The Legislative Yuan recently passed several bills regarding the retirement and pensions of public-sector employees. As it is inevitable that higher education will undergo many changes, university presidents and professors want the government to improve academics’ retirement benefits to attract more talent and prevent a brain drain.
According to the pension system, public-school teachers receive the same pension and retirement benefits regardless of performance. Although academics sometimes receive very good retirement benefits, like an extremely high income replacement ratio, it rarely happens.
The Ministry of Education should consider setting down different rules for higher education faculty and researchers at public institutions, instead of applying the same pension schemes and retirement benefits to all civil servants, including public-school teachers. Establishing a separate salary and pension system for academics would bring several benefits.
First, providing more flexible salaries to university faculty and researchers would make Taiwan more competitive in the global market, improve higher education and boost university rankings.
Second, offering salaries to academics based on performance in research or teaching, instead of paying everyone the same, would also be fairer.
Third, while civil servants are supposed to follow instructions and abide by rules, academics need to be innovative and imaginative.
As academic Hu Shih (胡適) said, researchers should “make bold assumptions and try to prove them carefully.”
Being an academic requires an entirely different approach from that of most government employees. Academics who think like civil servants and are resistant to innovation are unlikely to make major contributions.
Fourth, if academics were not bound by rules designed for civil servants, they would be able to enjoy more flexibility in obtaining or using research grants. This could prevent unnecessary legal issues due to flawed regulations — such as the 2013 false receipt controversy in which many academics were embroiled.
To improve Taiwan’s global academic reputation, we must encourage academics and researchers to return to Taiwan and stay here. The government should develop a new reward system to keep academics from leaving.
Kent Lin is a professor at the Institute of Religion and Humanity at Tzu Chi University.
Translated by Tu Yu-an
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