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21st Century University Education

Dr. Lu Mu-lin Vice Minister of Education

I. Introduction

A. University Competitiveness is a Major Indicator of a Nation's Competitiveness

The twenty-first century is universally recognized as a time for developing knowledge-based economies and digital information technologies. With the rapid social changes, the democratization of government, structural shifts in production and the proliferation of value systems of recent years, serious new challenges have presented themselves, with regards to the maintenance and function of higher education. In order to meet these challenges, higher education must continue to make headway through innovation, effective adjustments, planning and foresightedness or vision.
Universities are not only a sanctuary of knowledge, culture and technological innovation but they are also important centers for the cultivation of a nation's resources. Therefore, by bringing the university's function into full play, can it provide an essential foundation for motivating academic and technological innovation and assist with the economic development of a country. It is also clear that university competitiveness is a major indicator of a nation's competitiveness and that the excellence of a nation's universities is an important key to increasing a nation's sense of competitiveness.

B. Democratization, Diversification, Globalization; University Development Faces Major Challenges

The influence of democratization, diversification and globalization, of the 21st century, for Taiwan has brought changes to the traditional features of university education. University education has changed from being "education for the elite" to a system that is more universal. The role of the government towards the university has changed from one of supervision and management to one of guidance and assistance.

Cuts in educational spending and pressures of market competition have brought business operations into the area of university management. University development has seen major changes. As the functions of universities continue to expand, it is necessary to address the challenges in order to achieve excellence and sustainability.

II. Problems and Challenges

A. Domestic and Overseas Competition from Rapid Expansion of Universities and the Entering of WTO; a Call for the Establishment of Mechanisms to Ensure an Environment of Fair Competition

  1. Over the last decade, our universities and colleges have grown in numbers. Currently, there are 148 universities in the country. However, it has been predicted that by the academic year of 2003, there will be a decline in student enrollment due to the declining birthrate in our society. It is clear that the number of universities and colleges have exceeded the demand.
  2. With Taiwan's entrance into WTO, universities from overseas and mainland China will exacerbate the problem of under-enrollment by attracting students through recruiting agencies, long-distance learning, educational promotion activities, two-track, dual-credit school systems and established branch schools.

B. Shifting Priorities or a "Crowding Out Effect", Increasing Financial Pressure Result in the Need for Additional Resources In Order to Support University Development

  1. As Taiwan continues to improve itself and the society continues to grow in awareness about Taiwan's needs, the demand for additional resources has increased. As a result, expenditures on environmental protection, national defense and social welfare are “crowding out” higher educational funding. Additionally, the growth in national education, special education and other special interest groups such as aboriginal education further increase the demand for resources.
  2. This "crowding out effect", together with a poor economy, difficulties in raising funds, and the rising number of universities are draining existing educational resources. University costs in Taiwan will soon overtake mainland China's, while remaining far behind other advanced countries.

C. Insufficient University Autonomy and Differences in Campus Democratization, Result in Poor School Management and a Demand for the Loosening of Restrictions, along with the Establishment of a System of Responsibility

  1. The revenues and expenditures of public universities are still tightly restricted by various government systems and regulations. These include budgeting, accounting, auditing and purchasing. Therefore, any special needs that a university may have cannot be met, due to current restrictions and impede the operations of school administration.
  2. Affairs relating to university personnel matters such as recruitment, valuation procedures, salaries and sabbaticals are facing restrictive, confining government regulations. Such inflexible regulations make it difficult to promote superior personnel for the enhancement of university administration.
  3. University development is further hindered by inadequate autonomous operations, improper methods for selecting administrative executives, unclear authority guidelines and responsibilities between university deans and school boards, and poor efficiency for discussing affairs.
  4. University graduates are unable to meet the demands of industry due to their poor understanding of democracy and poor learning attitudes upon entering university.

D. International Environment and Foreign Language Ability are Needed in Universities to Encourage Students to Connect With the World and the International Community

  1. Comprehension test scores currently show that the language ability of Taiwanese university students falls behind those of other Asian countries. Taiwanese students are showing less competitiveness than students of other countries due to a poor ability to absorb new information, in a direct fashion, with foreign languages.
  2. With the inadequate and incomplete establishment of foreign language environments at Taiwan's universities and with only a few courses given in foreign languages, it is difficult to attract foreign students to come to Taiwan for study. Therefore, the foreign student enrollment, generally speaking, is low.
  3. The level of foreign educational exchanges remains hindered by contract formality allowing only a few students and teachers the opportunity to participate. It is uncommon to see substantial cooperative research between schools or a significant number of teacher and student exchanges.

E. Rigid University Systems and Insufficient Flexibility Resulting in Students Being Unable to Meet the Rapid Changes And Demands of Industry and Society

  1. Most university systems lack flexibility. Their continuous expansion and increase in the number of departments have only produced college graduates that are unable to meet the demands of industry. Universities should conduct research and establish flexible mechanisms, within university departments regarding the changes that are taking place within industry, in order to understand, anticipate and plan for the mid-to long-term needs regarding nation wide human resources.
  2. The overall development within existing university systems has yet to reach higher levels of operation and newly founded universities have need for quality supervision standards. This situation has resulted in excessive and rapid development, poor student-teacher ratios and the lowering of the quality of education, overall. The rapid growth in the number of graduate schools has also resulted in low-quality education, along with significant unemployment rates among students with advanced degrees.

III. Directions and Strategies

A. Strengthen Literacy, Cultivate A Spirit For Advancement and Learning Among Students

Creating sound and proper channels for pursuing academic excellence and promoting a spirit of learning among students are directions that must be taken. The organization of literacy tour courses, under the "Plan for Excellence in Learning", the enhancement of the promotion of National Lecture courses, the strengthening of "hands-on" and creative work systems, the cultivation of a global view and avenues for advancement, enhanced Internet learning capabilities and life-long learning are examples of such a spirit.

B. Remove Restrictions, Lower Barriers Regarding Policymaking, Strengthen Autonomous

Capabilities and Increase Efficiency

  1. The setting up of proper channels for the pursuit of academic excellence goes hand-in-hand with university autonomy. If government control and outside factors were to reduce their restrictions, strategies for implementing improved self-governing regulations involving university autonomy, enrollment, financial operations, investment management, staff recruitment, qualification evaluations, salary benefits and the organization of the establishment would be supported.
  2. University Higher Education Review Committees for self-regulation, including the allotment of funds, policy consultation, planning and review of major policies need to be organized.
  3. The promotion of university self-evaluation by organizing comprehensive evaluations and subject evaluations in order to strengthen the school efficacy, ensure quality and self-improvement mechanisms would allow the university to assume responsibility for its own success or failure.

C. Independent Positioning, Providing Rational Development and Flexibility

  1. There is a need to set classification criteria among universities in order to facilitate more autonomous development, thus allowing each school flexibility to set its own development focus, funding goals, terms and conditions.
  2. Continued support of the Ministry of Education's goals to encourage university diversification by providing universities reasonable subsidies according to their status and the flexibility to allow for reasonable development is necessary.

D. Loosen Legal Restrictions, Establish an Environment of Fair Competition Among Private Universities

The following strategies have been developed to address the establishment of a fairer environment for the competition among private universities.

  1. Revision of the University law to promote the cooperation of national universities.
  2. Revision of the Private University Law and provide outstanding universities with more flexibility regarding recruitment, student expenses, departmental establishment and the age for teacher retirement.
  3. Unify private and public university tax exemption standards.

E. Expand Resources, Establish Solid Foundations for University Development

Expanded university resources and university resource networks are needed to support the establishment of solid foundations for university development. Relevant considerations need to include:

  1. The opening up of offshore education promotion and the establishment of subdivision and branch schools for the development of overseas resources.
  2. Stimulate competition by providing funding incentives in order to reward excellence.
  3. Continue to provide more flexibility regarding miscellaneous student expenses by allowing each school opportunities to decide its own tuition costs based on actual circumstances and general education requirements.
  4. The promotion of tax exemptions on university funding and public sector contributions to private schools through the Private School Education Promotion Fund and the expansion of public donation resources.
  5. Encouraging public participation in relationship to university development with such possibilities as outsourcing, BOT and OT.
  6. Promote university integration and cooperation for the consolidation of resources.
  7. Expanding self-regulation and flexibility with regards to the use of funds, participation in industrial technology product development and investment in industry for increased income.

F. Seeking Excellence and Strengthening Foundations of Research Establishments in Order to Build First-class Universities

Increasing opportunities for seeking excellence, and strengthening foundations of research establishments will lead to the building of first-class universities in Taiwan. The establishment of high-caliber research centers will help bring about the building of strong foundations in research and the construction of research bases. By conducting plans to raise university international competitiveness and the quality of its personnel development will push Taiwan further into the international area, in such plans as National Silicon Island Plan, Promoting Biotech talent and human resources, Art, Design and Technology Education Plan. Also setting a goal to establish first-class international universities within a ten year period, by promoting research-oriented university integration plans.

G. Enter the International Arena and Establish Outstanding Foreign Language Environments

In order to provide supportive foreign language learning environments, we need to enhance students' foreign language abilities and encourage them to study at their overseas sister schools. With the establishment of sister school systems, with overseas schools, it will enable more exchange opportunities for professors and students. By holding courses in foreign languages, establishing scholarships and improving foreign language facilities and accommodations, we will be able to attract more foreign students to Taiwan.

H. Serving the Community in Order to Enable Sustainable Development for Universities

Looking ahead to the future with regards to higher education requires farsightedness and the ability to create plans that will sustain development for our universities. If we are to meet the challenges of the future, we need to implement comprehensive planning strategies, which will support universities in becoming more involved with local communities. Community service programs, social interactions, enhanced cooperation between industry and academia, flexible adjustment systems for university departments, which allow rapid industry response and expanded on-the-job-training programs will help us, as we meet unprecedented challenges and transformations.


As our institutions of higher learning become more liberal, democratic and international, we need to be willing to invoke new modes of thinking, adopt new operational systems, establish new cultural views, create new campus cultures and support new university functions, in order to fully realize our mutual goals.

With challenge come opportunities; with opportunities comes success, and success depends on strategies and how they are implemented. If we are to realize the visions for higher education, in our respected countries and institutions of higher learning, we must join together in the true spirit of these modern times.

Thank you.