Taiwan Public Universities Merging and Students Protesting Due To Confidential Signing of Memorandum

Taiwan Public Universities Merging and Students Protesting Due To Confidential Signing of Memorandum
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What you need to know

To deal with declining birthrate, seven public universities will merge and recruit together in the new semester. Yang-Ming University and Chiao Tung University are merging based on their respective professions in the biomedicine and IT fields, yet the under-the-table signing of the memorandum has led to students protesting.

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As the birthrate drops dramatically in recent years, the number of college freshmen will decrease about 20,000 in 2016. To solve this issue, seven public universities will merge and recruit together in the new semester. Chiao Tung University and National Yang Ming University School even signed a memorandum to promote the merge and launch of a new school, National Yang-Ming Chiao Tung University.

But on January 4, the Students Union of Yang-Ming University protested against the “black-box operation." Students from Chiao Tung University also expressed their disappointment and dissatisfaction by posting an article on social media after learning about the consolidation.

In 2016, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has allocated approximately 10% of the budget (nearly NT$8 billion, approximately US$242 million) for the “Pro-Top College Plan," encouraging merging, alliance, exit and restructure of colleges. It is expected to set off a competition among schools to consolidate as soon as possible in order not to get kicked out.

The college consolidation plan of the semester consists of seven public-with-public consolidation plans.

The fastest among the seven plans is the merge of National Tsing Hua University and National Hsin Chu University of Education. Both schools have already sent their letters of intent to the Ministry of Education this month. It can enter the next phase after confirmed.

Chen Sin-hong, vice-chancellor at Chiao Tung University, says that both Chiao Tung University and Yang-Ming University are facing long-term development issues. National Chiao Tung University is known for science and technology research, but its development in the electronic and information fields is reaching its limit.

In the present century, the biomedical field is receiving great attention and many professors at Chiao Tung University started to target the field. Therefore, merging with Yang-Ming may let them achieve cooperation on researches as well as classes.

Secretary General Wangrui Yao at Yang Ming University states that Yang-Ming specializes in medical studies. However, in the future, they still need talented people from other professional fields. Integrating with Chiao Tung University and complementing with each other would generalize their students’ competence.

Students from Yang-Ming University refused to accept the pass of such a memorandum based on the confidential procedure it went through. The protest took place in the morning of January 4, and students accused the school of failing to inform the teacher, students, alumni and administrative personnel before passing the memorandum, which was scheduled on January 6. They called on the school to suspend the decision and perform a full investigation among teachers and students considering legitimacy and rationality.

In this regard, Albie Chen, president of the Student Union of Yang-Ming University, explains that the complementary combination will benefit not only the academic ranking and school funds, but also biotechnology industry and basic medical research in Taiwan. However, nearly half of the teachers and students had no idea about the signing of such a memorandum. Chiao Tung University even held an explanation session after passing it. In such an opaque case, they are appealing for the suspension of the procedure.

Chu Chun-chang, deputy director of the Higher Education Division of the Ministry of Education, says that college consolidation requires full discussion and the approval of both schools before sending their plan to the ministry. However, these plans have not yet been sent. As for other details, such as how or whether the schools intend to merge, the ministry will fully respect the schools’ needs and practices.

Translated by Yuan-ling Liang
Edited by Olivia Yang