Universities and colleges are bearing the brunt of Taiwan’s falling birthrate. Many schools have already closed down, while lower-ranking institutions find themselves in a precarious position.
The Ministry of Education has said that more than 40 private senior-high schools, universities and colleges are already in a critical situation.
When schools are forced to close, the impact is felt not just by students, who can easily transfer to other schools, but even more so by teachers and other staff, for whom it is hard to change track in the middle of their careers.
A Cabinet meeting on Nov. 19 approved a draft law on the disbandment of private schools at the senior-high school level and above.
The law would establish norms for the rights and interests of the staff and students of such schools if they close down. It would establish a closing-down fund to subsidize students’ remedial instruction, accommodation and transport expenses, as well as bridge the gap for staff salaries, insurance and other expenses.
However, the ministry, in response to the industrial trends resulting from the restructuring of the US’ technology supply chain, is moving ahead with plans to establish colleges of semiconductor technology at four public schools: National Taiwan University, National Chiao Tung University, National Tsing Hua University and National Cheng Kung University.
By helping public universities attract more students while the shortage of students is pushing private schools into crisis, the ministry is kicking a person when they are down and further degrading private schools’ image in the eyes of the public.
To get through these difficult times, private schools are without exception trying to increase their revenue and cut their spending. In the past, China and other countries provided supplementary sources of students, but the supply has since been cut off by worsening cross-strait relations and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Personnel expenditure cuts are inevitable; only the methods vary. The main way for private schools to consolidate their workforce is through lecturer evaluation, using lecturers’ ratings to decide whether to cut the salaries of so-called “unfit” teachers and whether to keep them on or lay them off.
The problem is that the content and standards of evaluations, as well as their scope in terms of who gets evaluated and who gets to evaluate them, give school authorities ample opportunity to manipulate the results.
The most extreme example is when schools impose all kinds of excessive and unreasonable demands on lecturers, such as hours to be spent on campus, attendance, research plans, teaching plans, industry-academia collaboration proposals, student enrollment rates and student satisfaction surveys, which push those with lower ratings to leave on their own accord, thus achieving the purpose of reducing staff numbers.
The most unfair aspect of the system is that administrative and academic heads do not have to undergo evaluations. These high-ups always have good government connections, and it always seems to be someone else’s fault when their school is badly run and fail to recruit enough students.
There are two major problems with the governance of private universities in Taiwan:
First, with regard to internal governance, excessive emphasis on satisfaction among their external customers, ie, students, turns students into a tool for attacking and purging teaching staff.
If internal customers’ satisfaction rates are low, there is little hope of winning the satisfaction of external customers.
Second, with regard to financial structures, excessive control of school fees, along with incomplete tax waivers and insufficient reinvestment in private schools, restrict the sound development of private schools’ finances, thus turning the falling birthrate into a financial threat.
This stands in contrast with trends in other countries, where many excellent small colleges can keep on going thanks to the revenue they earn from high fees, large donations and business operations.
Tseng Chien-yuan is vice president of the Northern Taiwan Society.
Translated by Julian Clegg
If social media interaction is any yardstick, India remained one of the top countries for Taiwan last year. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has on several occasions expressed enthusiasm to strengthen cooperation with India, one of the 18 target nations in her administration’s New Southbound Policy. The past year was instrumental in fostering Taiwan-India ties and will be remembered for accelerated momentum in bilateral relations. However, most of it has been confined to civil society circles. Even though Taiwan launched its southbound policy in 2016, the potential of Taiwan-India engagement remains underutilized. It is crucial to identify what is obstructing greater momentum
In terms of the economic outlook for the semiconductor industry, Taiwan has outperformed the rest of the world for three consecutive years. This is quite rare. In addition, Taiwan has been playing an important role in the US-China technology dispute, and both want Taiwan on their side, reflecting the remaking of the nation’s semiconductor industry. Under the leadership of — above all — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the industry as a whole has shifted from a focus on capacity to a focus on quality, as companies now have to be able to provide integration of hardware and software, as well as
US President Joe Biden’s foreign policy on China and the Indo-Pacific region will have huge repercussions for Taiwan. The US Department of State in the final weeks of former US president Donald Trump’s term took several actions clearly aimed to push Biden’s foreign policy to build on Trump’s achievements. Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s announcement on the final day of the Trump administration that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was committing “genocide and crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang was welcome, but comes far too late. The recent dropping of “self-imposed” restrictions on meetings between Taiwanese and US officials was
In memory of Diane Baker: one of the last working dance journalists, a true dance aficionado and dear friend. On Friday, through a mutual friend, I received the shocking news that dance critic Diane Baker had passed away suddenly at her apartment in Tianmu, Taipei. The news quickly spread, and messages of concern quickly swarmed in from the dance community in Taiwan and abroad. Her sister Sharon in the US later confirmed that Diane died of a heart attack on Wednesday last week. She was 65. Diane was a dear friend to Taiwan’s dance community. Her frequent appearance at dance performances in