Mon, Jan 12, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Universities face fight for survival

By Ben Wu 吳濟聰

PROFESSOR PRUDENCE CHOU (周祝瑛) recently published an article about the need to improve the skills of our university students in tough economic times (“The power of questions for students in limbo,” Jan. 1, page 8). In her article, Chou said university teachers are required to do research and are pressured to obtain doctorates.

This means, Chou said, that students who need remedial teaching and career counseling from universities are let through the system because their teachers do not have enough time for them.

The result, Chou said, is that many students are unable to identify their strengths and career goals during their four years at university.

Although the government promised to improve retirement packages for teachers at private universities some time ago, some professors at prestigious private universities have opted to teach at public universities, while even more professors from private universities are getting ready to do the same.

However, the majority of people are unaware that aside from those universities that are considered “low-quality universities,” a lot of universities that are heavily involved in Taiwan’s Teaching Excellence Programs (教學卓越計畫) are also plagued by the same problems.

Both private universities and our government have an equal responsibility in improving education in Taiwan. Shouldn’t a government that emphasizes education help private universities in achieving their goals of improving education? Aren’t the problems private universities are facing serious?

Private universities are facing serious problems — problems that cannot be solved overnight. In the past, teachers at private universities could spend the majority of their time teaching. Even with the discrepancies in salary and retirement packages between private and public universities, this fact was one factor that helped them attract teachers.

However, the uniform appraisal and promotion systems that have been implemented in recent years have had a heavy impact on these schools. The standards for the appraisal and promotion systems are supposed to be a combination of factors such as teaching, service and academia.

In reality, however, academic performance is the primary criteria of these systems. This means that teachers at private universities must devote more time on research and spend less on teaching and career counseling.

Such a situation makes many teachers ask themselves why they should stay at private universities with relatively lower salaries and retirement packages when they are performing almost the same duties as they would at public universities.

Because of a large drop in the birthrate and the limitations placed on the competitiveness of private universities by the uniform appraisal and promotion systems, teachers there worry that if they do not take the opportunity to leave private institutions now, they will be left with nothing in the event that their universities close down.

Therefore, over time, teachers at private universities began emphasizing academic performance in preparation for going to teach at public universities. This affects teaching at private universities because teachers are not as devoted to teaching as they were before.

There is a large gap between tuition fees at private universities in Taiwan and China. Secondly, China already has too many university students and those who do choose to come to Taiwan to study would choose universities that have better reputations, otherwise they would have no chance of finding jobs after returning to China.

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