Sat, Oct 14, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Academia Sinica handicapping itself in attracting foreign students: official

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Academia Sinica, the nation's premier research institute, is handicapping itself in attracting more international students, an institute official said yesterday.

According to a report in the Chinese-language China Times last Saturday, Academia Sinica's Taiwan International Graduate Program (TIGP) had attracted 171 doctoral students in a variety of disciplines since its inception in 2002.

However, domestic scholars still greatly outnumber their foreign peers in the program, leaving many to wonder whether the institution has what it takes to stay competitive in the age of globalization, the report said.

A program official told the Taipei Times in a phone interview yesterday that Academia Sinica lacked the authority to autonomously accept foreign students or confer degrees, and such constraints had driven away many prospective students.

A large portion of the institute's student recruitment and teaching is done in collaboration with local universities.

"We've been waiting for the Legislative Yuan to approve legislation that would make it possible for us to decide for ourselves who we can accept [from abroad]," the source said on the condition of anonymity, adding that the Ministry of Education had already signed off on the proposed legislation.

But Academia Sinica's problems in recruiting foreign talent lie more with the institute's own administrators than with a gridlocked legislature, said Wu Maw-kun (吳茂昆), director of the Institute of Physics at Academia Sinica.

"Our administrators are not supportive of granting degrees to students and otherwise gaining more autonomy because that would bring Academia Sinica into direct competition with affiliated universities," Wu said.

He added that many Academia Sinica programs are conducted jointly with local universities, and that degrees were granted to students only under the auspices of these universities.

"We want to accept more international students, but are constrained," Wu said, adding that efforts to gain more autonomy as a means to attract more academics from abroad "would probably harm Academia Sinica's relations [with affiliated schools]."

However, Ovid Tzeng (曾志朗), Vice President of Academia Sinica, denied that institute administrators were unsupportive of efforts to give Academia Sinica a greater say in whom they could accept from overseas.

"It's [Taiwanese] universities' selfishness that is preventing Academia Sinica [from gaining more autonomy]," Tzeng told the Taipei Times yesterday.

He added that local universities leaned on the Legislative Yuan not to pass any legislation that would allow Academia Sinica to gain more autonomy for fear of losing students to the institute.

"Don't you think it's strange? If an institution has world-class educational resources, why shouldn't it be allowed to use those resources? What we're talking about here is getting more students from abroad. Local universities are already losing talent to Harvard -- why should they worry about us and hurt Taiwan's image?" Tzeng said.

He added that he would "persuade" local universities to support the institute in its efforts to internationalize, and "enlighten" these universities as to what the spirit of liberal arts and education entail.

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