Subsidy funding for universities in the five-year-plan era will shrink by 15 percent from next year following a report by the Legislative Yuan’s Budget Center that said the plan has failed to meet three intended targets, as well as National Taiwan University’s (NTU) first-ever slide in its world ranking, the Ministry of Education said in a recent report.
The plan is the second stage of the Road to Top Notch Universities Project that began in 2011, with the ministry allocating NT$50 billion (US$1.6 billion) over five years to universities in the hope of boosting research facilities and international reputations.
However, with the NTU’s slide from the top 51 to 60 universities last year to the top 61 to 70 this year, in accordance with the Times Higher Education World University Rankings published on March 12, and the Budget Center’s discovery of three unmet target indices, the project’s implementation has again been questioned.
According to the center’s investigation, up until 2013 the project had not met the target indices for attracting 200 people who are academicians or members of important societies and associations among full-time university faculty; an increase of 695 items per year of patents or new researches; and 100 percent growth in income based on intellectual property rights.
Though many university presidents place the blame on lack of funding for higher education, the nation has sunk nearly NT$100 billion since the predecessor of the project began in 2006.
The Control Yuan tendered multiple warnings to universities that misused funds to apply to join the project. NTU, for example, was tapped by the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee for allocating NT$410 million of its project subsidies on office stationery in 2013.
Former Minister of Education Huang Jong-tsun (黃榮村) said policies for the project were interfered with in the past and are tilted toward research more concerned with benefits rather than academic worth, which caused the acceleration of an M-shaped university environment, proving disadvantageous for research on the humanities, a slump in education function, and a discrepancy between application and learning.
Although a decrease in funding is not possible, the ministry might want to consider lowering the amount of universities eligible for the funding to better concentrate resources used to develop the applicants, Huang said.
It would provide more aid to universities that are competing internationally or are helping to solve national issues, Huang said.
Former Minister of Education Ovid Tzeng (曾志朗) said the third stage of the project must face a stylistic transition and encourage better integration of universities and industry, cross-subject and cross-university learning, as well as active integration into the international academic community.
The head of state should be globally minded, so that the project can provide the talent Taiwan needs for its future, Tzeng said.
In response, the ministry has revealed a draft of its funding for the project’s third phase, which would continue to provide funding for universities under the project, but with a 15 percent cut in funding.
Of the NT$7.5 billion allocated per year, NT$5 billion would be for the project, while NT$2.5 billion would be used solely for cultivating future talents, Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) said, adding that the ministry hopes corporations would step in to cover the short fall if the funding is insufficient.
The ministry has established a task force to ensure the project concentrates on education of the liberal arts, holistic education and care for disadvantaged people, Wu said, adding that the task force would also monitor how research results affect the nation’s industry and society.
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