow the host institutions and visitors to learn different perspectives and facilitate networking.
"It is also a venue to explore possible partnerships on areas of common interest to them, particularly in the areas of research and development initiatives," Ramos added.
Delegates in the Singapore cross-visit engaged with officials and experts from The Head Foundation, Singapore Management University, Singapore University of Social Sciences and Republic Polytechnic.
On the other hand, the cross-visit in Indonesia featured the Institut Pertanian Bogor, Politeknik Pembangunan Pertanian-Polbangtan Bogor, and the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Regional Center for Tropical Biology.
Ramos said the delegates were also briefed by representatives from these leading institutions in both countries on their innovative academic programs, capacity-building initiatives, administrative structures and quality assurance frameworks with resource persons providing them with a campus tour within their state-of-the-art facilities for R&D.
She said the delegates also engaged in knowledge exchanges and explored potential linkages with the institutions' key officials and staff, and benchmarked on research program management, funding mechanisms, curriculum development, and commercialization of agricultural technologies that they can adapt to their context in the Philippines.
Toward the end of the cross-visits, representatives from ECLD-T4DU also led the two delegations and facilitated an integration workshop.
In Singapore, Ramos said the delegates noted the advanced status of higher education, particularly the innovations the country employed in curriculum design and linkage with the industry, citing the country's strong government support in funding with an enabling policy environment while maintaining autonomy in several aspects of institutional and educational management.
In Indonesia, the delegates were inspired by the strong collaboration between HEIs and their alumni by providing an innovative platform to give back through community-based projects.
"Another key insight from the visit was the start-up culture and how technologies from the universities are upscaled through commercialization partnerships with the private sector," Ramos said.
Also in the said workshop, the delegates presented their plans on key areas for implementation in their respective universities.
Ramos said the delegates highlighted their action points on how to integrate an "innovation" culture in curriculum design, governance, and partnerships with the industry; and in their presentations, they emphasized the need to build stronger alumni relations and forge international linkages.