The Ministry of Education is considering integrating six national universities into three by August next year, while mulling plans to aid the transition of schools with fewer than 2,000 students into smaller schools or dissolving them completely, Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) said yesterday.
According to Chiang, the ministry is in talks with schools on how to help with transition efforts, adding that the ministry is considering amending the Private School Act (私立學校法) to encourage private schools to disband or transform into other facilities.
The ministry’s data showed that private educational establishments with fewer than 1,000 students include the Kaomei Junior College of Health Care and Management, the Kao Fong College of Digital Content, the Yung Ta Institute of Technology and Commerce, and Hsing Kuo University.
Private establishments with fewer than 2,000 students include Toko University, the University of Kang Ning, Dahan Institute of Technology and the Taiwan Hospitality and Tourism College, the ministry’s data showed.
Though Chiang declined to name schools that would be merged, rumors abound that the integration plans included the merger of the National Pingtung Institute of Commerce with the National Pingtung University of Education, the merger of Tainan National University of the Arts with National Cheng Kung University, and the merger of National Hsinchu University of Education with National Tsing Hua University.
Chiang said the ministry would not shut down schools on a whim, as such actions could lead to social problems.
“We hope the schools have other options to deal with student shortages,” Chiang said, adding that closing private schools facing student shortages and poor management has not been ruled out.
Taiwan Higher Education Union secretary-general Chen Cheng-liang (陳政亮) said that although the effects of the nation’s declining birth rate are not yet being fully felt, some private schools have already started reducing staff numbers.
Some schools are forcing teachers to quit so they can save money by not paying severance fees, Chen added.
Chen said that many of these schools are still admitting students and that they deal with shortages of teachers by signing half-year contracts with teaching staff.
The ministry is standing idle while these schools trample on teachers’ rights, Chen said, adding that “the ministry’s claims of assisting private schools to transition into other facilities are false.”