Higher education

A guide to universities and vocational colleges

Higher education

The Philippines is attracting more and more foreign students to further their studies. With several high class universities and tuition fees charging much lower fees than the US or Europe, many students see it as an attractive alternative.

Records from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) show that there are approximately 1,573 private institutions and 607 public colleges currently licenced in the Philippines. Higher education institutions are classed as colleges or universities and are either publicly or privately run.

Colleges usually offer one or a few specialized courses such as computer programing, nursing or midwifery. To be classed as a university, institutions must have at least 8 different degree subjects on their programme.

Universities in the Philippines

Public universities are all non-sectarian and offer a wide-range of courses, which are taught in English. They are government funded, with the largest, the University of the Philippines, receiving the largest chunk of the annual budget.

Private universities can be sectarian or non-sectarian, as well as for-profit or not-for-profit. Most private institutions are Catholic, non-profit entities.

There isn’t a standardised national ranking system for universities in the Philippines but based on a report released by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and CHED in 2007 the top 3 universities were:

  • Xavier University - A private, Catholic institution in Cagayan de Oro city.
  • The University of the Philippines, Dilliman - A campus of the public national university in Quezon City.
  • Silliman University - A private research university based in Dumaguete City, Negros.

Most universities offer 4 year degree programmes with 2 semesters per year. The school year is from June to March. The admission of an international student into a full-time degree course depends on secondary school grades and achievement in the Filipino College Entrance Exam. Depending on the nationality of the student a certificate of English level may also be required. Entrance to public universities is very competitive, particularly for the larger universities such as The University of the Philippines in Manila.

International students will need to obtain a student visa, which must be renewed each year. See our visa section for more information.

Vocational Colleges

Vocational (technical) colleges serve to improve a student’s practical and technical skills. They are regulated and acredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). These colleges can be public, usually run by local Government, or private. The majority are privately operated.

Programmes offered vary in duration from a few weeks to two-year diplomas. Courses can be technical - automotive technology or computer technology; service based - care-giving, nurses aide, hotel manager or trade - plumbing, welding, electrician, etc.

When students graduate from their course they can take the relevant exam, administered by TESDA to obtain their diploma or certificate.

Vocational colleges don’t usually require an entrance exam, only a record of high school studies and the enrollment fee.

Further reading

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