The revolving door between the Ministry of Education (MOE) and private universities should be closed, union activists said yesterday, adding that close ties between the two had led to conflicts of interest, while crowding out young academics.
“If you look at where the ministry’s heads, deputy ministers, department directors and secretary-generals have gone after leaving office over the past 20 years, it is evident that an extremely high percentage have taken important posts in private universities,” Taiwan Higher Education Union secretary-general Chen Cheng-liang (陳政亮) said, calling for “revolving door” restrictions to be implemented to regulate such transfers.
Union statistics showed that three former ministers of education, 10 former deputy ministers and almost all former secretary-generals over the past 20 years have accepted high-level administrative positions in private universities after retiring from public service.
“It is like an arms race, where private institutions try to ‘grab’ officials as soon as they leave office, because so doing gives them an advantage in competing for ministry subsidies,” Chen said, adding that the retired officials use their personal relations and knowledge of ministry workings to help universities apply for subsidies.
Nanhua University applied sociology professor and union member Chou Ping (周平) said that retired officials who take high-level positions at private universities could receive monthly salaries of more than NT$200,000 when their pensions are taken into account.
Union members said the high salaries given to former officials affect scholarships by serving to “crowd out” jobs for young faculty at a time when private institutions face contractions caused by falling student numbers after years of low birthrates.
“The reason they are hired is not because their scholarship is at all impressive — they are just people who have been officials and what they bring to schools is their social ties,” Chen said, adding that such transfers compromise the transparency and fairness of ministry reviews of university performance.
While the Civil Servant Services Act (公務員服務法) forbids former officials from taking high-level administrative positions in “profit-making enterprises” within three years of leaving government roles, Ministry of Education officials benefit from a “loophole” in the law, which classifies private universities as non-profit organizations, Chen said.
He added that even if officials are allowed to take certain positions in private institutions, they should not be allowed to receive their pension simultaneously, as a substantial portion of private university salaries are funded by government subsidies.
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