Isko(lar) in the Desert: The UP Open University Experience

It’s June again and for most Filipinos this marks the start of another school year! Which reminds me that I have classes starting next week. No, I’m not a teacher – yet. I’m an online student at UP Open University! Wohooo! Proud! m/.
UP Open University Logo (Source: Google)


The University of the Philippines was (and still is) my dream school. After my classes at NEU, I would go directly to UP Diliman to hangout with my friends, eat fishball, sit under a big tree at the Oval and watch the sun set over the library. I wasn’t a UP student then but I lived and breathed the culture as much as I could. One day, I even sat-in on one of my cousin’s classes. I was so engrossed with the professor’s lectures that I found myself nodding each time she asked for a reaction. I was later introduced to her and she had to laugh because I was more attentive than her actual students

School was such an integral part of my life. So much so that right after college, I actually felt homesick. I’ve spent more time in school for the last 17 years and now suddenly I’m out in the real world. Call me bored and restless but after only a year of work, I decided to apply for a distance learning program at UP Open University. Fortunately I was accepted and now I’m a full fledged working student and just 2 semesters away from my Master’s Degree. Yay!

 What is UP Open University?

UP Open University is the fifth constituent of the UP System which caters to individuals who cannot attend regular on-campus classes due to work or other time-constraints. Their headquarters is at Los Banos but they have learning centers across the Philippines. For Offshore students, the Learning Center is usually the Philippine Embassy in the area. UPOU offers an Associate and Bachelors Degree program as well as a number of Masters and Doctorate programs.

Symbolic of what it’s like to be a UPOU student, “The UPoblation is embraced by a swirling form likened to the Philippine flag with the stars representing Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and with the prominent image of the sun representing education. The flowing form lifting the Oblation towards the sky represents open access to quality UP Education and its boundless reach.” – UP Open University

If you’re interested in pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Multimedia Studies or a Masters Degree through distance learning, you can visit their website at to check the available courses and the application process.

For Bachelor’s Degree applicants, you will have to submit your application and pass an entrance exam. For Master’s and Doctorate applicants, part of your admission will be based on your TOR and other requirements. Application deadlines are usually around February (for first semester) and July (for second semester). You have to send all the requirements before the deadlines. If you pass, they will send an email to inform you that you passed and then send your admission pack in the mail.

The Cost
Tuition fee is 1000 pesos per unit plus miscellaneous fee of 2000 pesos. It is the same price if you were to go to the traditional UP campuses. Since UP is a state university, this price is already subsidized by the government. Usually, my tuition fee per semester is around 900 SR and my DHL Shipping is around 350 SR. Instructional Materials Fees (for modules and books) vary per subject.Acquiring the hard copy of the books is optional since PDF copies of the modules are usually available at the course site (in case you want to skip shipping them) but I always find it handy to have an actual book with me.

Units allowed per semester
Normally, a working student is allowed only 6 units per semester. Maximum of 9 units per semester can be enrolled with prior approval from the Dean’s office. So a Master’s Degree would usually take around 2 1/2 years to complete.
What is it like to study online?
The academic year is divided into 2 semesters like a regular college school year. Though the similarities end there. First, most of the courses are through Distance Education meaning everything is done online and through emails. You will have your books and modules delivered to you and you will have to study on your own.

There is a virtual campus called “Moodle/ Myportal” where you log in to access your virtual classrooms or “course sites”. The PDF copies of the modules will be uploaded at the course sites and the professor’s announcements will posted there as well. 

There are asynchronous discussion forums, which serve as your recitation and attendance. Some classes will allow you to study at your own pace, while some will implement deadlines for tasks and homework. Most of the time, you will submit your papers through the course site though some professors will let you email it to them directly.There are midterm and final exams too and it’s usually done at the Learning Centers or Philippine Embassy for offshore students. Though recently, we’ve been taking the exams through the Myportal site.

Note that studying online means reading your lessons and researching on your own (UPOU stands firm against plagiarism and it is often grounds for expulsion). The professors are there just to layout the syllabus and grade your outputs, but they will not spoon-feed the lesson like they do in college. They are available through email in case you need clarifications. But all in all, you will be entirely responsible for you success as an OU student.

Time Management
I normally study at least 2-4 hours a day and try to finish my assignments earlier than the deadline. Nerd much? I read modules when I’m not busy at work. I won’t lie, there are times when I had to take the day off from work just so I could meet my assignment deadlines but that’s usually because I didn’t follow my timetable and crammed.Time management is really important if you’re working or in charge of your household. I really admire my classmates who juggle their work, kids and homework and still ace our class! If they can do it, you can too!

For Development Communication students, we have a very active FB group where we share our thoughts and give advice to one another. I’m also very lucky because my boss is really supportive and lets me take the day off during exams. At first this can be daunting, but after the initial adjustment you’ll find the experience both challenging and rewarding.
My Advice
If you’re planning to study online, don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s better to just enroll 2 subjects so that you can focus, get good grades and still have a life. For a Masters program, the time limit for completion is 7 years. So no rush. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your friends and classmates.

Also, taking only the regular load would minimize your chances of actually dropping a class which our professors always discouraged us to do. Why? Because UP is a state university and part of the tuition fee is shouldered by the Government. And where do they get the money? Yep, from us – the Taxpayers. This is why UP students are called Isko = Iskolar ng Bayan.  If you drop or fail a subject, you will not just be wasting your money, but the also other taxpayer’s contributions. (P.S. The term Isko simply means Iskolar. So anyone whose tuition fee was paid for by the Filipino people through taxes is a scholar.)

You know at first, I was really hesitant to apply at UPOU. I thought maybe my undergrad grades weren’t good enough or that I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure. But enrolling at UPOU was the best thing I’ve done for myself! I have gained new friends, became more self-confident and gained a better understanding and empathy for my country. One day, I want to return to the Philippines and become a productive member of society. UP inspires me to make a difference.

And I am so happy that distance learning at UPOU is available to our kababayans here in Riyadh.

University of the Philippines Open University

Information Office, UPOU Headquarters
Los Banos, Laguna 4031
tel: +63 49 536 6001 to 06 loc 710

 Office Hours:
Tuesday to Friday
7:00 am to 6:00 pm

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  1. Good for you. It's never too late to be an Iska. ^>^

  2. Uuuhm Im confused… I am here in Riyahd and for the longest time wanted to enroll. Do I have to be in the Phils for reporting when needed? Do I have to be there for enrollment first time? See I only go home every year.

  3. @Pinay, yep it&#39;s never too late. :)<br /><br />@Krishna, Hi! Thank you for reading the blog. Let me try to answer your questions :)<br /><br />If you&#39;re applying for an MA course, you will need your original TOR and 2 recommendation letters (from your employer and former professor). <br /><br />I also go to the Philippines only once a year. In the essence of saving time, I asked a friend

  4. @Krishna, Oh I forgot the question about reporting. Hmmm… I&#39;m not exactly sure what you mean by reporting… do you mean like classroom reports?<br /><br />In my experience, all of our course works are done entirely online. So term papers, video projects and digital portfolios are all submitted or uploaded online. We use emails, Youtube, Multiply and the course sites to upload these

  5. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    nice article..I am applying for the same. Too bad. I missed the first semester. I&#39;m here in Dubai.

  6. this is news to me! great news! thanks for the info. 🙂

  7. Avatar Jules Reply

    glad to have chanced on your site. i&#39;ve always been interested in being part of the up education system myself. went ahead and checked their site and shot an email inquiry. sure will tell my wife about this cool site – once she gets here in riyadh. at least while she&#39;s getting the hang of things around here – im sure she&#39;s bound to learn a lot from the posts here. kudos!

  8. Hi! This is a really great post! But I have to ask, do you really need to have a 3-year experience to get into MA in DevCom if you&#39;re not a communication graduate? I&#39;m a nursing graduate but I do have a year of experience in advertising. I&#39;m not sure if I can make the cut seeing as how I&#39;m not a comm. graduate. <br /><br />My other question is that, if you&#39;re going to take the

  9. Dear Anonymous, <br /><br />That&#39;s okay, even if your application is late they will still review it for the next semester. 🙂

  10. Hi Callphilippines! I&#39;m glad you found the article informative 🙂

  11. Hi Jules, thank you for reading the article and we do hope that your wife will have a speedy adjustment to sunny Riyadh! 🙂

  12. Hi K!<br /><br />If you wish to apply for the MA in DevComm, you need 3 years of work experience but it doesn&#39;t have to be from a communication field.<br /><br />I have a classmate who graduated from an Engineering course and is working at a hospital but she didn&#39;t have any problem with her application.<br /><br />For your second question, you don&#39;t need to take an entrance exam for

  13. Thank you for the quick reply! Now the going-back-to-the-Philippines-just-to-take-the-exam is not a problem anymore. The bad thing is that I only have a year of work experience because I got out of college only about two years ago. :(<br /><br />Lol, yes. But I&#39;m working in advertising/communications now. So I wanted to take an MA in comm so I can further my career in this field. <br /><br />

  14. Hi K, you&#39;re most welcome! I wish you the best of luck in your chosen career! <br /><br />Thank you for following our blog! ^_^

  15. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Hi. Very good post! I&#39;m glad I found your site 🙂 I also applied to the UPOU DLLE, and I intend to upgrade to MA. I already had a BA and have been working for 24 years…Oh wow…time does fly! I&#39;m transitioning to a new career, although I have been successful in my previous. But this time, I&#39;d like to do something more meaningful to myself and my kababayans….so I&#39;m really

  16. @Anonymous:<br /><br />Hello! I am sure that you will get your acceptance letter soon! You have a very noble goal and we wish you all the best in your plan to build a preschool. Thank you for reading our blog!

  17. Your post inspired me to study in UPOU. I realized that it is possible to study while working abroad. Currently, I am waiting for the approval of my application. I hope that you will post more about your experience in UPOU..

  18. Avatar boyet Reply

    Very informative article. Answered most, if not all of the FAQs, but in much more details!

  19. Hellooo. 🙂 This is really inspiring. I&#39;m a student of UPB (still, cause I haven&#39;t filed for honorable dismissal), but I&#39;m in LA right now studying for an associate&#39;s degree in accounting. They didn&#39;t ask for my TOR or honorable dismissal. I&#39;m planning to continue studying in UPOU, do you know how many units undergrads are allowed to take? Do you also know if they do

  20. Hi!<br />I submitted my application last April 25 and received an email from OUR that based on the result of the preliminary evaluation of my application to the undergraduate program, I will no longer take the Undergraduate Assessment Test (UgAT) but will only need to complete the Distance Education (DE) Readiness Module. They will email me the instructions between June 5-8.<br />I just want to

  21. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Hello again. Thanks for posting my comments on Feb. 24. Yes, I got accepted to the DLLE and am currently enrolled in 6 units. I also got the permission to take another 6 units from the PTC per semester starting this Sept. term while under the DLLE program….so it&#39;s going to be a busy couple of years for me….but I&#39;m up to the challenge! What&#39;s good about the UPOU is…I can take the

  22. @Denecca, thank you for reading our blog! Yes, we&#39;ll have another UPOU article about graduation naman! <br /><br />@Boyet, thank you so much for the positive feedback!

  23. Hi Krishna, I asked UPOU and they said that only cross-enrollment with another UP campus is allowed. Unless the foreign university has a memorandum of agreement with UP, then that&#39;s the only time that cross enrollment can be possible. <br /><br />You are allowed maximum of 12 units as an undergrad student, unless otherwise approved by the College&#39;s Dean.<br /><br />–Sampaguita Pride

  24. Hi Irene, first of all let me congratulate you on your decision to study online. To be honest, I am not familiar about the DE Readiness Test/Module so I had to ask UPOU about it.<br /><br />I was told that the DE Readiness Module is a mandatory subject that undergrads have to take, think of it as your bicycle&#39;s training wheels. Once you pass this module, then that&#39;s the only time you can

  25. Thank you so much Sampaguita Pride!!!<br /><br />This is very helpful! You&#39;re so nice. I&#39;d like to thank you for all the support and encouragement.. <br />I was surprised when I opened my email, UPOU sent me the thread where you were asking info about the DERT.. i&#39;m glad you verified it with them.. it clears some of my questions..<br /><br /><br />I&#39;m trying to create an account

  26. Hi, cool posts! Very informative. I am in Dubai and I am currently getting my docs together to apply for MDC. Can I just ask you about the application form, it says Proposed Major Field and Minor Field. Do I just choose from the major subjects? Hope you can help me! Thanks!

  27. Hello! You have a very inspiring testimony. I am looking at Master of Distance Education at UPOU. I just want your opinion about their curriculum (in general), if it is relevant and competitive to give the students an edge in their chosen field. And, is UPOU a recognized educational institution abroad? Thank you so much in advance.

  28. Hi Mildred, thank you for your comment and for reading The Pink Tarha! Sampaguita Pride, who took the course, is currently on vacation outside Saudi Arabia. She&#39;ll reply as soon as she gets back. 🙂 ~ Sundrenched

  29. Hi! I really, badly want to get a degree I am stranded in the I don&#39;t have time to attend classes. I hate commuting everyday. I am in Quezon City. My job is draining I don&#39;t have time to attend classes.If I do, I might just end up dropping subjects and wasting money. Thank u so much for this post. I keep asking my roommate about UPOU but they don&#39;t have any idea. Uhmm. What do u

  30. @Mildred, hello sorry for the delay… I was swamped with a lot of work right after my mini-vacation. Anyway, I believe that the curriculum (especially Masters in Distance Ed) is very competitive. I took one of the MDE core subjects as an elective and it was very comprehensive. <br /><br />Also, UPOU is part of our state owned UP, so yes it is recognized. But I will be honest that there are

  31. @Mary, hello! Thank you for your comment. UPOU is a university that caters to people who cannot go to attend regular University settings, however, you still have to devote 2-3 hours a day to studying because you learn primarily by reading modules and your classmate&#39;s forum responses. <br /><br />The professors are there just to answer clarifications and evaluate your tests and papers. I

  32. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    hi there,<br /><br />Is the admission pack sent through postal mail or delivered thru LBC, etc? Thank you!

  33. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    hi.. nice blog &lt;3 thank u for all the infos. Btw, how much did u pay for ur application fee 500 PHP or 100USD? ty.

  34. Hello, <br /><br />The admission pack was sent through regular mail so I when I received it, Saudi EMS confiscated the USB that came with the pack. It had videos of the enrollment procedure. <br /><br />I paid 100 USD for the application fee because I am abroad. The 500 Php application fee is for students who are residing in the Philippines.

  35. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Hi,<br /><br />I was so inspired by your article. Like you, I have always dreamed of studying in UP.. I plan to enroll this coming A/Y 2013-14 through the UPOU.. But I&#39;m a bit worried about the Graduate Admission Test… How&#39;s the test? Are there reviewers available?<br /><br />Many thanks The Pink Tarha!:D

  36. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    hello sampaguita pride. Since your grades in your bachelor&#39;s degree is one of the criteria for admission, I would like to ask you if you have any idea as to what grades we need to have to be accepted. I am asking because I would want to apply but my college grades are not really impressive.

  37. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Really want to get my masters at UPOU. Been hesitating for the longest time. Why? My undergraduate grades suck…big time. I&#39;m not sure if I can qualify. What&#39;s the grade requirement to even think of entering UPOU for a Master&#39;s degree? is there anything else that I can do? Been working full time for the past 28 years. And I have had quite impressive experiences already. Help please.

  38. Hi Anonymous, the GPA Requirement varies per program. For MDC, it was 2.00. If your Undergrad grades aren&#39;t peachy as pie, but your GPA qualifies, they will just put you on probationary status for one semester, during which you have to get excellent grades so that the University will let you continue on to the program. If you fail your probation sem, the will revoke the admission. I hope that

  39. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Hi! Thank you for this very helpful blog of urs! 🙂 It helped me a lot whether to decide to pursue on my masters. I applied for Master of Arts in Nursing while currently working here in UAE. And just yesterday (january 25,2013) I completed the reqts and send it via mail to UP los banos, though I don&#39;t have any idea to when they are going to inform me if I am accepted or not? Or How long

  40. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Hi! Thank you for your very helpful blog, it helped me decide whether to further pursue my degree. Just yesterday I completed the necessary reqts and send it to UPOU, I applied for Master of Arts in Nursing. Though I am not that confident with my TOR, really crossing my fingers and praying that they will consider my application. <br /><br />BTW, after UPOU received my application, for how long

  41. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Thanks for this blog. Really answers some of my inquiries.<br />But, I am still wondering if the units I had taken previously in the program I attended (MAN) in other school will be credited. 24 units shed too much effort from me ~_~ just too sad to be wasted

  42. Avatar Kristel G. Reply

    Amazing post! Oh my. I&#39;ve been reading through all the comments posted here and am surprised and amazed that there are comments posted just this year! Just proves that your post has been really helpful. I&#39;ve been looking for a credible post about UPOU, been asking around but this one has been the most informative thread so far. Thanks a lot! <br /><br />I am about to take UPGAT next month

  43. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Hi! You have been very helpful. I&#39;m glad I chanced upon this site. I&#39;m planning to take the Professional Teaching Certification and I was wondering if taking 6 units per trimester would be too much as I work from 9-5. Would the online classes be in conflict with my work schedule or it is flexible enough? I have no idea what taking online classes entail. Your help would be greatly

  44. Hello, thank you so much to everyone who read this article and posted their questions and comments. We&#39;ve decided to answer your questions through a Q&amp;A post. Please check it out. :)<br />-SP

  45. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Thanks for posting your experience online… you will be inspiring a lot of people. you did what a real &quot;ISKA&quot; should for the love of country and of fellowmen… Kudos to you and More Power ! <br />

  46. Dear All,<br /><br />I am currently smiling while reading this post as this is like an answered prayer for me. I had always dreamt of studying online and focus on developing myself for future career growth.<br /><br />I would like to enroll in the BES program in OPOU and I&#39;ve sent them a mail. I will also fill up my application and my TOR from my previous university. I am looking forward to

  47. Hello Mary!<br /><br />Good luck on your further studies! Go, go, go! :)<br /><br />Unfortunately, Sampaguita Pride who has taken this masteral course in UPOU is in the Philippines. She&#39;s on a hiatus from the blog since May 2013 so she won&#39;t be able to answer questions and guide you in the processes. <br /><br />We want to wish you all the best in you distance learning studies. :)<br /><

  48. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Can u give me tips on how to pass the DATE= Doctorate Admission Test for Teachers?..thanks

  49. Great blog!<br />Thanks for inspiring us readers!<br />Just a question, if my family back home in manila is the one sending my application, which fee should we pay? Thanks in advance!<br />God bless

  50. Hi! I am an OU student myself. Currently, I&#39;m also juggling a full-time job and my online studies. I&#39;ve had a hard time adjusting to the distance learning mode of studying, I always end up cramming in finishing my assignments and requirements. And to top that, there are adjustments I&#39;ve had to make since it is also my first year teaching. Reading your post was such an encouragement!

    • Sheila Sheila Reply

      Esereth, thank you for reading the blog. I hope that you are coping well with your course. Use a blank calendar and jot down the deadlines at the start of the semester. Then add alarms on your phone calendar 1 week before the deadline to remind you to get started. That helped me alot.

  51. Hi, I am planning to take the DLLE and MLLE program..It&#39;s a ladderized program. I intentionally want Masteral but I have to go through DLLE first before the MLLE..I wonder how long would it take me to finish both as early as possible? They say these programs are under two semesters with one summer…<br />

  52. Thanks for this post! 🙂 This really inspired me to pursue on enrolling in UPOP! thank you!

  53. Avatar shaii Reply

    hi! can you give me tips where im gonna start to review? because my entrance exam for UPOU on may 10, and i don&#39;t have any idea what i&#39;ll gonna review, those who already experience taking exam they said it is just basics like math and science but it is tricky question. can you adivise me. <br /><br />Thank you!

  54. Avatar shaii Reply

    Hi!<br />I just want to ask if what im gonna review for taking entrance exam in UPOU? i really dont have any idea or where im gonna start to review. I ask those already experience taking exam they said it is easy because its just basics math and science but it is tricky question. Can you advise me give me what im gonna review? my entrance exam is on may 10.

  55. Hi.. informative post! thanks for sharing.. need help! what sort of Masters, do you suggest, I consider? I grad BS Business Administration major in Marketing..I reside in Abu dhabi… thanks… hope to hear from you soon!

    • Sheila Sheila Reply

      Hello Gel, thanks for reading the post. It really depends on what you want to do with the MA degree. Do you want to enter the academe and teach? Do you want to get promoted? If you’re aiming to get a promotion, then it’s better to get an MA that’s vertically aligned with your original course, like an MBA. Unfortunately, UPOU does not offer MBA courses at present.

  56. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Hi! I&#39;m also based in Riyadh and I&#39;d like to enroll in UPOU the same course as u as I have graduated Bachelor of Science in Development Communication. I&#39;s like to ask if you really submitted your original TOR? u just gained new when you took your vacay in Phil? Thanks!

    • Sheila Sheila Reply

      Hello, I submitted a scanned copy of my TOR since it was what I had at hand. I was under probation for completion of requirements for the first sem. Then I got a new copy of my TOR from my old school and submitted that to UPOU. The next sem I was classified as Regular Student. Hope this helps. 🙂

  57. Great! I am currently a UPOU student while working here in Jeddah, KSA….and all you’ve said are true…Cheers!!!

  58. Avatar Ellah Reply

    Hello. I’ve recently submitted my application papers and got an email that said I no longer need to take the UgAT but take the Distance Education Readiness Module instead. Is this different from Distance Education Readiness Test?
    And what is it all about? Do i need to study?

    Do I have a chance to get admitted to UP because Im already qualified for ugat?

    I hope I can take little of your time thanks.

    • Sheila Sheila Reply

      Hi Ellah, congrats on your decision to enroll at UPOU. Let me see if I can shed some light on your questions.

      The UGAT is the Undergraduate Assessment Test, the counterpart of the UPCAT. It’s only administered to applicants of Bachelor’s Degree programs. So if you’re applying for a diploma program or Master’s program then you don’t need to take the UGAT. Your TOR will be their basis for your admission.

      The Distance Education Readiness Test is simply a test to see if you can adapt to online learning. I didn’t have to take it because I was admitted way before it was implemented so I don’t have any first hand experience to share regarding this particular test. But if you’re tech-savvy enough to be comfortable studying online, I don’t see this as a big hurdle.

      Best of Luck!

  59. Avatar Ellah Reply

    Thank you so much for replying.

    I’ve applied for bachelor of education studies and just graduated from high school recently this 2015. Since my UPG is above 2.8 in UPCAT i think that’s the reason why i dont need to take ugat anymore.

    But I’m so nervous whether they’ll accept me. is passing UgAT a good chance?

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