Education authorities plan to cut enrollment at universities and graduate institutes by about 35 percent over the next decade due to a shrinking population caused by a low birth rate.
Enrollment targets in undergraduate and doctoral programs are looking at 40 percent cuts, the Ministry of Education said at a recent conference of university presidents.
The nation only saw 1.06 births per woman in 2013 and experts say a rate of 2.1 births per woman is necessary to prevent the population from shrinking.
Ministry of Education Department of Higher Education director Huang Wen-ling (黃雯玲) said that she expects enrollment numbers to begin falling sharply next year.
Enrollment in the year 2023 could be 310,000 people fewer than the figures recorded in 2013, Huang said, adding that that would mean a NT$30 billion (US$953.41 million) reduction in tuition revenues.
In addition, teaching staff employed by higher education institutes are expected to decrease by 10,000 by 2023, Huang said.
Enrollment could plummet to 233,093 in 2023, a drop of 35.84 percent from 363,324 in 2013.
The number of bachelors degree students is expected to fall to 182,293 by 2023, a 39.6 percent drop from 301,820 in 2013.
Enrollment numbers for master’s degree programs are forecast to drop to 46,000, a 14.55 percent decrease from 53,834 in 2013, and for doctoral degrees the number is expected to decline to 4,800, down 37.4 percent from 7,670 in 2013.
Master’s students are expected to take up a higher relative proportion of higher education students in 10 years, while the proportion of bachelor’s and doctoral degree students are forecast to drop.
Bachelor’s degree students are set to make up 78 percent of all tertiary students, compared with 83.07 percent last year, while masters students could rise to 20 percent from 14.82 percent last year and doctoral degree student numbers are likely to account for 2 percent, down from 2.11 percent last year.
Huang said the Ministry of Education would seek to bolster the quality of higher education curricula by improving the teacher-to-student ratio from the current 32:1 for undergraduate programs and 12:1 for graduate programs, to 27:1 and 10:1 respectively.
National Taiwan University President Yang Pan-chyr (楊泮池) said that different guidelines should be set for different academic disciplines depending on societal needs.
For example, the enrollment targets for medical, accounting and other certifiable professions should not be reduced, he said.
He said the government should allow schools to carry out enrollment reductions at their own discretion and advised graduate degree holders to stay in academia, in addition to seeking careers in private industries.
Chinese Culture University President Lee Tien-rein (李天任) said that enrollment reductions and department closures might have a profound impact on the nation’s talent pool.
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