Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Falling Birth Rates to kill universities?

Taiwan's universities will shrivel in a few years if they don't have more warm bodies, Taiwan Today article from the China Times warns:
In 2008 there were 59,000 unfilled vacancies for first-year students. The Ministry of Education said the total will exceed 100,000 in 2021 if steps are not taken. The ministry has decided to reduce the total enrollment quota by 2 percent every year. Even so, with the influence of the baby bust, it is estimated that enrollment will still fall short by 71,000 students.

Kuomintang Legislator Huang Chih-hsiung pointed out that currently there are 164 colleges and universities (excluding military and police schools and National Open University). With people having fewer and fewer children, it is predicted about one third of all colleges, or 60 schools, will go out of business, leaving only 100 or so colleges in operation.
When supply of something vastly exceeds demand, look for the subsidy. The reason there are too many universities is because it is profitable for construction and other companies to open them, due to the generous subsidies. Now legislators are concerned that important cash cows in their districts may wilt -- hence the pressure by university administrators to permit Chinese students to come -- the China Cargo Cult, academic version. That gusher of warm bodies from across the Strait can save us!

The smart thing would be to shut down the lowest 80 or so universities, but that would lead to screaming from local legislators and from local PHDs, for whom the universities are little more than a jobs program (Taiwan churns out more than it needs, of course). In fact this year the government has quietly been handing out subsidies to local universities to take on more educated assistants -- our department hired a slew of masters degree holders under this program, for one year.

The Ministry of Education is currently working on regulations to permit universities to exit the market, covering land use, taxes, and so forth. According to another piece on this issue:

Under the new regulations, universities that fail to recruit up to 70 percent of their officially approved student numbers for three consecutive years will have their annual quotas cut by between 10 percent and 30 percent.

As a result of the regulations, no local universities will see their student quotas slashed until the 2011 school year, which critics say will hold back domestic education reforms.

Quotas slashed? Taiwan's universities have their intakes controlled by strict quotas based on a complex formula involving number of professors, facilities, etc. At one university I worked at part time, Arkham Institute of Technology, for example, the Applied Foreign Languages Dept was limited to 100 students for its annual intake, in two classes of 50 each. Thus each year 100 students joined the four year program in theory. In reality we usually had slightly more as students transferred in from elsewhere. Because the quota restricted the intake, and because the intake was treated like a layer cake, with the top scoring students on the college entrance exams going to top universities, the second best students to the second best schools, and so on down the line, in the 1990s and early 2000s the student body in any given department at Arkham was remarkably uniform in talent and ability.

However, the MoE used to regard unfilled quotas as a bad thing, and thus a trend many in the universities took hold as the number of warm bodies dried up: universities began poaching from the ranks below their quota limits. Thus at Arkham over the years I began to notice that the first 60 or so students were of the old quality, but the next 40 were not up to snuff -- they should have gone to less awesome schools. This process went on at many universities, and universities at the bottom of the ladder soon found themselves with no students at all, their students having been stolen by the universities ahead of them in the queue.

Hence, the MoE's decision to relax quota punishments means that low tier universities may continue on life support until 2011. Probably it will squeeze out another year, since 2012 is an election year and the body politic is not going to want to hear that Little Snowflake can't go to college....
Daily Links
  • An article in Journal of Current Chinese Affairs by two local deep blue academics which offers an overview of Chinese policy toward Taiwan.
  • Chen Shui-bian now says he was victim of trickery by Roger Lin and never supported the lawsuit against the US government that claimed Taiwan was a US holding.
  • AIG sells Nanshan Life to Hong Kong outfit for $2.1 billion.
  • Global warming to triple rain over Taiwan: "number of days with 'excessive heat'" over 36 degree Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) has doubled since 1961...." In fact before WWII it frosted every few years in the Taipei basin and bananas could not be grown there.
SPECIAL: Gorgeous photo essay on the production of food around the world entitled The End of Plenty. Thanks to Tobie Openshaw for this one
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

A bian, like so many others, has only himself to blame for blindly following the fanciful tales of a known con artist. Next he'll put his trust behind some charlatan who claims to be able to produce magic pills out of thin air. Who'd be stupid enough to believe that? There must be a long line of confidence scheme practitioners outside the DPP HQ. That's the first place I'd go.

Anonymous said...

As well as mentioning the number of universities in Taiwan it might be worth mentioning their quality, or more precisely lack of quality! 164 universites in name there might be but in reality there are far, far less producing individuals with the ready skills, especially thinking abilities, pertinent to the modern, globalized world. I'm sure the shortfall of places will be much higher than numbers given due to school leavers opting for the workplace rather than a four year debt-increasing classroom snorefest where everyone passes and ultimately gets their little bit of paper. As has been shown since the start of the global recession, Taiwan school leavers realize the real advantage lies in work experience not 'higher' education as the majority of 164 institutions claim to be.

Thoth Harris said...

If only it was Falling Birthers! That would be a sight to see!

Dan tdaxp said...

In my opinion, Arkhan's main problem is its hideously expensive rare books department of the library.

PS said...

This is what decline looks like.

Michael Turton said...

Dan, there are many rumors about the hideous things that have happened to students who broke into the rare books section. But I will not blog on that, since a former teacher there, Charles Dexter Ward, made me promise not to.

Joel Linton said...

Well, if Taiwan has so many legit Ph.D.'s then its schools should work towards international accreditations and go for more international students -- especially in the grad schools.

Anonymous said...

Am I missing something here? Is there really an Arkham Institute of Technology? I thought "Arkham" was the name of the institute for the criminally insane in the Batman stories...

Michael Turton said...

Arkham has an even older derivation. It is located on the banks of the Miskatonic, in foggy New England. Few speak of it now, shrouded in fear.

The Shadow over Innsmouth

Anonymous said...

Is Abian sane?

Hey! His lawyers should use the insanity plea to get him out of there!

Arty said...

Well, if Taiwan has so many legit Ph.D.'s then its schools should work towards international accreditations and go for more international students -- especially in the grad schools.

A lot of Taiwan universities are not really "university." A lot of them are promoted to university status during the "education reform." Also, a Ph.D. degree really means nothing if no one knows your advisers or committee in the field because Ph.D. is awarded through peer (I guess a lot of people don't get this). I don't know if the policy for university hire is true for Taiwan or not. As far as I know, you can not get a tenure track job in China if you don't have THREE first author papers in tier two or higher journals.

My personal rule is that if you don't have any paper published in a major journal for your Ph.D. work, your Ph.D. is worthless.

Anonymous said...

If Taiwanese universities want to compete in an international world then they don't need to create PhD holders but scholars who can publish to an international standard, i.e. consistently place their research in top journals, and have the ability to draw in external grants. Too much of the teaching in Taiwan is by people who think just because they hold a PhD they can countdown to retire by turning up and warbling into a microphone. Pedagogy is an alien concept along with no motivation to engage in the global academic world. But let's be honest, if the pay at all Taiwanese unis are the same then why the hell would some motivate themselves to research. There's no need at the vast majority of institutions.

Anonymous said...

finding difficulty logging with google account. do you have some tips?

Roger-usa said...

The content of the article on the KMT website which you have referred to is simply Chinese propaganda.

See the TAIPEI TIMES report of Oct. 15, 2009:

Public must turn its back on the ROC, Chen says

The office of former president Chen Shui-bian yesterday said that one option to build an independent republic was to reject the Republic of China (ROC).

In a statement, the office said that based on his experience as president, Chen thought it was dangerous to use the “shell” of the ROC because it would not help Taiwan become a “new and independent” republic.

The office said Chen’s endorsement of the lawsuit brought by Taiwanese activist Roger Lin in the US was intended to reflect his “new thinking” that the public must oppose and renounce the constitutional system of the ROC.

See full article at -- http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2009/10/14/2003456040