Higher Education - High Education in Taiwan


In 1928, Taipei Imperial University, the very first university in Taiwan, was established. By the 1960s, because of the rise in labor intensive industries and other factors, higher education (especially junior colleges) expanded rapidly. Between 1950 and 1970, the number of higher education institutions increased from 7 to 92, of which private institutions comprised 67 percent. With the establishment of the first technical college in 1974, Taiwan began to place technical education and higher education on the same track. Higher education thereafter found different paths for its future development. In 1996, authorities began to encourage junior colleges to upgrade to colleges and universities of technology with a view to creating unimpeded access to vocational education. From 1985 to 2000, the number of higher education institutions increased from 105 to 150. At present, there are a total of 163 higher education institutionsin Taiwan.

Government Spending

To keep the country's higher education competitive, Taiwan spares no investment in the field. While OECD countries invest an average 1.5 percent of their GDP in higher education, Taiwan puts in about 1.93 percent (2008). Taiwan is aware that other countries are funneling more resources toward their higher education as well. Over the past five years Taiwan has set aside an annual US$300 million on average as an incentive for universities to further upgrade their quality of research and teaching. The strategy has been handsomely rewarded as a good number of them have made big strides and even come to the forefront in various global appraisals. Under the government's performance-oriented initiative, the more outstanding a university proves itself, the more subsidies it can get.

Educational System

In Taiwan, students can pursue higher learning at two-year and five-year junior colleges as well as universities and colleges. Like in many other countries, university undergraduate programs require four years of study; internships from six months to two years are sometimes required. Graduate programs leading to a Master's degree require one to four years; those for a doctorate, two to seven years (Fig. 1).


Reach of Higher Education

Currently in 2012, there are 163 universities, colleges and junior colleges in Taiwan. Given the sharp increase in the number of schools over the past two decades, higher education is now meant for the general public rather than an elite few. University and college students now number around 1.35 million (Fig. 2). With students still in their first three years at five-year junior colleges and graduate students excluded, the tally comes in at approximately 1.08 million, translating into a gross enrollment ratio (GER) of 83.37 percent.

Meanwhile, greater demand in the marketplace has also led to a substantial increase in the number of graduate students lately. Technology tops the list when the students of Taiwan choose a field of study as their academic specialization. Coming next are social sciences and the humanities. Given the inherent nature of vocationally oriented schools, more than 50 percent of their students major in technology-related fields. But the gap between technology and non-tech majors is gradually narrowing as a good number of humanities departments have been added to local universities and colleges in recent years. Technology majors account for the bulk of the local student body for a simple reason. They are what Taiwan's industrial sector needs the most. It is hardly surprising that technology ventures provide the most vacancies for the local job market each year (Fig. 3 & Fig. 4).


As Taiwan's universities become increasingly geared toward the general public, faculty reform is regarded as a crucial link. Thanks to policy guidance and the establishment of a better-rounded evaluation system, the quality of university faculty has improved conspicuously. Currently more than 80 percent of the faculties at Taiwan's universities hold doctoral degrees. This has resulted from a 14 percent jump over the past decade. Furthermore, a third of the collective faculty is accounted for by professors. As far as the quality of university faculty is concerned, Taiwan is generally recognized to be superior to China and Hong Kong (Fig. 5 & Fig. 6).


Status Quo of Internationalization

Technological advancement has all but removed boundaries dividing nations and markets. Today's university students are thus granted mobility virtually unthinkable for their predecessors of just generations ago. Imbuing university students with global citizenship in a truly internationalized campus setting is increasingly a topic higher education must address.

Exposing students to cross-cultural experiences

To help students broaden their international horizons and familiarize themselves with other cultures, a total of 34 universities in Taiwan have entered into joint/dual degree partnerships with international counterparts. Joint/Dual Degree Students are allowed to study at two separate locations to earn their degrees.

Advancing English proficiency of students

Most universities now require students to pass accreditation of their English competence upon graduation. Meanwhile, a growing number of universities are offering English-taught courses and programs, which is surely a practice beneficial to international and local students alike. As of the middle of 2011, a total of 41 universities had introduced 193 programs delivered in English or other foreign languages.

Subsidizing enrollment of international students

The past several years have seen a significant increase in the number of international scholars and students who have come to Taiwan for visits and studies. Over the past five years, the number of international students in pursuit of an academic degree in Taiwan has surged 91 percent. The number of exchange students from abroad has also jumped 57 percent. At present, there are a total of 40,843 international students from 148 countries who study in more than 23 different fields.

Promoting the Industrial Technology R&D Master Program at universities

Taiwan's IT industry weighs heavily on the world. But it is all the more important to recruit the best talent from around the world to keep its innovation going. As such, the MOE joined forces with industry and academy to devise the Industrial Technology R&D Master Program, a curriculum aimed specifically at international students. After earning their degree, they can go on to work for the companies participating in the program.

Launching Taiwan International Graduate Program (TIGP)

Academia Sinica is the most prominent academic research institution in Taiwan. Several of its academicians are Nobel Laureates. To help grow inter-disciplinary talent, seven higher education institutions in Taiwan—National Taiwan University, National Tsing Hua University, National Central University, National Chung Hsing University, National Defense Medical Center, National Yang-Ming University and National Chiao Tung University—joined forces with Academia Sinica to launch the TIGP. The program covers the following nine fields: chemical biology and molecular biophysics; molecular science and technology; molecular and biological agricultural sciences; molecular and cell biology; bioinformatics; nano science and technology; molecular medicine; computational linguistics and Chinese language processing; and earth system science. Over the years TIGP students have accumulated a proven track record. Upon graduation, many of them have been recruited by some of the world's best-known research institutions and major biotechnology ventures as well as Academia Sinica and its various research units. These include UC Berkeley, Stanford University, Scripps Research Institute, Bruker Daltonics Inc., and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Research papers submitted by TIGP students can also be found in such eminent academic periodicals as Nature, PNAS and The Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC).

Subsidizing universities to offer competitive compensation packages to attract the world's top academics for teaching or research

Around 1,000 distinguished international scholars have come to Taiwan since 2005. In the meantime, the number of international academic conferences held in Taiwan also increased to 1,697 in 2010.

Enhancing international visibility of local universities

Universities in Taiwan have long been urged to look up to the best higher education institutions in the world as their benchmark. In the 2011 Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings, nine universities from Taiwan were ranked among the top 500, with National Taiwan University taking the 87th spot. According to the 2011 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) compiled by Shanghai Jiaotong University, National Taiwan University beat all counterparts in China and Hong Kong to come in at 123th among the top 500. Over the years National Taiwan University has built its solid standing as one of the best universities across all ethnic-Chinese communities.

Setting up Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education of Taiwan (FICHET)

The Association of National Universities of Taiwan (ANUT), Association of Private Universities and Colleges of Taiwan (APUC) and Association of Private Universities and Colleges of Technology of Taiwan (APUCT) are about the three most important higher education organizations in Taiwan. The MOE teamed up with the three to establish the FICHET to undertake international interchange and cooperation in higher education.

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