Monday, January 24, 2005

Comments on proposal to classify Taiwan's universities?

From the January 21 Taipei Times:
Plan divides universities
A proposal championed by the Ministry of Education's higher education department for universities to be classified into a number of categories was the subject of heated debate yesterday during a national conference of university heads. Participants in the panel discussion, which was presided over by Mou Tsung-tsan (牟宗燦), chairman of the Association of Private Universities and Colleges, were divided on the proposal, in which universities would be divided into four categories -- teaching universities, research universities, professional universities and community universities. Due to a jump in the number of institutions, universities have shifted from providing an elite education to a universal education, which has resulted in financial pressure, lower quality graduates and low competitiveness, an departmental official said. To iron out these problems, the department proposed that universities be classified into the categories and that the government offer them funds based upon specific needs, the official said.
Intriguing idea, I must admit--at least on first glance. But also a little scary. Anyone know more about this?

13 comments:

Scott said...

The problem with this lies in the method used to separate schools into the different categories. This is particularly problematic for the distinction between teaching and research universities. Almost certainly, schools that end up classified as teaching universities will be schools that were UNABLE to be classified as research universities. The distinction is supposed to be giving schools a choice, but this will almost certainly fail. Instead, it will just end up ranking schools according to the research-oriented standard that the MOE is supposed to be abandoning by adopting this procedure.

Scott said...

I just wrote a post on a related subect.
http://scottsommers.blogs.com/taiwanweblog/2005/01/vocational_educ.html

Jonathan Benda said...

I haven't had time to check into the MOE's actual proposal (did a quick look at their website but didn't find anything on first glance), but I agree with your concerns about what methods they might use to classify schools. And I'm also concerned about how the classification of the universities might affect funding. If anyone finds a link to the proposal or the discussion mentioned in the Taipei Times article, please let me know.

Scott said...

An English-language paper "The Making of World Class Research Universities in an Age of Globalization-Components & Challenges (2003)" found on the MOE website
http://140.111.1.22/english/home_press.htm
says something about the 4 categories. As you can see, while it talks about the 4 categories, the entire rest of the article deals with how much money the 'top ranking' universities and departments are going to get. I don't see our schools mentioned anywhere, and since they're private schools anyway, I doubt this will mean much for us except a bigger gap between 'them' and 'us'.

Jonathan Benda said...

Also see this article in the Jan. 22 Taiwan News for a sign of how this classification system might work itself out. According to the article, the Cabinet decided to give 80% of NT$50 billion in education funding to two or three "top" schools, rather than spreading it out more evenly: "According to the ministry, the scheme's mission is to catapult one of the country's national universities to rank among the top 100 in the world and top 10 university departments in Asia within five years." So they want to sacrifice the rest of us to push one school into the international rankings.

After some other schools complained, Premier Yu Shyi-kun agreed to add more money to the education budget, according to this Taipei Times article. The schools that protested were National Chengchi University, National Sun Yat-sen University, National Central University, National Yang Ming University, National Chung Cheng University, National Chung Hsing University, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, and Yuan Ze University (the only private university in the bunch). The details of the plan still put the emphasis on developing the research programs of "qualified" universities, however. As Scott says, it will probably end up widening the gap between public and private schools.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is from Clyde (I need another password like I need a hole in the head--of which I already have too many).

You guys really miss the funny point of this huge shift. It was only ten years ago that the education system in Taiwan made lots of sense--with over half of the students being in the vocational track. Well, the MOE let schools start to do whatever they wanted, and what did schools choose to do--go after MOE and NSC funds by opening non-vocational tracks, by killing all the vocational programs. Now we have schools that were great vocational training places, emphasis on language, or on mechanics, or on business all turned into cheap imitations of universities. I used to like to teach at the vocational schools because the students were all motivated towards a realistic goal, skills were emphasized, and large class size didn't really hurt that effort. But now, I HATE even walking into any of classrooms at these schools (lets teach culture to a class of 60 students). The students' expectation is that they are "university" students and the professor should be their peer in the learning process, the knowledge is not useful, and who cares, "I got into a university program and my entrance grades were the lowest in Taiwan."

These schools that often don't have a single qualified professor, open Ph.D. programs in finance, HRM, marketing, etc. Let's call it what it is, a total joke!

Facing this, the MOE now wants to move to a "better system" and of course we can't move back, because that would be against progress. So, what is the answer--simply DUMP the whole system. Keep a few schools and the others can go sink.

Well now, I'm sure that will create a really great quality batch of graduates! Have you ever taught at Taiwan's "top" schools, or have listened to the professors or graduates from these "great" schools? I'm often VERY unimpressed.

So, my point is this: we just got through moving away from one system because it seemed to encourage a class structure that was not fare--Now we are moving into a class structure that is unfair and will certainly NOT create the "top" quality sought. Central control based on HIGHLY unstable and changeable political ends is what got us into this mess, now it will get us into a bigger mess!

Clyde Warden

Jonathan Benda said...

One of the things I think you're describing, Clyde, concerns a lack of a clear idea as to the purpose of a university education. Vocational schools/colleges want to become universities not in order to provide a different kind of education to students, but in order to get more funding and, I suppose, a reputation as a university rather than "merely" a vocational school. As Scott mentions in his post on vocational education and universities, at MCU (at least) there hasn't been any re-visioning of what the curriculum should be now that it's a university. And as you say, students (not surprisingly) don't have a clue either as to what they're supposed to be getting out of their education. (But why should they? The administration doesn't either.)

I'm not privy to the internal deliberations that have resulted in the current situation (or in the upcoming--I think--disaster that will happen when the plan to catapult a university into the world's top 100 is carried out). But I'm very tempted to agree with your assessment, Clyde, that this kind of "planning" has its foundation in rather short-sighted political goals.

Anonymous said...

That's a good idea, Clyde. This is from Scott Sommers.

It's not even clear to me what 'catapulting' a university into one of the several existing rankings of university quality is supposed to do.

Strangely, when we talk about the actual policies of the MOE, all 3 of seem to agree. And the really strange part of it is that we seem to agree for the same reasons.

Anonymous said...

I think that you would find most of us :higher Ed" lecturers in total agreement. The ministry has had no thougt what so ever on a national gradable curriculum. Results each Uni does what it wants and marks how it wishes. Flooding the halls with Phd',most of which I have trouble beliving that they could achive a BA never mind PHd, to chase research grants or attain the numbers required moves away from the need of the vast majority of students in the classrooms for nothing more than money and prestige.
JOhn Giles

Jonathan Benda said...

My guess about the reason behind "catapulting" a university is that it's part of the effort to make Taiwan more internationally recognized in as many ways as possible. Unfortunately, it appears to be an educational policy whose sole purpose seems to be to enhance the Taiwan "brand".

Anonymous said...

Clyde said:

John, the MOE did have very clear guides for classes and exams up to the early 90s. What we have now is the result of falling in love with the American system (or at least what part of the system one sees from an elite school during a four year stay). Talk about a round peg in a square hole!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I was wondering if you can help me about a Taiwanese university I'm applying for. I'm a foreign student applying for Kai Nan University. Can you please give me some background info about it and your opinion of it? Just please reply to my e-mail add. Thanks, and more power to your blogs!
E-mail me at marizgc@yahoo.com.

Jonathan Benda said...

Uh... sorry, I don't know anything about Kai Nan University. I think Scott Sommers has mentioned it on his blog, though...