photo courtesy of UP System Information Office
When President Aquino delivered his 2011 budget message in August 2010, he categorically said that it his administration’s policy to gradually reduce the subsidy to state universities and colleges (SUCs) “to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent, given their ability to raise their income and to utilize it for their programs and projects.”
Almost two years later, AyalaLand and the University of the Philippines struck a deal to develop the UP Integrated School Campus its surrounding properties in Katipunan into a town center. The UP Town Center is the latest income-generating project for the cash-strapped national university and the newest partnership with AyalaLand after the Technohub along Commonwealth Avenue.
If taken at face value, UP, especially UPIS stands to benefit from the partnership. AyalaLand will construct a new P128-million campus in the site of the legendary Narra Residence Hall. The UPIS project will also become the first “green” structure, according to architect Christopher “Buboy” Espina. There will also be a profit-sharing scheme between AyalaLand and UP even in the first year of the town center’s operations. A university bookstore, a technology business incubator and theaters will also be put in place as stipulated in the contract.
UP may have gained funds and improved its infrastructure from the deal but it lost something bigger than budgets and buildings—its identity as an academic institution.
For the past 104 years, UP has produced presidents, statesmen, heroes, martyrs, and national artists and scientists. It has solidly built a reputation of academic excellence and topnotch tertiary education. However, with the increasing commercialization in the campus, it has also been gaining a reputation as a call center hub and a place for gimmicks and get-togethers. While being labeled as such is not entirely wrong, the new brands of UP casts a shadow to its century-old tradition of unequaled excellence in college education.
We cannot blame the UP Administration for leasing idle lands to private corporations like AyalaLand. In fact, the Pascual administration has strongly supported the call for greater state subsidies from the government. But as long as the Aquino administration’s policy of fiscal autonomy in SUCs is in effect, the more UP Town Centers will be needed to make SUCs self-sufficient and financially independent.