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Updated 2 weeks ago

Looking to study in the Philippines? Here are an overview of its higher education system and some guidelines on registration procedures.

Higher education in the Philippines is governed by three bodies: the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for tertiary and higher education, the Department of Education (DepEd) for basic education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for technical-vocational and mid-level education. As of 2017, there are 1,710 private higher education institutions (HEI) and 233 public ones with average tuition fees per unit ranging from PHP 214 to PHP 527 for private HEIs and from PHP 603 to PHP 1,502 for public HEIs.

They just recently modified their education system to a K-12 program in order to be more aligned with international systems. Entry to kindergarten usually starts at age four and lasts for two years, followed by 12 years of basic education where you acquire a high school diploma, and then in higher education level to obtain a Bachelor’s degree. Finally, you can further your studies to aim for Masters and then a Doctorate degree.

Higher education system

Every year, the Philippines welcome thousands of foreign students wishing to pursue their higher studies in English. Based on statistics, more than 8,000 foreign students have enrolled for the 2015 – 2016 academic year. Note that the country has the whole of Asia's best higher education system with 40% of faculty staff having a Masters and 13% a PhD.

Moreover, registration and course fees are lower than in many countries. You are advised to inquire about these fees with the university you have chosen since it depends on the number of units you will take.

A lot of universities are concentrated in what they call the ‘University Belt’ in Quezon City. Based on a 2018 ranking by uniRank, the top 5 universities in the Philippines are located in the greater Manila area:

  • University of the Philippines Diliman (UP Diliman)
  • University of Santo Tomas (UST)
  • Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU)
  • De La Salle University (DLSU)
  • Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP)
  • University of the Philippines Manila (UP Manila)
  • University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB)
  • Mapua Institute of Technology
  • University of San Carlos
  • Universidad de Zamboanga

Conditions and visa

Note that you are eligible to study in the Philippines if you are at least 18 years old and you have sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay in the country. If you wish to move temporarily to the Philippines to enrol in a university, an academy, a college, or a school, you must seek the authorization of the Commissioner of Immigration.

Therefore, you first have to contact the university or higher education institution where you would like to study since different universities have program-specific requirements (i.e. for law or medicine). But generally, the minimum university admission requirements include:

  • duly accomplished application form;
  • application fee;
  • results of university admission exam;
  • letter(s) of recommendation from your recent school;
  • five copies of the Student's Personal History Statement (PHS) duly signed, both in English, and your national alphabet accompanied by your personal seal, if any, and containing, among others, your left and right thumbprints and a 2x2 inch photograph on plain white background taken not more than six months prior to submission;
  • notarized affidavit of support including bank statements or notarized notice of grant for institutional scholars to cover expenses for your accommodation and subsistence, as well as school dues and other incidental expenses;
  • Transcript of Records/ Scholastic Records duly authenticated by the Philippine Foreign Service Post located in your country of origin or legal residence; and
  • data page of your passport showing date and place of birth duly authenticated by the Philippine Foreign Service Post.

Some also require your authenticated birth certificate, TOEFL/IELTS results for applicants in non-English speaking countries or a personal statement or a letter of motivation for pursuing further studies. Once you have been given a Notice of Admission by the school, you can proceed further once your application has been approved by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Immigration and Deportation Bureau (IDB) and by the Department of Foreign Affairs at the Philippines embassy or consulate in your home country. You should then be able to apply for a visa. Refer to this article for a comprehensive guide to visas in the Philippines. Note that student visas are only granted to those who wish to take up higher education (aka higher than high school) with schools accredited by CHED.

Health insurance

Remember to inquire whether your university insurance will provide coverage during your studies in the Philippines. Otherwise, you will have to subscribe to a separate insurance.

 Useful links:

Commission on Higher Education
4ICU Philippines - University rankings in 2015

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