National Kaohsiung Marine University and two other schools have agreed to merge, citing the need for a comprehensive marine sciences program.
The merger will lead to the establishment of National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology (NKUST), from National Kaohsiung Marine University, National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences and National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology.
Ministry of Education sources said the three universities would begin preparations for the merger next month, with plans to open the new university in February next year.
University administrators said they expect NKUST to have about 28,000 students, which they said would be the largest science and technology school in the nation.
The establishment of the new university would simplify administration, National Federation of Teachers’ Unions director-general Huang Yao-nan (黃耀南) said, but added that the large scope of the university could lead to a loss of certain technical programs.
Huang gave the example of two former vocational colleges that were merged into National Chiayi University, which he said resulted in a weakened agricultural studies program.
Huang also cited a university merger in Pingtung that maintained the quality of the original agricultural programs, saying that a successful merger is possible.
While Kaohsiung’s marine science universities have cooperated on marine biology programs in the past, Huang said he hopes the new university will retain the professionalism of the original institutions.
Taiwan must have an outstanding marine program, given that it is an island nation, National Taiwan Ocean University president Chang Ching-fong (張清風) said.
Chang echoed concerns about mergers’ effects on the quality of studies, and said that the focus should be on cooperation between northern and southern universities that would capture the nation’s marine diversity.
The two main areas of marine sciences are high-end research and effective use of human resources, China University of Science and Technology Aviation Sciences and Management Department dean Lee Mi (李彌) said.
The problem was that some professors had never been on a research ship or had no field training, he said, adding that this affected their ability to train students.
China has made great strides in marine science education in the past few years, Taipei College of Maritime Technology dean Tang Yan-po (唐彥博) said.
One Chinese university received NT$13 billion (US$425 million) in funding for its marine sciences department, Tang said, adding that China has also opened Hainan Island and the islands of Fujian Province’s Futan County to international tourism.
Kaohsiung, once among the world’s thriving ports, has now fallen largely into obscurity in the face of Chinese competition, he said.
Tang said the government should invest more in maritime services and promote tourism through cruise ship port of call visits at Kaohsiung.
“We have to ensure that [marine sciences-related] training does not become watered down. Only that way can the Ministry of Education cross-regional education aims be achieved,” Tang said.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) has also called for the city to emphasize maritime issues.
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