Mon, Jan 12, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Universities face fight for survival

By Ben Wu 吳濟聰

Private universities with better finances have come up with ways to lower the gaps in salaries and retirement packages for teachers. Universities that have not been able to make adjustments to their systems are losing their teachers and face other pressures from problems related to salaries, retirement packages and a drop in the number of students. If these universities are unable to obtain financial assistance, they will have to either shut down or lay off employees, with tuition fees being controlled by the Ministry of Education. Employees with a competitive advantage will leave these universities before they lose their jobs, which will only exacerbate the problems.

The first way in which these problems can be resolved is to make our universities more liberal and diverse. The uniform appraisal and promotion systems have to be discontinued, universities must be allowed to find their own competitive advantages and not be forced to emphasize research only. Also, the government should allow foreign universities to invest in or acquire private universities.

The second way in which these problems can be resolved is to discontinue the fee control policies at private universities. Universities are no longer oligopolies and students have a wide range of choices in terms of where they seek higher education. Well-known universities such as Harvard charge extraordinarily high fees, however, because these universities have their own competitive advantages and students are not put off by their higher fees. Private universities in Taiwan should be allowed to develop their own competitive advantages.

If the government keeps ignoring this problem, we could very well witness a wave of private universities closing their doors in the next few years.

Ben Wu is an assistant professor in the Department of Information Management at Fujen Catholic University.

TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON

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