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On university-community collaborations

I’m not a stranger to university-community collaborations. In fact, I even helped draft a proposal for the World Bank to support such collaborations, which I believe would be sustainable and therefore worthwhile to be pursued by potential partner universities and local government units. There are actually many such collaborations but most of these are probably informal with certain faculty members of universities (usually state universities or colleges) being involved in committees or moonlighting in projects implemented or funded by LGUs. I say informal because technically, the school is not involved in the project and it is only incidental that the person or persons involved are affiliated with the university or college.

Here is an article showing an example of university-community collaborations:

National Institute for Transportation and Communities (2022) “Transportation recovery after disasters: A collaborative university/community model,”, [Last accessed: 8/15/2022]

The authors wrote about actions that could be done “to build future economic resilience.” To quote from the article:

  • Increasing pre-disaster investment in resilient transportation infrastructure to reduce the cost of eventual recovery;

  • Improving business resilience practices for high-impact industrial sectors, through education and outreach;

  • Identifying structural barriers to adoption of resilient business practices, and promoting mitigation through recovery.

  • Mainstreaming disaster resilience into economic development by breaking the siloed approach to emergency management and economic development.

While these actions were framed for the community engaged by the University of Utah, they are general enough to be applicable to other communities as well.

I mentioned earlier about the need for formality. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) encourages and supports what are termed as Extension Works or Extension Projects by higher education institutions. These may be in various forms including committee work, advisory, capacity building/training, or even professional work/services provided to the province, city or municipality (even barangay). But there should be accountability here as well as the proper assignment or allocation of resources.

Just compensation is one of the more sensitive or tricky elements or items here as often, LGUs would like to get something for free or assume that certain services are free. They are not and time and effort should be compensated; just not the international rates you might expect for consulting work from the likes of World Bank or Asian Development Bank.

Here is where contracts (e.g., in the form of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)) can be useful to establish the terms of engagement that includes budgets for Personnel Services (PS), Equipment Outlay (EO) and Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE). The latter categories should be familiar with LGUs because these are standard items under which details are provided for their programs and projects. State universities and colleges are also familiar with these as standard government terminologies for budgets. Of course, that goes without saying that in certain engagements, there may be third parties such as donor or funding institutions that will should all, most, or part of the costs for collaborative work.


The last time the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) was able to benefit from the acquisition of equipment for research and extension work was in the mid-90’s when the last of the big ticket items like the Horiba mobile air quality monitoring equipment were delivered. These items were donated by the Government of Japan through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). At the time, there was a strong JICA presence at the Center that included several experts and visiting professors because of the project that transformed what was previously the Transport Training Center (TTC) into the NCTS.

Many of the donated equipment eventually showed signs of wear and tear as a lot of researches employed them; some sparingly and others extensively. Of course, there were items such as the mainframe computer, that rapidly lost relevance and value due to the much rapid developments in computers. The problem with big ticket items, as we later found out, was that it was quite expensive to maintain and even operate them. This was especially true for the Horiba, which cost a lot because of the calibration gases required for field experiments and the costly repairs at a time when components had to be shipped to Japan and back because there were no qualified technicians in the Philippines. It was okay back then when JICA maintained a presence at the Center since the experts were able to use their budgets or apply for support for repairs directly to JICA. It became so much difficult later when, after the NCTS Project was concluded, it became just too difficult to get support for equipment repair. After almost 10 years of submitting applications and justifications for repairs or replacements, and promises by JICA experts assigned to national agencies, we practically gave up on the matter and resigned ourselves to the prospect of never getting such important tools in the foreseeable future.

In 2007, however, hope was reborn in the form of the Engineering Research and Development for Technology (ERDT) program supported by the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The ERDT involved a consortium of the top universities in the country led by the University of the Philippines Diliman. It was an ambitious yet realistic program that had the best intentions of giving R&D in engineering a much needed boost. Among the essential elements of the program was the upgrading of facilities at UP that led to the construction of new laboratories and the acquisition of modern equipment to encourage relevant researches. The Institute of Civil Engineering would be acquiring a shaking table for earthquake engineering research, recent-model hydraulics equipment, and long delayed upgrades to construction materials testing machines.

In the case of its Transportation Engineering Group, the latter’s affiliation with the NCTS led to the proposals for acquiring equipment that would allow for more progressive studies on Traffic and Highway Engineering. Among those in the wishlist that were approved and have been delivered are a portable digital axle weighing equipment and a portable particulate matter monitoring system. Also approved was equipment that would finally upgrade and revive the Center’s mobile air quality measurement and monitoring system. In fact, the equipment intended for air quality measurements will also benefit the Institute’s Environment and Energy Engineering Group.

Such equipment are vital if the University is to be at par with the best in the region and perhaps, if sustained, in the world. The fact that we have been left behind is an understatement and we cannot pursue relevant and progressive researches if we do not have the necessary tools to implement programs and projects. True, we probably have the brainpower to do research considering many have been trained at the best institutions abroad, yet unless we are able to create tools and things straight out from the power of our minds, we are limited and will just end up frustrated about not being able to undertake the research and extension that we are supposed to do, whose outcomes may just spell the difference if this country of ours is to move towards progress and a more prosperous future for its citizens.