Mon, Jan 24, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Outgoing premier increases budget for universities

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Yesterday, one day ahead of the en masse Cabinet resignation, Premier Yu Shyi-kun approved in principle to expand a five-year, NT$50 billion higher-education improvement project to a 10-year, NT$100 billion or even NT$120 billion program, if necessary.

"Apparently, it's not enough to spend only NT$50 billion over the next five years to upgrade the international competitiveness of the nation's higher-education system," Yu told an unscheduled press conference yesterday afternoon.

"With the injection of more funds, we hope to see more top-notch universities or study centers developing and meeting international standards," he said.

Yu also took the opportunity to dismiss speculations that the decision was made in haste before his departure from office today.

"As a responsible government, we hope to finalize the direction of the plan following the legislature's passing the NT$50 billion budget on Friday," he said.

"It's not a last-minute favor because we approved the five-year, NT$500 billion 10 major construction projects package, in which the NT$50 billion top-notch university and research center project is included, in November 2003," he said.

Yu made the remarks yesterday afternoon after listening to grievances voiced by eight university heads and deputy heads over the future allocation of the NT$50 billion budget.

The eight universities issued a joint statement on Saturday, expressing their opposition to the Executive Yuan's alleged plan to allocate the funds only to "prestigious" national universities.

They pressed on to request a meeting with the premier.

After two hours of discussion, the two parties reached three consensuses, Cabinet Spokesman Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said.

According to Chen, the premier agreed in principle to extend the five-year project to 10 years and increase the funds from NT$50 billion to NT$100 billion or NT$120 billion.

A qualified university wishing to develop its departments into a research center would receive NT$40 billion. A qualified university wishing to develop itself into a top-quality university meeting international standards would also receive NT$40 billion for development. Yu also agreed to earmark NT$80 billion in the government's annual budget in the event of two universities qualifying for the project.

A review committee would be established under the Executive Yuan to screen the applicants. The committee would also be entrusted with the mission to evaluate the performance of the qualified applicants. Those failing to pass the evaluation would be asked to drop out of the project.

Both sides yesterday furthermore agreed that the committee should refer to domestic and international standards to establish an assessment index or system.

President of National Chengchi University Cheng Jei-cheng (鄭瑞城) said yesterday's meeting was "a rare opportunity" and "productive."

"I don't know what the university heads think about the consensus we reached today, but I'm grateful to be able to hear the government's story first-hand," he said.

"The reason why we're here today is simple, and it is that we'd like to see the government carefully use the money, especially when it's in financial difficulties," he said.

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