Some private universities have reduced faculty salaries citing the nation’s declining birthrate, the Chinese-language United Daily News reported on Sunday.
Professors at public universities used to earn about NT$100,000 per month, associate professors about NT$80,000 and assistant professors about NT$70,000, the report said.
However, at some private universities, professors are being paid an average of about NT$50,000 per month, while assistant professors make less than NT$40,000, it said.
Professors at Ta Hwa University of Science and Technology (TUST) in Hsinchu County earn the least, about NT$52,000 per month, the report said, adding that associate professors earn about NT$43,000 and assistant professors make about NT$38,000.
Starting in August last year, six other private universities reduced instructors’ salaries, it said, giving as an example Tatung Institute of Technology (TTC) in Chiayi City, which reduced professors’ salaries from NT$95,000 to NT$57,000 per month.
TUST chief secretary Wang Hui-chun (王慧君) said that the university’s enrollment rate was about 64 percent for the 2019 school year.
Since February last year the university has sacked about 30 professors or let them retire on better terms, she said, adding that about 50 full-time professors have agreed to receive pay cuts.
TTC acting president Wu Po-hsuan (吳柏萱) said the university’s enrollment rate for the 2019 school year was about 46 percent.
To maintain sustainability, the university was forced to reduce faculty salaries, she said, adding that 60 full-time professors have agreed to the reduced research fees.
Lin Po-yi (林柏儀), head of organization at the Taiwan Higher Education Union, said that an inherent problem with private universities is that they rely heavily on tuition fees for their income.
They receive relatively lower government subsidies, have not “modernized” their management and do not have enough public supervision mechanisms, Lin said, adding that the issue is complex.
In the past, there were enough pupils and private universities did not have to work hard to recruit students, but the declining birthrate has had a structural effect, he said.
Although the nation’s birthrate has been declining, the student-to-teacher ratio in higher education is still worse than in developed countries, Lin said.
The government should allow poor-quality private universities to “exit” the market and take back their property, boost overall resources in higher education and save private universities with public investments, he said.
National Chung Hsing University professor Wu Tung-hsing (武東星) said that a lack of transparency in private universities’ finances has long been a problem.
Private universities used to have enough students, and they overlooked fundraising efforts and donations, he said, adding that the crisis posed by the declining birthrate could be turned into an opportunity.
Private schools that have unique characteristics and financial transparency could more easily draw attention, Wu said, adding that they should continue to encourage alumni and corporate donations.
The government could also encourage businesspeople to take over and save private universities, Wu said, adding that otherwise even if the Ministry of Education takes over, the schools would still have to “exit” the market if they lack funds.
If the government is unwilling to name the so-called “land mine schools,” it could instead publish a list of quality private universities with stable donations and finances, he said.
Most people attend university once in a lifetime, he said, adding that poor-quality universities should not be allowed to mistreat students.
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