To better understand information transmission channels among international students, their impression of individual courses of study and their intention to pursue post-graduate career opportunities in Taiwan, in March 2020 the Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education of Taiwan (FICHET) conducted a “2020 Study in Taiwan Trends Survey” of international students currently in Taiwan. Results show that 89.3% of respondents felt that study in Taiwan was a valuable investment for their future career development, and 83.6% intended to pursue jobs or internship opportunities in Taiwan following graduation.
The survey results also reflected the effectiveness of Taiwan’s “New Southbound Policy”, with most respondents hailing from Asian countries (85.6%). Respondents were mostly aged between 18 and 24 (68%), with women accounting for 55.6% of to total. Nearly half (48.4%) of respondents are degree students, and overseas Chinese students accounted for 35% of the total.
In recent years, Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has actively promoted Taiwan as a study abroad destination for higher education. Over 61% of respondents indicated they had learned of educational opportunities in Taiwan from web-based resources and social media platforms, followed by family and friends (59.7%), educational exhibitions (48.2%), returning alumni (32.2%) and local Taiwan Education Centers (23.1%). Recommendations from friends and relatives laid a solid foundation of word of mouth promotion for the high-quality educational opportunities available in Taiwan.
The survey also queried respondents regarding their motivations to leave home for study. The most frequently cited reason was “looking to experience life abroad” (64.8%), followed by “going abroad to receive a high-quality education (63.6%), “cultivating academic research skills (44.5%), and “enhancing employment competitiveness” (43.3%). The key draw specific to Taiwan is the perception of Taiwan as offering a “safe, open and free environment” (52.9%), followed by “availability of scholarships” (34.5%), “cost considerations” (33.6%), “easy cultural assimilation” (28%) and “cultivation of academic research abilities” (25.5%). These responses all reflect that, while Taiwan’s low tuition policies help recruit foreign students, the inclusiveness of Taiwan’s culture and its strength in academic research provide important international competitiveness in higher education. In addition, during their stay in Taiwan, overseas students not only appreciated the security and freedom afforded by Taiwan society, but also expressed specific satisfaction with the “quality of education” (40.7%), “medical care” (40.6%), and “living environment” (39.2%).
Among respondents, the most popular academic concentrations were in the social sciences, business and law (24.0%); followed by engineering, manufacturing and construction (15.3%); humanities and the arts (11.9%) and medicine (11.3%). Social sciences, business and law were particularly popular with short-term exchange students, while full-time degree students were concentrated in engineering, manufacturing and construction. An overwhelming majority of respondents also recommended Taiwan as an excellent place to learn Chinese. Nearly 90% of respondents recognized the importance of developing Chinese language skills, and about 70% recommended that universities offer courses in English.
Nearly 90% of respondents felt that studying in Taiwan was a good investment in their future career development, while more than 83% intended to seek internships or working opportunities in Taiwan following graduation, suggesting that Taiwan provides an attractive work environment for international students, even with the current disruptions due to COVID-19. Unremitting efforts through Taiwan’s overseas educational promotion and online education have helped Taiwan to maintain its good reputation and high regard among international students. These students not only provide excellent feedback and suggestions for further improvement, but also serve as the best possible ambassadors for Taiwan higher education on the world stage.
The month-long questionnaire surveyed the status of international students currently in Taiwan as exchange or full-time degree students, including foreign students, overseas Chinese (including those from Hong Kong and Macau), students from mainland China and Chinese language learning students. A total of 3,700 responses were collected from colleges and universities throughout Taiwan, with an effective response rate of 99.4%.
【Expert Opinion 1】 Ho-Chiao Chuang, Dean of the Office of International Affairs, National Taipei University of Technology (Taipei Tech), and Hsieh-Lung Hsu, the Vice President of the Office of International Affairs, National Central University (NCU) both suggested that, in addition to promoting higher education in Taiwan through internet, schools, recruitment expos and education exhibitions, the most direct and effective means of promoting enrollment are previous graduates and alumni through local Taiwan Graduates Associations.
【Expert Opinion 2】 Ta-Jen Yen, Vice President for Global Affairs at National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) believed that Taiwan’s reasonable tuition and living expenses, combined with stable social conditions and its high-quality academic environment are key attractions for international students. Hsieh-Lung Hsu, the Vice President of the Office of International Affairs, NCU suggested that schools in Taiwan need to provide sufficient English-taught courses to enable foreign students to complete their professional studies and obtain degrees. Ho-Chiao Chuang, Dean of the Office of International Affairs, Taipei Tech said that, in addition to providing courses taught in English, Taiwan universities should also ensure that English-language instruction is readily available in campus facilities and e-learning systems to provide a barrier-free environment to international students.
【Expert Opinion 3】 Liu Hsiang-lin, Vice President for International Affairs at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) is highly supportive of foreign graduates staying in Taiwan for work, noting that these international resources will raise Taiwan’s global competitiveness. He proposed eliminating the “Scoring Criteria” regulation for international students to work in Taiwan, allowing employers to freely employ foreign graduates, and loosening current controls to allow more outstanding foreign graduates to build on their learning to develop careers in Taiwan.