UP’s excellence-equity admissions creed | Inquirer Opinion

UP’s excellence-equity admissions creed

Given the continuing health risks and operational hurdles posed by in-person exams due to the pandemic, the University of the Philippines (UP) has resolved to forego the nationwide UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) for academic year (AY) 2023-2024.

The resolution was unanimously adopted by the University Councils (UC) of the eight constituent universities of the UP System, and was based on consideration for the safety and welfare of more than 100,000 student-applicants from all over the country and the 1,600 personnel in testing centers nationwide.


The UPCAT was similarly suspended in 2020 and 2021 in light of the immense logistical challenge of administering the tests in over 100 centers throughout the country with the pandemic still unfolding. In its place, the “admissions score model”—developed by the university’s data scientists, vetted by experts, and overwhelmingly approved by UCs across the UP System—was used for computing the university predicted grade (UPG) of applicants for AYs 2021-22 and 2022-23.

UP has decided to retain the UC-approved admission score model, along with additional screening for some academic units, adjustments for economic and geographic equity, and further fine-tuning of some aspects of pre-processing and transmutation based on data from UPCA 2022.


Both the old (UPCAT-based) and ad hoc (admission score model) admissions systems utilize high school grades in generating the applicant’s UPG. With UPCAT, the applicant’s grades in high school make up 40 percent of the UPG with the remaining 60 percent coming from test scores. Without UPCAT, the computation of admission score is based on grades in Grade Levels 8, 9, 10, and 11, which are subjected to transmutation and standardization to address the wide variation in the grading system of schools.

However, several sectors have expressed apprehension over the decision to forego UPCAT for another year. In an Aug. 26, 2022 press release, the Senate asserted that, “It is not the student-applicant’s fault that the high schools they attended do not have the habit of giving relatively higher grades. Without UPCAT, we are killing the dreams of these highly qualified students without giving them a chance.”

The university maintains its confidence in the empirical evidence showing stronger correlation of the model-based UPG with first-year performance in UP. It is mindful that the dominance of some schools in the qualifier list became permeable when the model was adopted. However, data show that applicants who entered the qualifier list are also some of the best in their respective milieu. In fact, at the national level, the model appears to have provided a slight lift for applicants from the public school system and those from cultural minority groups.

The pandemic became an eye-opener for the university to be innovative in its admission process. It afforded an opportunity to implement changes it has been reviewing through the years. Backed by intensive analysis from data scientists among its faculty, the university approved the model as vetted by experts and presented in a joint University Council meeting with more than 2,000 professors, assistant professors, and other members in attendance.

Recognizing that qualification is highly dependent on a cohort’s appetite with respect to the campus and course choices each year, another innovation introduced in UPCA 2022 will be retained for UPCA 2023. This is the iterative appeals system through the Diwa online portal. Applicants who did not make the cut for admission in the regular release of results are given several opportunities to find a degree program, subject to eligibility requirements and availability of slots.

As a national university and a true university of the people, UP follows the Excellence-Equity Admissions System. Given the quota for the entire UP System, the top 70 percent of those who qualify are chosen through the UPG. This is the excellence round.

For the next 30 percent, adjustments for economic equity (i.e., from low-income groups) as well as geographic equity (i.e., applicants outside NCR and those from cultural minority groups) take effect. This is to widen access to UP for deserving applicants who are financially challenged, or are from remote and underserved areas in the country.


UP is committed to look with circumspection at all strata in our society, across pockets of abilities, regional variation, and high school type. The goal is always to come up with a student base whose mix is truly reflective of intellectually capable individuals, without losing sight of inclusivity and diversity. UP also puts a premium on the health and safety of students and personnel during this pandemic. Honor and excellence in service, always.


Francisco N. de los Reyes is an associate professor of statistics and the director of the UP Office of Admissions.

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