Taiwan: Some Facts About Universities You Don’t Know

So the Taiwanese government wants to retain and recruit top professors at Universities by offering a higher salary and promote globalization (see for example HERE, HERE and HERE).

Fine.

Uh… And what’s about quality?

Maybe before elections, they do not talk about something which could make the people unhappy 🙂

… Especially given the fact that the today’s situation is the full responsibility of the Taiwanese policy makers.

I will provide below some figures and hopefully they will help us to have an idea about the real situation the Taiwanese Universities are facing to now.

I do not want to talk about what they mean by globalization, especially they are not so many programs in Taiwanese Universities only taught in English and beside, it is not really the main subject of my today’s post.

I should like to emphasize on the fact that the government plans to increase salaries before trying to improve the quality of the Universities in the first place.

Frankly speaking, do you believe that top professors will come to Taiwan with a salary equivalent to what they could easily obtain in western countries or in some areas in Asia if the academic environment is not favorable?

Same about the students: a lot of very good ones are already attracted by top Universities abroad. Even some Universities from Hong Kong came to Taiwan to enroll students at high schools, by providing them a very attractive package.

And beside offering very good Mandarin language courses, think about what may really attract foreign students from abroad (Europe, North America etc…) in regular programs.

Only a small number of Universities in Taiwan (public or private) are really focusing on quality.

The rest is fighting to get enough students, as reported by Paul Chen, director of Tamkang University’s Center for Study of Higher Education (HERE):

[…]

Instead of offering students the best possible education, universities in Taiwan are doing battle with each other to grab a slice of the shrinking pie

[…]

The Ministry of Education began blindly encouraging the founding of universities in the 1980s in response to calls for universal college education.

Time was when parents complained that their offspring had much difficulty passing joint college entrance examinations. Their complaints now are that their sons and daughters are finding it increasingly hard not to pass the entrance tests.

So how do you expect that new graduates can totally match what the labor market is asking in terms of quality?

As today according the statistics provided by the Ministry of Education – MOE (HERE), there are 102 Universities and 45 Colleges, said a total of 147 units.

If we take into account Junior Colleges, the total amount is 162.

Can you believe? 162… for a country roughly big as Belgium and a population of 23 million.

Amazing, isn’t it?

Or should we say ridiculous?

Let’s from now only base our remarks on the Universities and Colleges (147 in the academic year of 2008-2009).

I had a look on the statistics from the MOE (see the above link) from the academic year 2000/2001 to the year 2008/2009, said 9 years.

The number of Universities and Colleges went respectively from 53 and 74 to 102 and 45 said a total increase of 16%.

But this global percentage is misleading.

Colleges, according the data, were obviously upgraded into Universities. If no Universities were created, we should have 82 Universities [53 + (74-45)] but the final number is 102, said an increase of more than 24%.

Can you imagine? The total Universities was increased by one fourth…

From the first year to the last one of the time series, the total number of students increased by 88% (from 647,920 to 1,219,802).

With an average number of students per University in 2008/2009 of less than 8,300, the system created midget universities which cannot compete with bigger ones (resources, funding, environment…).

But in fact during those 9 years,  the number of students increased at decreasing rates (for the last 3 years for example: 3.97%, 2.77% and 2.32%) showing the impact from the demographic effects.

At this point, we can see how silly was the decision to increase the number of Universities.

Wait, it is not done yet.  🙂

The number of classes increased at a higher pace than for the number of students.

In average during the last 3 years for example, the number of students increased by roughly 3% when the number of classes increased by almost 5% in average during the same period of time.

So, are you surprised if I tell you that the ratio students per class decreased by 15% during the period of time (roughly from 46 to 39)?

Let’s talk now about professors.

The total full time professors increased during this period of time by 27% (from 39,565 to 50,078).

But the ratio students per professor deteriorated by 50% (from roughly 16 to 24)!

And can we have an idea about the quality? Hard if we just talk by average.

But still. Think about that: the number of students increased by 88% but the number of graduates increased by… 143% (from 118,383 to 287,725)!

It seems that it is not only easier to go to University, but it is even easier to get a degree.

Obviously there is a problem in the Taiwanese system, no?

What is the value of a degree obtained now here?

Here is the increase by degree:

  1. PhD: +115% (from 1,455 to 3,140)
  2. Master: +225% (from 16,757 to 54,387)
  3. Bachelor: +130% (from 100,171 to 230,198)

I remind you that the total number of students increased by only… 88%

The conclusion for me, as for you, is obvious.

And now, the key announced measure is to increase the professor salary?

Hum…

I do not say that there is not a problem about the salary. There is one, as I will show you below.

By the way, the idea from the government is to offer a higher salary for the new professors only or increase also the existing salaries?

OK, it is maybe not the first thing to do but obviously if we compare salaries in Taiwan, we must say that yes, there is a big difference, compared to other countries.

But if we really want to compare salaries, we should include the cost of living and obviously, it is cheaper to live in Taipei than Dubai or London which is not so easy.

Anyway, yes, the salary paid in Taiwan is lower than what is paid abroad (similar economic level countries).

In a recent article (HERE), it was said that in average, the monthly salary in Taiwan for a professor is (using USD/TWD = 32) USD2,810, compared to USD11,560 in Hong Kong.

I don’t know the source(s) of these figures.

And beside, there is a big difference between an Assistant Professor and a Professor. Moreover, I suppose that the annual bonus is included.

The best way to have an idea, is to have a look on some precise figures.

For example the City University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 2002 (HERE) offered (per month):

  1. Assistant professor: USD5,940 ~ 9,920
  2. Associate professor: USD9,230 ~ 12,400
  3. Professor: USD9,620 ~ 12,790

So of course, these figures are far away from the Taiwanese USD2,810 especially the salary from CUHK was offered… 8 years ago…

More recently, the University of Tennessee in its fact book (HERE) indicated an average US salary in 2007/2008 (2 years ago) for assistant, associate and professor respectively of USD4,720, 5,540 and 6,820. It is of course an average, some top professor being paid more than USD200,000.

I have another source (HERE), providing not the average but the median (50% receive less and 50% receive more) offering a comparison between countries.

The figures are:

 

Hong Kong 16,287 397%
Japan 6,983 113%
US 6,074 85%
South Korea 5,511 68%
Singapore 4,921 50%
Australia 4,751 45%
Taiwan 3,279 0%
Malaysia 2,851 -13%

 

The figures are in USD and represent the median monthly salary for a professor.

I put the last column to indicate the difference in percentage compared to Taiwan.

These statistics were collected in the year 2000… 10 years ago…

Salaries in Taiwan (and in other countries) are still roughly at the same level today…

Sure, it is just a median statistics which did not include the cost of living and other variables (quality, environment, etc), but at least, it provides a gross way to compare.

So yes, the salary in Taiwan maybe a problem too.

And I remind you that 50% of the professors in Taiwan get less than USD3,279 per month.

I am even sure that the median is much more below this figure today.

I wish you have now a better idea about the situation Taiwanese Universities are facing to.

It is always better to look at the facts than just listen political commentators.

And obviously, a lot of things should be done to improve the Taiwanese situation.

There are still good Universities, professors and students in Taiwan.

They deserve a better academic environment.

 

Mots clés Technorati : ,,,

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2 Responses

  1. Good article, somewhat blunt, but very true. As someone who studied in Taiwan and now studying in HK, I share your frustration and concern. I honestly don’t understand why Taiwan is doing it that way…

    I should probably write a followup post on this…

  2. Thanks Fili for your comments.
    I think the explanation is clear (at least concerning the increase of academic units): money.
    And about the quality, it is just a simple consequence of the above explanation.
    “I heard” that some professors are afraid to fail students to avoid the risk of having less students.
    In the education market, students are now the driving force.
    People get what they deserve.
    What’s about the average failing percentage in the University you are studying now?
    Will wait your follow up post 😉

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