Not many things will hold Cheng Yun-chien (鄭雲謙) back from achieving his dream of obtaining a doctorate in the US.
Cheng is so fixed on his "American Dream" that even if Taiwanese universities are ranked higher than the US schools he is interested in he would still choose to leave.
However, people with dreams similar to Cheng's are becoming more of a rarity in Taiwan, academics say.
National Taiwan University (NTU) President Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) said yesterday the improvements made to the Taiwanese education system are a double-edged sword.
On one hand, Taiwanese students are receiving a higher quality education, but on the other hand, it is also deterring students from furthering their education in another country -- an indispensable experience in one's academic career, he said.
"Thirty or 40 years ago, 80 percent to 90 percent of NTU graduates went to a foreign country to further their studies, but now the number has now dwindled to only 10 percent to 15 percent. The number is worrisome because it indicates that even Taiwan's finest students are no longer willing to go abroad," he said.
Lee said while it was true that students are receiving adequate education and research opportunities in Taiwan, the academic circle still urges students to spend time overseas to gain experiences that they cannot get in a classroom in Taiwan.
NTU political science professor Hung Yong-tai (
Hung's comments resonant with many Taiwanese.
Even Cheng, who is extremely determined to go to either Duke University or the University of Washington, said if he did not win a scholarship he would not go, or he would reapply until he won a scholarship because he does not want to have to depend on his family.
Even if Taiwanese universities receive a better ranking he would not change his mind about going abroad, he said.
"The ranking is a factor but not significant enough to convince me to stay in Taiwan. I want to go and study abroad so I can experience what it is like to live in another country," Cheng said.
The Times of London's Higher Education supplement on the top 200 universities in the world this year had NTU ranked 102nd. It was the only Taiwanese university that made the list.
The school has been making steady progress, from 114th place in 2005 and 108th place last year.
The Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council of Taiwan also released their own ratings, which had NTU at 185th place, while National Cheng Kung University, National Tsing Hua University and National Chiao Tung University placed 360th, 429th and 471st respectively out of the 500 universities that were evaluated.
The evaluation was based on the number and the quality of scientific papers published by each university.
Universities have protested against the ranking system, saying the evaluation process is subjective and does not take the school's overall quality of education into consideration.
Although the government has been pushing get at least one Taiwanese university into the top 100 list, some Taiwanese students say even if Taiwanese schools did receive better marks, they would still opt to study abroad.
Farah Shih (施芙琪), a sophomore at NTU majoring in industrial management, shared Cheng's views, saying, in addition to experiencing life in another country, having a foreign diploma would be a big plus when hunting for a job.