Tue, Mar 08, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Students protest merger; ministry suspends plan

‘KILLING IT’:A DPP legislator said that while private-sectors actors strived to promote education in the arts, the government seems intent on putting an end to it

By Wu Po-hsuan and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tainan National University of the Arts (TNNUA) student Tseng Tzu-yi, center, wearing a traditional Taiwanese white funeral cape, dances at a protest against the planned merger of TNNUA with National Cheng Kung University in Tainan yesterday. The sign reads: “Rape of the arts. Art is dead.”

Photo: Wu Po-hsuan, Taipei Times

Higher education in art in the nation’s south is under threat by a government plan to merge Tainan National University of the Arts (TNNUA) and National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), TNNUA students and faculty members said at a protest in Taipei yesterday.

Outside the Ministry of Education and the nearby Legislative Yuan, about 200 campaigners protested against the ministry’s plan, chanting slogans such as: “The system is murdering art,” “The arts need a southern perspective” and “Restore the north-south balance in art [education].”

Lawmakers who oppose the plan to merge the universities and were present at the protest panned the ministry, saying a motion had been passed by a legislative committee to halt the proposed merger.

Ministry of Education Secretary-General Wang Chun-chuan (王俊權) later issued a statement saying that the ministry would suspend the proposed merger as requested by the legislature, adding that it had “heard the voice of the faculty members and students.”

Ku Shih-yung (顧世勇), an installation artist and director of the Graduate Institute of Plastic Arts at TNNUA, said the merger would compromise the university’s unique educational model.

TNNUA focuses on individual mentoring and apprenticeship to train high-achieving artists based on European models, and the university’s students have a proven record at international exhibitions and competitions, Ku said.

However, the university’s achievements have not been recognized by the ministry’s performance metrics, which rate universities on quantitative rather than qualitative terms, Ku said.

As a result, the ministry has made a “highly unreasonable” demand for TNNUA to merge with NCKU on budgetary grounds alone, despite NCKU proving incapable of offering any clear educational vision for the arts, Ku added.

TNNUA student representative Cheng Hsiang-yu (鄭翔羽) said the university’s small size is an intended feature for its mission to promote artistic excellence, not a defect as the ministry perceived it to be.

The ministry has failed to grasp the internationally recognized necessity of having dedicated art schools with administrative autonomy, and its merger plan is a violation of the government’s stated policy for balanced distribution of resources in the north and south, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Li-chun said.

DPP Legislator Rosalia Wu (吳思瑤) said that private-sector actors have been working hard to promote education in the arts, but the government seems to be busy “killing it,” adding: “I am against amalgamation for the sake of amalgamation.”

DPP Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) also lambasted the ministry as having led a “top-down effort” to “kill TNNUA’s founding spirit,” saying that the Education and Culture Committee earlier yesterday passed an impromptu motion to demand the ministry suspend the merger.

The ministry made plans to merge the universities because of TNNUA’s small size, remote location, low rating in performance metrics, a 70 percent subsidization rate of its budget and concerns over the school’s ability to enroll students, a ministry statement said.

The scheme would not have set a timetable for implementation and TNNUA would have been able to opt out by providing an alternative plan of improvement to its educational and fiscal performance, the ministry added.

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