Finding a new social role for the university
The Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines (UP) has recently elected a new UP president in the person of lawyer Angelo Jimenez, a former member of UP Board of Regents and erstwhile labor attaché to Kuwait.
UP’s incoming president has vowed to transform the country’s premier university into a world-class institution. In pursuing this vision, he faces the daunting task of burnishing the university’s image, which has been tarnished by its recent decline in the world’s ranking of universities.
The function of the university in modern society
The universally accepted role of a university as a specialized social institution is to create and disseminate knowledge. In free societies, it also serves as the citadel of academic freedom and open expression of ideas.
In most of the developing world, the university also has the added responsibility of serving the material needs of society. This goal is achieved neither by directly engaging in the production of goods and services as do business firms, nor through acts of altruism, but by implementing appropriate strategies for the creation of new knowledge and making this accessible to the relatively deprived and economically disadvantaged members of the community.
A major problem faced by Philippine society today is the disenfranchisement of a large segment of society that is mired in abject poverty and the increasing concentration of wealth and income in a small number of individuals.
While economic inequality is largely the outcome of the failure of the state to serve the material needs of economically disadvantaged members of the community and provide equal access to economic opportunities to all, business, too, has been equally culpable.
Curricular reform and the alleviation of poverty
The university can help address the problem of poverty and economic inequality in the country by designing and implementing innovative programs and courses in business management.
The UP system today has several academic units that offer degree courses in management and business administration. These include the Virata School of Business at UP Diliman, the School of Management at UP Mindanao and the Institute of Management at UP Baguio.
By and large, the programs and courses offered by these units are business-friendly and emphasize measures by which business companies can enhance profits, or shareholder wealth, often at the expense of the well-being of the other contributors to the production of economic value—customers, workers, business partners and the community.
We hold the contrary view that business enterprises can achieve their traditional strategic objectives by creating rather than by appropriating economic value for all their stakeholders. [This is the central theme of my recently published book, Strategy in the New Age of Capitalism: Collaborative and Inclusive Approaches to Value Creation (UP Press, 2022).]
To do so, however, business practices—and business education—should be rethought to make them more focused on the material interests of the economically disadvantaged members of society, notably manual workers, small investors and owners of small business enterprises.
Specifically, I recommend the following guidelines for curricular reform in the university:
- Management courses and programs should be revised to give more emphasis on the creation and utilization of human capital, today’s most important resource, of which knowledge is a major component, and less on the management of physical and financial assets;
- Put more emphasis on the development of worker and entrepreneurial skills and technical capabilities, and less on sophisticated and complex corporate managerial decision-making tools; and
- Greater importance should be given to the training of workers, individual entrepreneurs and managers of small and medium enterprises—which comprise the majority of productive enterprises in the country and employ the larger majority of workers—and less on the development of managerial and technical skills of future executives of large corporate entities.
We also urge the Commission on Higher Education to encourage other colleges and universities in the country to rework their business curricula along the lines that we recommend. INQ
The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and not the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author is a retired professor of economics and management at UP Diliman. Feedback at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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