Fri, Jan 04, 2019 - Page 3 News List

University to close transformation institute

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Shih Hsin University students hold up signs next to a sculpture of school founder Cheng She-wo on campus in Taipei on Wednesday during a protest against the university’s decision to stop admitting students to the Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies, starting from the new academic year.

Photo courtesy of a student at Shih Hsin University’s Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies

Shih Hsin University yesterday said that from September next year it is to stop accepting students in the Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies due to low enrollment rates, despite opposition from teachers and students, who threatened protest action.

“Despite being one of the most valued institutes at the university, the graduate school has seen low enrollment rates in the past two school years due to the nation’s declining birthrate,” the university said in a statement.

For two consecutive years, the institute recruited only six new students, with an enrollment rate of only 50 percent, it said.

Moreover, the institute has the lowest graduation rate at the university and a dropout rate more than double the average of all its graduate programs, it said, adding that its performance is “not ideal.”

The university three years ago encouraged the institute to merge with the Department of Social Psychology, but since then no progress has been made, it said.

Since 2012, 15 classes at the university have stopped recruiting students following the same procedures, the university said.

The decision was passed at a university council meeting on Wednesday.

At the meeting, institute professor Hsia Hsiao-chuan (夏曉鵑) said that university regulations require Shih Hsin to evaluate whether to cut a program based on “societal changes, personnel needs, academic development and unique features,” not enrollment rates.

“The proposal [to stop recruiting students] is invalid because it is against regulations,” Hsia said.

Nonetheless, the decision was passed by a council majority.

Following the meeting, a group of the institute’s students burned joss money on campus to protest the planned closure.

“We demand that the university withdraw the decision and we will never stop fighting until it agrees,” students said in a statement issued after the meeting.

They “strongly suspect” the decision was an attempt to retaliate after the institute confronted the university on a wide range of issues, they said.

Institute students have been the university’s fiercest critics for years, having castigated it for overcharging Chinese students for accommodation, arbitrarily firing part-time teachers and abusing budgets, among other things, they said.

“That would explain why the university was so eager to close the institute at the expense of breaching regulations,” they said.

“There are other graduate programs, such as the Chinese program, that have failed to reach enrollment goals for three consecutive years, but the university has not targeted them,” institute student Tzeng Fu-chuan (曾福全) said.

The institute, founded in 1997, combines social theories with activism.

Its alumni include Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) and Taipei Department of Labor Commissioner Lai Hsiang-lin (賴香伶).

Additional reporting by Wu Po-hsuan

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