The Ministry of Education Promotes Eight Measures for the Supervision of Universities and Colleges to Actively Strengthen the Dissertation and Thesis Quality Assurance Mechanism
I. In response to some recent cases where dissertations and theses have been found to involve academic ethics and where academic quality in universities and colleges has thus come into question, the Ministry of Education (MOE) emphasized that once a university or college learns that any of its conferred degrees are involved in likely violations of academic ethics they should activate a professional investigation mechanism in compliance with the Degree Conferral Act and the regulations governing the management of academic ethics in schools, and if the dissertation or thesis contains fabricated, altered, plagiarized material, ghostwritten material, or constitutes some other form of fraud which is verified, the university or college should revoke the degree and issue a public announcement that the degree diploma is invalidated. In addition, if the ghostwriter is reviewed and confirmed by a subcommittee established by the MOE, then legally-determined penalties will be imposed.
II. Additionally, the MOE declared to supervise all universities and colleges to actively strengthen dissertation and thesis quality assurance mechanisms through measures such as:
·the degree quality assurance mechanism that is connected with firstly, the addition and the adjustment for the department and graduate institute, and secondly, the enrollment quota distribution,
·the facilitation of dissertation and thesis information disclosure,
·the professional selection and appointment of oral exam committee members,
·the accountability held by dissertation or thesis advisers and the department or graduate institute,
·the assistance in dissertation or thesis checking before presentation delivery,
·the implementation of academic ethics education,
·and the proactive investigation of ghostwriting.
III. The MOE indicated that according to Article 3 of the Degree Conferral Act, the degrees at all levels are conferred by universities or colleges. Under any of the following circumstances as enumerated in Article 17 including the student’s admission eligibility or course of studies dishonesty or fraud, a student’s dissertation or thesis, work(s), proof of achievements, written reports, technical reports, or professional practice reports contains fabricated, altered, or plagiarized material, was written by someone else or constituting some other form of fraud, the degree thereof conferred by the university or college shall be revoked, and the diploma that has been awarded shall be invalidated and a public announcement issued. Therefore, the MOE has responded to some recent cases where the dissertations and theses are involved under suspicion of academic ethics, requesting those universities and colleges to immediately activate the professional investigation mechanisms and to not withhold justice; if a university handles a case unlawfully or improperly, the MOE will also demand that it should rectify the matter within a prescribed period of time and, when necessary, identify and advise on specific disciplinary actions to be taken by the university or college to accordingly address any violations that have occurred.
IV. The MOE also indicated that the case in question accentuates that each university and college still require improvement and enhancement in dissertation and thesis review and quality control. Therefore, through the eight measures as follows and by providing assistance, the MOE will supervise each university and college to actively strengthen the mechanism for dissertation and thesis quality assurance.
1. The review of department and graduate institute addition and adjustment will be included in the mechanism for dissertation and thesis quality assurance.
From the academic year 110, each university or college with a proposal to establish a master’s or doctoral degree program should present its dissertation and thesis quality assurance mechanism including:
·professional examination of dissertations and theses,
·professional examination of department or graduate institute,
·self-discipline regulations for academic ethics,
·degree examination committee members being qualified as dictated by Article 8 and Article 10 of the Degree Conferral Act,
·and review a dissertation or a thesis for its delayed publication or non- publication.
The MOE will reject the proposal if the dissertation and thesis quality assurance mechanism is not presented comprehensively.
2. Enrollment quota reduction is to be imposed on the departments or graduate institutes that fail to properly handle academic self-discipline.
The MOE may reduce the enrollment quota of the department or graduate institute accordingly if a university or college is found with any cases such as its improper handling of any dissertation or thesis involved in likely violation of academic ethics, its insufficiency of academic self-discipline mechanisms that undermine dissertation and thesis quality assurance, and its inadequate disclosure of information of dissertations and theses.
3. The ratio of the dissertations and theses inaccessible to the public to all dissertations and theses in each department and graduate institute shall be disclosed.
In accordance with Article 16 of the Degree Conferral Act, ‘A copy of the dissertation, thesis, written report, technical report, or professional practice report stored by the National Central Library shall be made available to the public to read within the library in print form or by accessing electronic data files using independent equipment (omitted). If, however, the content involves confidential information, patent matters, or is not permitted to be provided on statutory grounds and this has been confirmed by the university, the person is permitted to not provide a copy or public access to the material in question will be placed under embargo for a certain period.’ Therefore, publication of dissertations or theses is the principle, while non- publication is the exception. The MOE requests that each university and college should establish a review mechanism for dissertations and theses to which public access is delayed or non- publication, and that the university and college should disclose the ratio that is inaccessible to the public in its departments or graduate institutes.
4. The principles that govern the selection and appointment of oral exam committee members with special qualifications and the ratio of such oral examination members shall be disclosed.
Regarding the selection and appointment of oral exam committee members, all universities and colleges should fully comply with Article 8 and Article 10 of the Degree Conferral Act. Firstly, this Act includes whether faculty ranked at a specific level or research fellows at Academia Sinica who have done specialized research in the same field as the dissertation or thesis advisee, are selected and appointed to the committee. Secondly, whether any special qualifications as dictated by the Act are to be taken into account for committee membership, including ‘have a doctoral degree and have significant academic accomplishments’ and ‘have expertise in an unusual or highly specialized academic research field and have achieved significant results in their respective academic or professional field(s)’. Universities and colleges should be careful to identify committee members according to the academic profession and peer consensus, and the selection and appointment principles and ratio of such oral examination members should be disclosed to the public.
5. Accountability of dissertation and thesis advisers and the department or graduate institute.
Dissertation or thesis advisers are obligated to regularly meet with their students to discuss and provide guidance. Once there is a dissertation or thesis that does not conform to the specialized field or violates academic ethics, the dissertation or thesis advisers shall take the corresponding responsibility, while the department or graduate institute with which the advisers are affiliated should accordingly undertake a critical review for the improvement of the quality assurance mechanism. If the advisers or the departments or graduate institutes remain inactive or fail to appropriately handle the case in question, and their university or college is notified by the MOE to improve the case within a prescribed period of time then if the university or college does not improve the case within a prescribed period of time, the department or graduate institute will be ordered to suspend student recruitment, reduce enrollment quota, or be prohibited from utilizing grants or subsidies that are approved by the MOE for schools.
6. Plan to develop and jointly purchase the journal/dissertation/thesis comparison system for schools to utilize.
For gratuitous use of a service that assists universities and colleges in dissertation and thesis quality assurance, the MOE will join the National Central Library in assessing and developing a national master dissertation and doctoral thesis comparison system as an essential procedure through which dissertations and theses are checked and reviewed. Moreover, the MOE will deliberate with the Ministry of Science and Technology on the procurement of a major domestic and international journal/dissertation/thesis comparison system through inter-entity supply contracts to provide to universities and colleges for improving the quality of dissertations and theses.
7. Implementation of academic ethics education for students.
The MOE has commissioned the establishment of the Center for Taiwan Academic Research Ethics Education to provide digital materials and relevant resources of academic ethics. Currently there are 112 universities and colleges in total incorporating the course offered by the Center in those required for graduate students, each of whom should complete 21 units. The MOE will continuously encourage universities and colleges to include academic ethics education among required courses or graduation requirements for master and doctoral students, and the MOE will include such education as an evaluation indicator for academic self-discipline and disclose the ratio of the course participants to the public.
8. Proactively investigate and handle dissertation and thesis ghostwriting cases where the offenders are to be punished in accordance with the law.
Few admissible cases of dissertation and thesis ghostwriting were reported in the past, as penalties could not be imposed easily due to the difficulty in verification. For this reason, after consultation with the National Communications Commission (NCC), the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare about how they investigated and disciplined misinformation and false advertising, the MOE in 2020 has commissioned a project office to actively check for ghostwriting services advertised by online suppliers or individuals, and has seized 60 alleged cases related to ghostwriting issues and handled them by legal procedures, and penalties are to be imposed on the offenders if any misconduct is confirmed. Furthermore, in cases where a person in charge of publishing or a non-domestic website supplier (for example Google, Facebook) cannot be discovered, the MOE will send an official letter to the service concerned for assistance to remove the relevant web pages