Higher education quality seen as deteriorating: poll

A DRAIN::Of the respondents, 67.1 percent were anxious that professors are moving abroad, while 72.3 percent were worried that students would rather study overseas

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Jul 30, 2018 - Page 3

More than 70 percent of Taiwanese worry that the quality of higher education is worsening and failing to produce students with the skills needed to be competitive in the global market, a Professor Huang Kun-huei Education Foundation poll released yesterday said.

Global competitiveness was the top concern among respondents, with 78.3 percent saying that university students might not be learning enough skills to help them compete internationally.

This was followed by the gap between skills and industry needs, which 77.7 percent said was worrying.

The poll also found that 76.5 percent of respondents were concerned that the quality of higher education is going downhill, as the number of universities and colleges has increased significantly over the past few years.

Loss of talent was another issue highlighted by the poll.

While 72.3 percent of respondents said they were worried about students studying at overseas universities rather than domestic ones, 67.1 percent said that higher education is facing a serious brain drain, as more professors opt to move abroad for better salaries.

A total of 58.8 percent of respondents were also concerned that higher education might be solidifying class gaps, as students from lower-income families are far more likely to attend a private university than a public one, compared with 29.9 percent, who said they were not worried about the issue.

While 80.6 percent said that they believe the high unemployment rate among new graduates is a serious problem, 11.8 percent said the problem is “not serious.”

As part of a solution, 89.1 percent said that the government should focus on workforce planning and help universities design programs that better meet the needs of businesses, while 33.5 percent disagreed.

When asked whether university autonomy should only be exercised under government supervision to ensure adherence to the law, 67.1 percent agreed, while 21.5 percent disagreed.

The recent controversy over the election of National Taiwan University’s (NTU) president has sparked an ongoing debate over the scope of university autonomy and what constitutes reasonable supervision from the government.

The poll asked respondents whether they agree with the view that government supervision over such autonomy is a form of political intervention.

A total of 45.9 percent said the view was “reasonable,” whereas 38.2 said the opposite.

The poll result underlines people’s key concerns for higher education, foundation head Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) said at a news conference in Taipei.

“The government used to pay great attention to workforce planning, which is linked to the design of school programs and their permitted recruitment quotas,” he said. “The poll results should serve as a reminder to the government that it must resume work on that.”

The government should also set down clearer regulations for university autonomy, as much of the controversy surrounding the NTU elections was due to the ambiguity surrounding its scope, said Yang Guo-ci (楊國賜), National Taiwan Normal University professor emeritus and former vice minister of education.

The telephone-based survey was conducted from July 19 to July 21 and collected 1,069 valid samples. The results were weighted to fit the population profile.

The poll had a confidence level of 95 percent and margin of error of 3 percentage points.