Harmonizing Higher Education at the Regional Level: The Case of ASEAN and the Philippines

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Education is in the heart of Southeast Asia’s quest for equitable human development throughout the region. This has never been more pronounced than when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formed the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) in 2003, ushering in a number of regional directives and initiatives to harmonize higher education among ASEAN member states. Yet, the process has not been easy due to fundamental differences in higher education structure, quality, and processes among member countries. In light of this, the study traced the institutional arrangements and policy responses that have taken place at both regional and national levels in pursuit of integrating higher education in the region. First, it reviewed the key mechanisms that ASEAN has established to foster harmonization. It then discussed the experience of the Philippines in relation to the three components of harmonization, namely, qualifications framework, quality assurance, and credit transfer. It showed that while the government has shown sufficient response to its regional obligations through legislation and administrative issuances, it needs to do much more to show its commitment and ensure involvement of all higher education institutions in the integration process.