Funds for the Ministry of Education’s “Yushan Project” academic incentive plan should be used to improve student-lecturer ratios, education union members said yesterday.
“The problem with the ministry’s plans is that they focus only on making stricter rules, but do not provide additional funding, which leads to institutes searching for loopholes, such as hiring low-cost, part-time faculty,” Taiwan Higher Education Union organization department director Lin Po-yi (林柏儀) said, adding that declining student numbers are heaping pressure on institutes, with many expected to close.
With student numbers expected to fall from 1,200,000 to about 900,000, maintaining the number of professors while using ministry funds to compensate for lost tuition revenue would help boost the student-lecturer ratio from 26-1 to 18-1, which was about the level prior to a massive expansion in university enrollment two decades ago, Lin said.
Stabilizing the academic job market is imperative to retaining high-quality faculty, he added.
“Rather than giving one academic NT$500,000 [US$16,484] per month, it would make more sense to use those funds to hire five,” he said. “There are already programs in place — and the number is increasing — to provide special compensation for stellar performance.”
The “Yushan Project” has three components: The selection of 1,000 “Yushan academics,” who are to receive up to NT$15 million over three years (or NT$416.667 per month); a special NT$2 billion annual fund for institutes and research facilities to pay young professors and researchers; and a 10 percent increase in research allowances for full-time professors.
According to the ministry’s estimate, the project would benefit 19,000 academics and cost at most NT$5.6 billion per year.
“The problem is that the selection process is highly unlikely to pick an academic who does not already have a long track record of research results — and if they do pick young people who they think have potential, that would create a huge amount of controversy,” said union member Chou Ping (周平), an associate professor in Nanhua University’s Department of Applied Sociology.
Without careful design, the project would amount to “embroidering lace,” because top academics often earn substantial side incomes from private-sector partnerships, Chou said.
Yushan (玉山), or Jade Mountain, is the nation’s highest peak.
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