Sun, Mar 29, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Do not trade university land for profit: minister

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Land from closed universities should remain in the hands of non-profit organizations, Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) said yesterday.

“The law should be clarified to state that if a school ceases to accept students, but its board is not dissolved, it still has to operate as a non-profit foundation,” he said, adding that any revenue generated should not be transformed into “profits” belonging to individuals.

The foundations should still be required to engage in public benefit activities, he said, citing construction of affordable public housing as an example.

His comments follow speculation over how land belonging to closed universities is to be used.

Current ministry plans announced on Friday call for the closing or merging of up to one-third of universities in the face of a sharp decrease in student numbers caused by years of low birth rates.

Taiwan Higher Education Union secretary-general Chen Cheng-liang (陳政亮) on Friday criticized the ministry’s proposals, saying they failed to clearly specify the disposal of land owned by closed universities, leaving open the possibility for the process to become a source of massive corporate profits.

While the ministry has made clear that the restrictions schools face will be loosened as they are encouraged to “transition” and “innovate,” Wu yesterday declined to specify what kind of “transition” plans the ministry would approve, stating that “innovation” by definition needed to come from the bottom up.

Wu also promised to relieve the impact of the transition on teachers by requiring schools to increase their student-to-teacher ratios, preserving some positions as universities close and downsize.

Plans announced on Friday by the ministry were criticized by unions for only promising to establish a “platform” to help university faculty connect with and transition to jobs in other sectors.

Lee Yen-yi (李彥儀), director-general for the ministry’s technological and vocational education division, said the ministry is considering requiring universities to drop student-teacher ratios from the present 25-1, to either 24-1 or 23-1. Plans have yet to be finalized, she said.

Wu said the ministry would reduce the number of doctoral students universities were allowed to admit in order to relieve market pressure.

Current ministry plans call for doctoral student quotas to be reduced by 37 percent.

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