The Ministry of Education yesterday said that it is planning to allow graduate students in arts, applied sciences and sports to complete a task or provide proof of a special achievement instead of submitting a thesis.
Master’s students in arts and applied sciences are allowed to submit works of art in lieu of a thesis, but the exception does not apply to doctoral students or other fields, according to the Degree Conferral Act (學位授予法).
To increase the nation’s global competitiveness and make education more flexible, the ministry has proposed amending the law to allow masters and doctoral students in arts, applied sciences and sports provide a written report on work they have completed or a proof special achievements in their field in lieu of a thesis.
If the amendment is passed, universities would have to set down their own standards to evaluate the reports which must be approved by the university council, the ministry said.
At a meeting of the legislature’s Culture and Education Committee, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) questioned whether the amendments would save universities from losing students amid a declining birthrate.
Many prestigious universities have over the past few year failed to recruit enough students for their graduate programs and it is unclear whether lowering the threshold for graduation would change that, she said.
Ko also voiced the concern that a lack of common standard for evaluating students’ achievements would lead to unfairness.
“Universities would have different standards and the lack of supervision could make graduation too easy for some,” she said.
“How would the university convert a sports medal to a thesis grade? How about a medal won by a team? If a baseball team or another kind of sports team won third place in the Olympics, would a substitute player who was on the bench the whole time be considered to have achieved something as well?” Ko asked.
The main purpose of the proposed amendment is to give students more freedom to choose what they would like to learn, Deputy Minister of Education Yao Leeh-ter (姚立德) said.
In addition to offering proof of their achievements, students would have to explain the process in a written report and present that in an oral explanation in front of a review committee, he said.
Allowing institutions to set their own standards is part of respecting university autonomy, Yao added.
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