Study Abroad in the Philippines: A Guide for International Students

Learn how to study abroad in the Philippines.

Education is vital in building character and increasing one’s knowledge. It provides equal opportunities and stability, making us confident in life and our future. As the world becomes more open and connected, many students seek to study abroad to have a competitive edge and increase their global marketability. Although many countries offer world-class education and facilities, most international students prefer to study overseas in the Philippines.

Study Abroad in the Philippines photo by Kent Ogares via Unsplash
Study Abroad in the Philippines photo by Kent Ogares via Unsplash.

An archipelagic nation in Southeast Asia, the Philippines not only boasts beautiful natural surroundings and friendly locals. But this county is also home to some of the top universities in the world, producing highly proficient professionals in varying fields for generations. Apart from its quality education and stunning tourist spots, the Philippines offers low-cost living expenses and tuition fees. That’s why this country is an attractive destination for international students.

If you want to get a quality education cost-effectively, read on as we share our guide to studying abroad in the Philippines for international students and boost your edge in the global job market.

Cost of Studying in the Philippines

Probably one of the top reasons why many international students prefer to study in the Philippines is due to low-cost tuition fees and living expenses. But how much does it cost to study in the Philippines? In this article, we’ll discuss the general tuition fees and living expenses you should prepare for if you opt to study in the Philippines.

Tuition Fees & Scholarships

While the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) regulates schools in the Philippines, these institutions can freely set their tuition fees. Most schools in the country have tuition fees cost around $1,000 to $2,500 per school year to remain competitive. But engineering and medicine courses and the likes have the highest tuition fees. In general, these fees applies to all three levels of higher education, including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degree.

Doctoral students with a Special Study Permit (SSP) usually convert it to a work permit, allowing them to study while teaching part-time. The tuition fees are payable in Philippine pesos thru a bank or international transfer. Also, don’t forget to keep the receipt since you’ll use it for immigration purposes. Meanwhile, Filipino students usually get scholarships. Nonetheless, some CHE-regulated schools offer scholarships to international students.

Housing & Living Costs

Another advantage of studying in the Philippines is the inexpensive cost of living. International students prefer to study and live in the Philippines due to affordable living costs compared to other countries. For instance, living in Manila, the nation’s capital, is more affordable than New York, Boston, and London. Therefore, many international students prefer to study in the Philippines since they can live a comfortable life while getting a degree.

But how much is the cost of living in the Philippines? For instance, if you want to study and live in Manila, you can choose from various kinds of accommodations. You can rent a condo, apartment, or an entire house with your own yard. If you prefer to live in a condo, the average rental fee for a one-bedroom unit is between Php 20,000 to Php 35,000 or $350 to $680. This rate depends on the current foreign exchange rate, so the rental fee varies.

If you choose to live in an apartment or an entire house with its own yard, the average rental fee ranges from Php 10,000 to Php 20,000 ($180 to $360), depending on the location. For the utilities, it’s around Php 4,000 to Php 6,000 ($70 to $110) and Php 1,000 to Php 1,500 ($20 to $30) for monthly public transportation pass on average.

An inexpensive meal cost Php 150 ($3) a 1.5 liter of mineral water is worth Php 35 or less than a dollar. Do note that tap water in the Philippines is not considered safe for drinking, so you include it in your daily expenses. All in all, the average cost of living in Manila for one person is around Php 20,000 to Php 30,000 ($360 to $540) per month, excluding the rental fee.

On the other hand, the cost of living outside Metro Manila is generally lower than in neighboring cities. You can also keep rent lower by living in residences and dorms in areas that are not expensive or exclusive. But for safety and privacy reasons, you’ll have to pay more to enjoy both if renting around Metro Manila.

Visa Requirements

If you’re considering studying in the Philippines, you should prepare the necessary documents to realize your plan. The first thing you’ll need to secure is a Student Visa or Special Study Permit (SSP). If you’ve Filipino roots (but are not a legal citizen), the application process will be easy as you’ll be considered a Balikbayan. However, most international students aren’t Balikbayan. Thus, we’ll only discuss the standard application procedure for a Student Visa or SSP.

Application Process & Fees

There are many countries whose residents can enter the Philippines visa-free, given their visit is purely for tourism. But since all international students are required to get a Student Visa or SSP, you’ll have to obtain one even if you’re from a visa-free country. That’s why you still need to apply for a tourist visa. To secure a tourist visa, you should provide proof of accommodation, a valid passport, and proof of intended departure. Also, your passport validity should be until your intended stay.

Most international students purchase a cheap ferry or plane ticket heading to Indonesia, Malaysia, or Taiwan to secure proof of return. Once you’ve arrived in the Philippines, you should immediately apply for an SSP since the tourist visa is only valid for 59 days. You can secure the SSP at an immigration center in Manila, Quezon City, or Cebu.

Furthermore, you can apply for a Student Visa at a designated Philippine Embassy or Consulate in your home country once done with the admission process at a Philippine University. When securing a Student Visa or SSP, prepare passport-size photos and proof of admission to a University and financial independence, such as bank statements. Immigration officers may also request additional documents, so prepare everything beforehand.

The officer in charge will check if your documents are complete and correct. If you have complete documentary requirements, you can pay the applicable fees. For SSP, prepare Php 5,450 ($100) application fee for six (6) months, a notarial fee, and a compulsory registration card. If applying for a Student Visa, prepare Php 14,000 (US$250) for one (1) year. In some cases, the application process may take a while.

So you’ll have to visit an immigration office to extend your Tourist Visa. Then, purchase another cheap plane or ferry ticket to a neighboring country to get proof of your departure. Also, don’t forget to extend your SSP every semester or Student Visa every year. Remember, international students with an SSP or Student Visa can only study in the Philippines. Therefore, you’re not allowed to work or earn money in any way while in the country.

How to Apply to Universities in the Philippines

Applying to universities in the Philippines is troublesome since the country doesn’t have a national application portal for international students. You should apply to each school individually as they have various admission procedures for international students, which you can check on their websites. You can apply to every school since there’s no limit. Nonetheless, some schools have a limit on the number of programs you can take at the same time.

Meanwhile, it’s ideal to choose the best schools where they offer the program you want to avoid the repeated admission process. After selecting a University, apply for a program and submit the applicable documentary requirements:

  • High School or Bachelor’s Degree Diploma (scanned copy)
  • Valid Passport as proof of nationality (scanned copy)
  • Birth Certificate (scanned copy)
  • School certificates and other transcripts/records of previous courses
  • Testing scores
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Proof of funding or scholarship
  • Recommendation letters (2 or 3)
  • Portfolio or writing samples
  • Letter of motivation – stating why you want to take the program at that university/school
  • English Proficiency Tests – for international students whose first language isn’t English (such as IELTS Academic, PTE Academic, TOEFL iBT, C1 Advanced, or C2 Proficiency)

Also, you should secure a notarized translation if your documents aren’t in English, Filipino, or Spanish. But your application will be rejected if something is wrong with your papers. Once accepted, you can proceed with the application for a Tourist Visa and personally apply for your Student Visa/SSP in the Philippines.

Educational Programs

Although universities in the Philippines offer various degree programs, the country is famous for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). Aside from that, the Philippines is known for its Accountancy, Agriculture, Aviation, Engineering, Computer Science, IT, Education, Communications, Law, and Business Management courses.

Study in the Philippines
Study in the Philippines

Top Universities in the Philippines

The best cities in the Philippines where most international students stay are Manila, Quezon City, Cebu City, and Baguio City. These places are where you’ll find the top universities in the Philippines, including:

  • Ateneo de Manila University
  • Ateneo de Davao
  • De La Salle University
  • University of Santo Tomas
  • University of the Philippines Diliman
  • Mapua University
  • Saint Louis University, Baguio City
  • University of San Carlos
  • Silliman University
  • University of the Philippines Manila

Why Study in the Philippines?

The Philippines is becoming an increasingly popular choice for international students seeking quality education at an affordable cost. Here are some reasons why studying in the Philippines is a great option:

1. English as the Medium of Instruction

English is widely spoken and understood in the Philippines, making it easy for international students to communicate with faculty, staff, and fellow students. Studying in an English-speaking environment can also enhance your language skills and make you more globally competitive.

2. Affordable Tuition Fees and Living Costs

The Philippines offers relatively low tuition fees and living costs compared to other study destinations. This makes it an attractive option for students who want to receive a high-quality education without breaking the bank.

3. High-Quality Education System

The Philippines has a strong education system, with many prestigious institutions and universities offering many programs and courses. The country is known for its excellent medical, engineering, and business programs.

4. Cultural Diversity and Hospitality

The Philippines is known for its warm and friendly people. As an international student, the locals will welcome and embrace you, making your study experience even more enjoyable. The country’s rich cultural heritage and diverse traditions also provide a unique cultural experience.

5. Beautiful Environment and Tourist Attractions

Studying in the Philippines allows you to discover and explore the country’s stunning natural landscapes, beautiful beaches, and vibrant cities. You can visit tourist destinations like Boracay Island, Palawan, and Manila during your free time, creating unforgettable memories.

6. Opportunities for Internships and Work Placements

The Philippines provides numerous internships and work placement opportunities, allowing students to gain practical experience in their chosen field. Upon graduation, this hands-on learning can give you a competitive edge in the job market.

In conclusion, studying in the Philippines combines quality education, affordability, cultural diversity, and adventure. Choosing the Philippines as your study destination can broaden your horizons and create lifelong memories.

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