Dozens of students yesterday demonstrated outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei, protesting its decision to allow universities to independently decide whether to raise tuition fees for graduate programs. The students expressed concern that the decision may result in a increase in fees for graduate students.
In a conference meeting with university and college presidents from across the nation last month, Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) said that school administrations would be free to decide whether to raise tuition fees for graduate programs, making many students worried that they may become an “ATM” for their schools.
“When students finish their degree, they go out and contribute to society based on what they have learned at school. Students should not be the ones who shoulder the rising costs of education,” said Chang Wen-hua (張文華), a graduate student at Taipei National University of the Arts and a representative of the Alliance Against Commoditization of Education. “Instead, the government should collect capital gains tax from businesses to fill universities’ financial gap, as most students go on to work for businesses after graduation.”
Chang said that graduate students are already suffering from cuts in research funds and that “things would only get worse for us if tuition fees go up and research budgets are cut.”
“We would become academic slave workers,” she added.
“I get a research budget of about NT$3,000 [US$101] a month, but 10 years ago, the amount was NT$8,000,” said Wang Chun-fang (王淳芳), a graduate student at National Chengchi University.
“With little budget and higher tuition fees, we will be forced to work multiple part-time jobs. How are we supposed to focus on our studies and do our research?” she asked.
Responding to the students’ protest, Department of Higher Education deputy director Ma Hsiang-ping (馬湘萍) said that because graduate school is not part of mandatory education, “it’s reasonable that the government, the school and the students should share the costs.”
“We are not likely to change the policy direction at the moment,” she said. “However, I don’t think universities are planning to raise tuition fees for graduate students, because competition is fierce because the number of children is declining each year.”