Thu, Dec 13, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Faculty cliques bar talent retention

By Jang Show-ling 鄭秀玲

In the latest World Talent Ranking released on Nov. 20 by the Lausanne, Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development, Taiwan placed fourth in Asia, behind Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, but ahead of Japan and South Korea.

Taiwan ranked second in the category “Educational assessment” — the Program for International Student Assessments survey of 15-year olds — and eighth in the category “Effective personal income tax rate,” a measure of income tax as a percentage of an income equal to GDP per capita.

Yet in the categories “International experience,” measuring the international experience of senior managers, and “Attracting and retaining talents,” it performed worse, ranking 44th and 45th respectively.

The only option is root-and-branch reform of higher education to retain talent and boost the economy.

In 1980, the US passed the Bayh-Dole Act allowing researchers in academic institutions and research facilities to set up companies, through which they could share the results of federally funded projects with the US government.

With the profits from their listed companies, they drastically increased the salaries for themselves and team members, and attracted more talent to join research and development.

Since then, many high-tech companies and venture capitalists have grown up in the neighborhoods around top universities, forming successful industrial clusters and driving up local economies, as exemplified by Silicon Valley, San Diego and Boston.

By late 2016, Silicon Valley employed 1.62 million people, and about 30,000 jobs are created each year in San Diego, while Boston has been recognized by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation as the US’ top city for start-ups for two consecutive years.

In late 1998, Taiwan modeled its Fundamental Science and Technology Act (科學技術基本法) after the US act to provide a legal foundation for research institutes and organizations to use state-owned research results.

Four amendments followed, easing restrictions on ownership and use of government-owned scientific and technological research results.

In May, the legislature amended the law, loosening restrictions on research personnel in public institutions and administrative staff in public schools concurrently holding positions in start-ups by removing the two categories from the restrictions stipulated in the Civil Servants Work Act (公務員服務法).

However, the results in Taiwan have been different from the US and no industrial clusters have formed around Academia Sinica or National Taiwan University (NTU), the nation’s most outstanding research institutions.

As long as faculty and researcher salaries remain low, it will be difficult to retain talent.

Although the situation could be attributed to many factors, the main reason is the long-time monopolization of private and public universities by certain political parties and family-controlled conglomerates, which has created huge communities that value relationships over expertise.

Under the cloak of university autonomy, it is impossible for outsiders to supervise how these communities monopolize the decisionmaking system and divide organizational resources.

Academician Cyrus Chu (朱敬一) has written about how an organizational culture that pays excessive respect to elderly and former superiors at universities is key to stagnating competitiveness.

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