Fears of academic exodus unfounded: universities

FAULTY TACTIC::The risks involved make moving to China an unappealing career option, but faculty are moving to many other countries, universities said, urging higher pay

By Lin Hsiao-yun and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Sep 07, 2018 - Page 4

Several public universities have said that none of their professors have resigned to take posts in China, allaying fears that the 31 incentives announced by China in February would cause an exodus of academic talent.

The incentives are aimed at attracting the nation’s top talent as part of Beijing’s “united front” tactics.

Some feared public university faculty would take higher-paid positions in China, particularly following civil servant pension reforms.

However, National Taiwan University, National Cheng Kung University, National Tsing Hua University and National Chiao Tung University — the nation’s top public schools — said that none of their professors have relocated to China or said they plan to do so.

National Taiwan University on Monday said that the recruitment of its former deputy director of student affairs, Kang Shih-chung (康仕仲), by a Canadian university proves how internationally competitive Taiwanese professors are.

While opportunities in China abound at first glance, a lack of transparency and adherence to international conventions make China a less-than-ideal place for an academic career, the university said, citing an aspiring professor who could not get tenure, despite working for his school for many years.

Many professors prefer the stability of working in Taiwan over the unclear situation in China, which is fraught with risks, it said.

For researchers, their team is more important than research equipment, National Tsing Hua University president Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘) said.

Professors and students build strong research teams over the years and it would be impossible for an entire research team to relocate to a Chinese school, he said.

National Cheng Kung University professor Lee Ching-chang (李俊璋) said that those who have resigned from his school over the past few years have moved on to positions at other Taiwanese universities, primarily because they want to work closer to home.

None have taken up positions in China, he said.

National Sun Yat-sen University president Cheng Ying-yao (鄭英耀) said that while one professor from his school relocated to Shanghai, they did so last year, before the announcement of China’s incentives, and none have moved to China this year.

Two highly ranked National Chiao Tung University professors were poached by a Chinese university and they later convinced their teams to join them by offering them salaries five times as much as they were being paid, university president Frank Chang (張懋中) said, adding that this was also before the incentives were announced.

China is not the only country that attracts talent from Taiwanese universities, he said, citing eight professors from the school who took up posts in Australia over the past year.

International universities outside of China are a major draw for Taiwanese academics, he said, adding that the Ministry of Education must address the issue by raising salaries.

Most Taiwanese professors at public universities are unlikely to resign from their posts before retirement, because they want to keep their pensions, Shih Chien University president Michael Chen (陳振貴) said.

Public school professors enjoy certain guarantees under the Teachers’ Act (教師法), he said.

Retired professors are more likely to take teaching posts in China, where they can “feel young again” by taking on a new career, he said, adding that some private university professors might be enticed by opportunities in China if they are looking for a “way out.”