Many top-ranking universities are planning to establish distinguished and chair professorships in a bid to retain experienced and renowned faculty members, sources said.
The move comes as the Ministry of Education seeks to increase salaries of professors to stop a brain drain in higher education.
According to the ministry, salaries at public universities are controlled by rigid pay scales and seniority rules that are increasingly out of step with competition from abroad, especially from other Asian universities bent on siphoning expertise from Taiwan.
The ministry said it would encourage public universities to embrace “flexible pay,” including granting new faculty members a monthly stipend of between NT$10,000 and NT$30,000 (US$317.73 and US$953.20) for three years.
Tsing Hua University president Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘) said his school plans to give housing benefits of more than NT$10,000 per month to professors who have not been assigned an apartment.
The proposed flexible pay scale at Tsing Hua is expected to raise the monthly income of professors by between NT$20,000 and NT$100,000, he said.
The public and the private sectors should work together to fund the salaries of local academics, he added.
Sources at National Chiao Tung University said it is considering setting aside a NT$500 million budget to fund chair professorships for accomplished senior professors, which could boost their salaries to as much as NT$500,000 per month.
An assistant professor surnamed Lee (李), who teaches public health at National Taiwan University, said that a post-doctoral researcher at Harvard University can expect a monthly salary of about US$2,000 after taxes, which is no better than an associate professor’s salary of NT$60,000 in Taiwan, especially in light of housing offered by Taiwanese institutions.
Wages for academics vary greatly between US universities and disciplines, and some business schools offer annual salaries of more than US$200,000.
Retaining academics in science, technology, engineering or mathematics should not be a problem because many institutions — such as the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center — offer opportunities that are internationally competitive, National Chiao Tung University chemistry professor Chiu Hsin-tien (裘性天) said.
Although universities in Hong Kong and Singapore have been aggressively poaching Taiwanese professors, the private sector in those areas have not been supportive, whereas Taiwan has retained its advantage, said Wang Fu-ming (王復民), a professor of applied science and technology at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology.
It is normal for talented academics to exercise their freedom by working abroad, Deputy Minister of Education Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said, adding that instead of fixating on losses, schools should focus on recruiting people with doctorates who have potential.
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