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Penalties on thesis ghostwriting have been included in the Degree Conferral Law to ensure the quality of higher education

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has proposed an amendment to the Degree Conferral Law to make Taiwan’s degree conferral and graduate school system more flexible and diversified, thereby enhancing Taiwan’s international competitiveness, cultivating talents for various fields and professions, putting a stop to thesis ghostwriting, and ensuring academic dignity and impartiality. These proposed amendments were approved by the Executive Yuan on May 16th, 2013, and next they will be submitted to the Legislative Yuan to go through the process.

The amendment has two key points. Firstly, since thesis plagiarism and fraud have become increasingly rampant, provisions will also be added to the Degree Conferral Law to update related penalties for the perpetrators or persons in charge of thesis ghostwriting (either inducement or actual), for the purpose of eliminating this undesirable trend, ensuring the impartiality of degree conferral and maintaining the quality of higher education in Taiwan.

Secondly, there will be new provisions added to support the diversification of thesis form due to the difference between academic research and applied research, the enhancement of combining studies with pragmatism in Taiwan’s master’s programs, and the cultivation of students' expertise and ability in innovation. If a master’s program is belonging to professional practice, then the student’s Master thesis can be replaced by a practice-oriented report and the Universities can set up their own standards for it.

Since it was announced on April 27th, 1994, the Degree Conferral Law was amended on June 12th, 2002 and June 23th, 2004, respectively. According to the current Degree Conferral Law, the titles and levels of degrees each college or university confers should comply with the unified requirements set by the MOE, and should report to the MOE for future reference; master's degree theses shall be written and the examination committee shall accept it before the student may receive a master's degree. Only graduate students enrolled in fine arts, applied science, or technology programs may, in lieu of a master's thesis, submit a creative work or performance accompanied by a written report, or a technical report. With regard to developing the students’ secondary areas of expertise (minor and double major), only students who enroll in bachelor’s degree programs can take a minor or double major, but this rule is not applicable to master’s and Ph.D. students.

In view of those restrictions, the MOE formed a Degree Conferral Law Amendment Task Force in August 2004 to solicit opinions from the public and then draft amendments accordingly. As the transnational flow of international talents increases, the degree conferral situation in Taiwan should fit in with international trends to keep pace with the international community. Furthermore, reviewing and amending relevant regulations is an important task tying in with the recent evolution of higher education in Taiwan. The Degree Conferral Law, which regulates matters related to granting degrees, is an important criterion for degree conferral in higher education, and meanwhile exerts a profound impact on domestic academic standards. Therefore, it has to review those out of date provisions of the Degree Conferral Law and amend relevant regulations to fit in with those needed for the development of universities, including thesis form diversification and ghostwriting penalties, as well as a relaxation of restrictions not only on the titles and levels of degrees each college or university can confer, but on the cross-campus programs, minors, and double majors each Master or Ph.D. student can register for.

These amendments will hopefully provide more learning alternatives for students. Thesis form diversification will help with streamlining master's programs and encouraging students to select suitable areas of study to reduce the gap between academic research and application. In addition to academic curricula, departments and graduate schools can also design practical curricula to cultivate R&D or applied oriented students to meet needs of the industry. This approach to talent cultivation will actually lead the development of higher education in a more positive direction. The penalties on thesis ghostwriting formulated will also prevent moral bankruptcy in academia.