Overseas Students from Southbound Policy Targeted Countries Exploited to Work? Ministry of Education: Severe Measures Taken to Protect Students’ Rights
Recently, some overseas students, who are not in New Southbound Industry-Academia Collaboration Programs (IACP), at the University of Kang Ning, Yu Da University of Science and Technology and Chienkuo Technology University were found to be exploited in their labor rights. The Ministry of Education (MOE) of Taiwan carried out immediate investigations and related actions to protect these students’ rights. Severe punishments were imposed on the above mentioned three universities. They were all banned from recruiting overseas students, and two of them are now under the direct surveillance of the MOE. These universities have also been mandated to compensate and assist the students affected. Earlier this year an inter-ministerial task force was formed to jointly safeguard the rights to education of overseas students in Taiwan. To ascertain whether or not the universities and manpower agencies violated the criminal law and were involved in human trafficking, the relevant evidence has been sent to prosecutors for further investigation. In other words, the MOE has determined to stop illegal manpower agencies on campus and thus ensure that the human rights of these students are not affected.
MOE has been promoting the IACP since 2017. In order to ensure overseas students attending these programs have an excellent education experience in Taiwan, the MOE:
- performs regular on-site institution inspections which include teaching and curriculum quality, off-campus internships and work.
- requires that the internship contracts shall be signed between the university, the enterprise and the student.
- requires that the internship allowances and the wages of part-time work should be transferred directly and separately to the bank accounts of the students.
- forbids the enterprises from withholding the tuition and miscellaneous fees.
- mandates that each student’s total hours of internship and part-time work intotal shall not exceed 40 hours per week.
The Ministry of Education has implemented positive measures to further assure the rights to education of overseas students, such as:
- MOE has continued to mandate that universities recruit overseas students in their home countries, offering clear and correct information (printed and posted on websites in Chinese, English and the official language of the students’ home country) to their teachers or parents. Manpower agencies or propaganda such as work/study programs that mislead or hamper the substance of education are not tolerated.
- MOE has set up NISA’s Inquiry Service for Overseas Students at Tertiary Colleges and Universities which includes a dedicated webpage, an online mailbox, and a telephone hotline (0800-789-007) for overseas students; conducting meetings with overseas students in conjunction with several other institutions, for example, the Ministry of Education, the Overseas Community Affairs Council, the Ministry of Labor, the National Immigration Agency, the National Health Insurance Administration, the Bureau of Consular Affairs, and the University Entrance Committee for Overseas Chinese Students traveling to the north, central, southern, and eastern areas of Taiwan. These services are designed to help the students to understand Taiwan better, and to express the government’s care and concern.
- The Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of the Interior, the Overseas Community Affairs Council, and the NISA Office have jointly organized a platform, and a dedicated communication network, response protocol, and other mechanisms, for the proper handling of overseas student related matters.
The Ministry of Education of Taiwan has established the New Southbound Talent Development Program, in conjunction with the New Southbound Policy (NSP) targeting Southeast and South Asian countries, as potential strategic partners for regional social and economic cooperation. Three core concepts are used:
- Market, to promote and expand the higher education market overseas;
- Pipeline, meaning the interflow of talented people between Taiwan and NSP countries;
- Platform, to establish a “Taiwan Connection” platform for bilateral educational cooperation based on social and cultural links.
With tailor-made training in professional skills and internships in related industries, and outstanding technical and vocational education, the Industry-Academia Collaboration Programs (IACP) will provide students with opportunities of immediate employment after graduation. The MOE will ensure that this win-win policy that benefits both enterprises and students is not to be abused or misused.