President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday pledged to increase the international competitiveness of the country’s universities and said he expected more colleges to offer courses taught in English.
“Higher education in Taiwan should not keep its doors closed any more. We need to promote the idea of studying in Taiwan and attract great students to Taiwan,” Ma said yesterday in his weekly online speech.
“If we refuse to make changes, great teachers and students will be gone and it will be more difficult for us to raise competitiveness,” he said.
Ma said the government would redouble efforts to attract foreign students. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for example, has offered scholarships to more than 2,000 foreign students over the years.
The ministry will add NT$100 million (US$3.1 million) to its budget next year and provide even more scholarships for foreign students, he said.
Thirty-nine of the 70 public and private universities in Taiwan offer a total of 9,350 English-speaking courses, while foreign students make up 1.3 percent of all college students.
The government expects to double the percentage of foreign students to 2.6 percent in the near future, Ma said.
The president said attracting foreign students, including those from China, would create more opportunities for educational exchanges and expand the vision of Taiwanese students.
“College students in mainland China work very hard because of the intense competition, and students in Taiwan have lost their competitiveness because it is too easy to get into college,” he said.
The education industry brings tens of thousands of foreign students to US schools every year, bringing annual revenue of about NT$15 billion to the country.
In related news, a Hong Kong university is offering attractive scholarships to lure elite Taiwanese senior high school students.
At a presentation held on Friday at Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School, one of Taiwan’s most prestigious boys’ high schools, Hong Kong Polytechnic University offered a scholarship package worth HK$480,000 (US$62,112) in financial support to each student.
The scholarship will include HK$80,000 for tuition and HK$40,000 for living expenses per year per student.
Laura Lo, the university’s Chinese mainland affairs department chief, said at the presentation that hopefuls can apply based on their academic proficiency exam scores. As long as the applicants are outstanding, the school will offer them scholarships.
“There will be no quota restrictions, “ she said, adding that if there are many talented Taiwanese students, the school will increase the scholarship quota for Taiwanese students at the expense of those from other areas.
A similar presentation was made at Taipei First Girls’ Senior High School, said Lo, who added that the response from students at both schools had been enthusiastic.
Earlier this year, the University of Hong Kong also made presentations in Taipei offering scholarships worth HK$150,000 per year for up to four years.
Meanwhile, National Taiwan University Chief Secretary Liao Hsien-hao (廖咸浩) said his school has been actively recruiting foreign students to create a multicultural campus environment.
“We have been working hard to retain outstanding students in Taiwan. In addition to luring foreign students by offering scholarships, we have also been actively forging cooperative ties with famous foreign schools for student exchanges. Our goal is for one-third of our students to be able to study on foreign campuses as exchange students,” Liao said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA