Lee: The requirement of a postgraduate degree

IN THE case of University of the East v. Pepanio, (G.R. No. 193897, Jan. 23, 2013), the Supreme Court upheld the Commission of Higher Education’s policy requiring postgraduate degrees for permanent and tenured professors.

The Pepanio case, which was essentially a labor case, revolved around two college professors of the University of the East who did not hold the minimum postgraduate or master’s degrees in order to become permanent employees of the university.

These professors had previously been given extended probationary status due to their lack of a master’s degree. The extension of probationary status on a semester to semester basis for such professors had been the subject of a 1994-1999 Collective Bargaining Agreement. A new CBA in 2001, according to a news article “extended probationary full-time appointments to full-time faculty members who did not yet have the required postgraduate degrees provided that the latter complied with the requirement within their probationary period.”

In October 2003, the University issued notices reminding probationary full time instructors such as the professors in the case, of the expiration of their probationary status and the need for them to fulfill the required postgraduate degrees.

The professors contested the extended probationary status before the Labor Courts by way of an illegal dismissal complaint, stating that due to the length of their service (one had been with the University since 2000, the other since 1997) they should be considered regular employees.

In their defense, the University countered that it “never regarded respondents as regular employees since they did not hold the required master’s degree that government rules required as minimum educational qualification for their kind of work.” (Pepanio, G.R. No. 193897, Jan. 23, 2013).

The Labor Arbiter ruled for the professors, the National Labor Relations Commission overturned this and ruled for the University, and upon appeal to the Court of Appeals, the Court of Appeals ruled for the professors. However, the Supreme Court issued the subject ruling and ruled in favor of the University. They therefore ordered the dismissal of the professors’ labor complaint.

As explained by the Supreme Court:

“The requirement of a masteral degree for tertiary education teachers is not unreasonable. The operation of educational institutions involves public interest. The government has a right to ensure that only qualified persons, in possession of sufficient academic knowledge and teaching skills, are allowed to teach in such institutions. Government regulation in this field of human activity is desirable for protecting, not only the students, but the public as well from ill-prepared teachers, who are lacking in the required scientific or technical knowledge. They may be required to take an examination or to possess postgraduate degrees as prerequisite to employment.” (Id.).

The Supreme Court also explained that:

“Here, UE gave respondents Bueno and Pepanio more than ample opportunities to acquire the postgraduate degree required of them. But they did not take advantage of such opportunities. Justice, fairness, and due process demand that an employer should not be penalized for situations where it had little or no participation or control” (Id.)

As such, the rule is now settled that Postgraduate degrees are now a requisite before a professor may achieve tenure or permanent employment in universities and colleges.


The opinions expressed herein are Atty. Kelvin’s own. You can reach Kelvin through his office at stlvlawoffice@gmail.com.
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