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Cross-strait educational exchanges increase in a globalized world

According to the Global View monthly, the international community estimates that by 2020 China will have more than a dozen universities ranked among the world’s top one hundred. And, since China is the largest emerging market in the world, many Taiwanese college students are heading to Chinese colleges to get a good education in preparation for their future career.

According to the Chinese government, there are 6,755 Taiwanese students studying at 187 universities in China. This accounts for 2.2 percent of the total students who registered to take Taiwan’s annual university examination, representing 22 out of every 1,000 high school graduates in Taiwan.

Main reasons to study in China

In the magazine’s questionnaire, those who studied in Chinese schools are not attracted by academic performance, but rather, by the desire to further understand China and to build a network for their future development in China. As an example, 51.8 percent wanted to have the experience of living and learning in China. The students expressed a desire to build personal connections that would help them enter and understand China’s markets.

In planning a future career, Taiwanese students are more flexible. After graduation, more than 25 percent preferred to work in China, 17.3 percent wanted to work in Taiwan; another 17.3 percent would continue to study in China, while 10.8 percent planned to pursue studies in other countries. From this part of the survey, Global View found about a quarter of the Taiwanese students considered studying in China as pre-training for their future career.

For Chinese students studying in Taiwan, 88.7 percent come hoping to experience life on the island. While, 37.2 percent believe that Taiwan offers high quality curriculums and teachers. The percentage of Chinese students looking to build personal connections and pursue further study and work in Taiwan are much fewer. In Commonwealth magazine’s report of across-strait student exchanges, they interviewed Angel He, the first Taiwanese student to enter a mainland university based on her Taiwanese scholastic exam scores. Since 2009, the Chinese educational system has recognized these test scores. Instead of going to National Taiwan University (NTU), she decided to enter the eight-year doctoral program in the clinical medicine department of Shanghai’s Fudan University, joining the 6 million new students from within China.

He is not sure that her decision was the right one, so she still maintains her registration at NTU. She knows it is adventurous to go to Fudan University, but just in case, she keeps the option of withdrawing open.

Competition is the biggest pressure

In Global View’s interviews with about 20 Taiwanese students studying in China, they also found it more competitive. One student said, “The days of being able to just grab an easy diploma in China are gone. The Chinese are all smart elites under the one-child policy. They all work hard. If you are absentminded for just a second, you’ll find yourself falling far behind them. Taiwanese have to develop stronger perseverance, broader views, earn double degrees, and even win more connections on campus.”

In the survey, what bothers Taiwanese students most in China was not just the difference in culture and ideology, but also the high requirements for admission to universities and the Chinese students’ competitiveness. These are the biggest pressures for the young Taiwanese.

According to the Taipei-based China Times, Wang Dan, one of the former Chinese pro-democracy student leaders at the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and a former visiting scholar at National Chengchi University in Taiwan, had this observation. “In the mainland, the only way to get out of poverty or get a good job for people in rural or remote areas is to study at college. But in the relatively well-off Taiwan, the incentive for higher education is far less strong than in the mainland. Thus, Taiwanese students do not study as hard as those from the mainland.”

Wang Dan said that the democratization of China lags far behind that of Taiwan. For Chinese students, political issues are still a taboo. They have much less knowledge in this regard than that of the Taiwanese. Chinese students who come to study in Taiwan will inevitably face an ideological shock.

He added, “Taiwan is a very modern society, and young Taiwanese students living in this affluent environment are simpler. They are more humane, sympathetic, and lack the psychological guard against others, while Chinese students, relatively speaking, are more serious and tend to be more concerned about their daily survival and reality issues. Due to intense competition, the Chinese students do not easily develop interpersonal relationships, but rather a sense of self-protection, which is not apparently found in the Taiwanese students.”

A sharp rise in numbers

Between 1985 and 2000, only 3,759 Taiwanese studied in China. In the seven years that followed, that number rose to more than 11,000, with half studying Chinese medicine. Aside from those in China studying for formal degrees, another 10,000 university students have gone there for short-term exchange programs in the past five years.

There are currently 233 Taiwanese students studying at Peking University alone, six times the number five years ago. This phenomenon, part of the overall trend toward the convergence of the Greater China education market, has gradually come to influence Taiwan’s nearly 3 million high school, university and graduate students.

Studying in China motivated by global view

Taiwanese parents have a global view that are more supportive of their children studying aboard. When asked, 36 percent of Taiwanese parents have plans for their children to study abroad, and 1.5 percent have children already studying overseas. Comparatively, 12.8 percent of Chinese parents have made such plans, with only 0.7 percent already with children studying abroad.

Lai Yu-rou, a 22-year-old Taiwanese graduate student of finance, spent two months as a summer intern in the Shanghai branch of the China-based Bank of Communications. Lai is unlike many of the first wave of Taiwanese students in China, whose parents own or work for Taiwanese enterprises there. Lai’s parents are simply teachers who encouraged her to get experience in China. Although she appreciates Taiwan’s free and diverse environment, she has seemingly come to accept the nomadic fate of her generation. She told Commonwealth, “If there are no good opportunities in Taiwan, I could go to Beijing and Shanghai in the future.”

At the same time, most parents still do not want their children to study at a Chinese university, with 70 percent concerned about public security, 59 percent worried about their children adapting to life there, and 38 percent due to the financial burden.

Further opening of Taiwan’s schools in June

But does gaining experience in China really help one’s career development? The Commonwealth says the answer may be yes. The number of foreign enterprises in China, for instance, has grown from 420,000 in 2002 to 700,000 today, and they all need talented people who understand China.

Jack J. T. Huang, partner-in-charge of Jones Day law firm in Taipei, said the experience in China is important, but not an absolute necessity. Take mergers and acquisitions as examples, there are 500 cases of over US$100 million in China, while there are only 10 cases in Taiwan There are several hundred law firms and venture capitalists and bankers struggling to compete for these 500 in China, but in Taiwan, if you are one of the best lawyers, you may easily take three out of the ten. So it is your decision to weigh in the success whether to fight with killer whales in the Pacific or just catch fish in the Taiwan Strait.

Bill Lin is the general manager of the online shopping website PayEasy, a subsidiary of Taishin Financial Holding Co. that expanded abroad in 2009 and is planning to set up branches in Shanghai and Beijing this year. Lin himself has two school-age daughters, in ninth and sixth grade, and because of his belief that exposure to China could be beneficial to their future, he has purposefully taken them traveling in China over their summer and winter breaks for the past two years.

“I will encourage my daughters to stay in Taiwan until they graduate from high school, attend college in China, get a graduate degree in the United States, and then return to Asia, and especially China, to develop.” Lin says. “Taiwan’s small island-market has the benefit of being sophisticated, but China is a seductive high-risk, high-reward market.”

With a more globalized economy, universities around the world have entered a make-or-break battle – a brand war for funding, resources and interdisciplinary and international alliances. No longer just competing for students locally, they are also competing for international students.

Although there have been thousands of Chinese exchange students on Taiwan’s campuses, they have normally stayed for less than four months. Starting in June 2010, this will change as Taiwan begins to recognize Chinese qualifications.

Study Mandarin and explore Taiwan through scholarships

Each year, the Ministry of Education offers two types of scholarship for students interested in studying in Taiwan. These scholarships are a great opportunity to explore another culture with the reassuring cushion of a monthly stipend. Students can choose to apply for a long-term certification scholarship, like the Taiwan Scholarship Program or a one-year language program, like the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship (HES). Applications for both scholarship programs are being accepted now for this fall. The deadline is March 31, 2010.

Recently, Taiwan Insights caught up with three of last year’s scholarship recipients and asked them to give some overall impressions of their time in Taiwan.

“Studying Chinese was very humbling”

Before Kerry Seed left for Taiwan, he was a student at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley. He wanted to learn Chinese with the intention of using it in his work as a reporter. He was in Taipei for five months, studying at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). Seed knew very little Chinese before entering his program at the Mandarin Training Center.

“Studying Chinese was very humbling. I felt like I had to work so hard to make even modest gains, but the work was very satisfying.” Besides taking one class per day for two hours, he also studied about four hours per day outside of class. “I really enjoyed my time in Taiwan. The people I met there were very friendly and willing to help me learn. I felt like I had a million teachers.”

One of the things he liked most about the program was his classmates. “My classmates were from all over the world, and meeting them was one of the most enjoyable parts of my stay in Taiwan.”

The most challenging aspect of his time in Taiwan was to manage his studies as well as exploring Taipei. His advice to anyone considering the program is to simply “Do it!!!”

Opportunities to soak up local culture

Emily Rupp swapped the fall semester of her master’s program in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of San Francisco to study at National Taiwan Normal University. She had prepared for her trip by taking a summer intensive Mandarin Chinese class at the University of California at Berkeley just before her departure. Like Seed, she was in class for ten hours a week at the Mandarin Training Center.

When asked about her experience there, she mentioned how friendly she found the Taiwanese people. After her stay in Taiwan, she visited other parts of Asia and this confirmed her feelings that the people in Taiwan were “so much nicer than anywhere else in Asia.” She found “a lot of kindness.” In fact, she was overwhelmed to have perfect strangers invite her to their homes and go “all-out” with preparing a meal for her.

One thing that Rupp especially liked was Taiwan’s Tea Culture. “If you meet your friends here, you would meet for drinks, but the kids there hang out all night drinking tea…” She likened tea to the “social glue” in Taiwan, a drink minus the guilt normally associated with alcohol. She enjoyed going to the tea stations and getting a huge tea for merely a dollar.

She also found the food to be amazing and affordable, with a lot of vegetable and organic restaurants everywhere. One can get a completely healthy meal for US$3-4.

For anyone considering studying in Taipei, Rupp cautioned overseas students when renting a room. “Don’t pay more than NT$8,000 (around US$250) for a room.” In the Bay Area, US$600 a month might be reasonable, but it is way more than you need to pay in Taiwan.

Although the scholarship was sufficient to live on and pay the tuition, she advised students studying overseas to ask when their first scholarship check will arrive. Regardless, be sure to take extra cash. If the first stipend does not arrive right away, you might need a month or two of living expense and tuition money. Seed also suggested students take extra money.

Study Mandarin at Taiwan’s top universities

In June 2009, graduate student Zayar Ohn took a three-month summer break from his studies to enroll in Taiwan’s top-ranked university, National Taiwan University (NTU). As a former journalist in Burma, he arrived in America as a refugee and is now a graduate student at the Center for the Pacific Rim at the University of San Francisco. While in Taiwan, he enrolled in the NTU’s Language Center’s intensive Mandarin Chinese course, meeting for 15 hours a week. He found the class size to be perfect and his intensive language class not as grueling as he had expected.

While studying in Taipei, he lived in Xindian, a suburb of Taipei City. He got to know the public transportation well. In fact, the “fantastic transportation system” was one of his favorable impressions. “Buses and the subway are really clean.” He was less fond of the air pollution.

One thing that stood out for Ohn was Taiwanese politeness. “They did not yell at each other when they spoke. They spoke politely. People were nice, welcoming and considerate, when not driving a motor cycle on the streets.” Upon his return to San Francisco, he has a renewed appreciation of his pedestrian rights.

While in Taiwan, Ohn fell in love with Taiwanese Oolong tea. “I went to many tea houses. The only thing I bought for my home was tea.” He predicts he will not run out of tea for another year. “Brewing tea and making tea is an art in Taiwan.”

Taiwan scholarships now available

The scholarship program that Ohn, Rupp and Seed participated in was similar to the HES program. Whereas the program before allowed a minimum stay of three months, the minimum stay is now one year. The program is especially ideal for students looking to study Mandarin and to participate in cross-cultural exchanges. The monthly stipend is NT$25,000 (about US$770). Applicants wishing to apply to this program can visit find out more information at: .

Another scholarship is the Taiwan Scholarship Program. It is intended for students who wish to undertake a degree program in Taiwan. Although students need not be accepted into an accredited university or college in Taiwan when applying, the applicant MUST BE accepted to an accredited institution to be awarded the scholarship.

The program offers four different scholarships, of varying lengths and monthly stipends. The monthly stipends awarded range from NT$25,000 (about US$770) to NT$30,000 (about US$900). Applicants can apply for the Undergraduate, Master’s, Doctoral or the Pre-degree Mandarin Language Enrichment Program (LEP) Scholarships.

The LEP scholarship is a one-year scholarship intended for the recipient to study Mandarin Chinese. However, the award may be extended if the student continues on to another accredited program. The undergraduate scholarship is for a maximum of 4 years. Both LEP and the undergraduate scholarships provide a monthly stipend of about US$770. The graduate scholarships offer a slightly more generous scholarship of about US$900 a month.

Applicants accepted onto the master’s program can get the scholarship for a maximum of 2 years, while the doctoral program students can receive the stipend for up to 3 years. Applicants who wish to learn more about this program should visit:
. Applicants living in the state of Alaska, Northern California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington or Wyoming must send their completed documents to the Ministry of Education’s regional office in San Francisco before the deadline:

Attention: MOE Language Scholarship
Cultural Division
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco
555 Montgomery Street, Ste. 503
San Francisco, CA

Interest applicants can also contact Jerry Chen at or

Who cares about Albert Schweitzer?

With less students studying in the United States, Taiwan could easily lose its high standings in the Chinese community according to business leaders and scholars meeting at the 7th Summit of Chinese Business Leaders in Taipei. Among other things, the summit last month dealt with the decreasing international views of Taiwanese students.

Another critic was National Central University professor Daisy Lan Hung who wrote an article critical of the medical college students at National Taiwan University (NTU) for reading fewer books. Most of them have no clue of Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s country of origins. She said, “The students are not used to reading. They don’t have any role model in their minds to follow, and don’t know what to do in their future life. It is worrisome that, at a time of strong international competition, our college students don’t feel such a pressure.”

In response to the criticisms from the “senior generation,” the NTU medical students gathered on November 30th to address Hung’s criticism. Others responded to Hung in their blogs, with one saying, “I’d rather my doctors knew nothing about Dr. Schweitzer, and more about disease treatment.” Another student said it was too shallow for a student to study medicine just for the sake of admiring a certain famous doctor. What’s wrong with someone who is interested in studying medicine only after having read the Japanese comics “Dr. Black Jack” or “Team Medical Dragon” which incorporates medical science in the storyline? Is he not qualified to study medicine?”

“Actually I know many people who can make eloquent comments on international events, but are rather shallow on matters requiring soul searching,” wrote a blogger from NTU’s history department. Billy Pan also responded in his blog. “Taiwan’s education can no longer force the old traditional ways that gentlemen took before. We need diversification, mutual respect, and tolerance now. Don’t tell me about global competition. No matter how excellent the students at Beijing University are, they still would be crushed and run over by tanks at Tiananmen Square.”

Another strong denunciation came from Chen Hung-hsin of National Chengchi University. Times have changed, and during this worldwide recession, it is almost impossible for young Taiwanese born after 1970 like meto enjoy the benefit of an economic take-off or to make a profit easily. “Many people made a fortune in the early days either by maintaining special connections with the government or by being granted a monopoly of certain resources. It is really rare to see someone of that time make a fortune himself by excelling in business management. It is almost impossible now to repeat those successes….The internet gets faster and faster. We are in a more open and democratic society. Competition gets tenser. The young Taiwanese around me are full of creativity and energy. They have piles of lovely ideas. I don’t think modern Taiwanese youth have lost their competitive power at all.”

A different student perspective came from Peng Chen-wei, a law student at Soochow University. He believes students in Taiwan are not so sure of their roles. “They are strong in blaming others, weak in self-criticism,” he said.

In defense of the students, Fu Jen University professor Huei-ya Lin wrote a letter to the Liberty Times, saying, “If students asked us whether we have read the books they are reading, and in case we have not, can they say we read too little? Who has the right to decide what books are good or not?”

In a diversified society like Taiwan, the question “Does it matter medical college students have no idea where Dr. Albert Schweitzer is from?” will get hundreds of different responses.

Overhauling Taiwan’s education system

Taiwan’s education system has produced students with some of the highest test scores in the world, especially in math. However, it has often been criticized for putting too much emphasis on scores, too much pressure on students, and sacrificing creativity in favor of rote memorization. Taiwan’s educational reforms have changed this, but not necessarily all for the better.

Until 2001, passing the yearly joint entrance examination was the only path to Taiwan’s colleges and universities. The test was critical since Taiwan only had 50 universities and colleges with space for 250,000 students in the 1990s. With only one way in, tremendous pressure were put on students to attain the highest possible score in the exams.

Change to Taiwan’s college entry

With the end of martial law in 1987, the Taiwanese people began asking for more democracy, and educational reform was a natural progression. They demanded reforms that would prioritize reason over memorization and reduce the emphasis on central control and standardized testing.

In 2002, Taiwan finally modified the joint entrance exam, adopting a new “multi-track admission program.” One choice involved taking the General Scholastic Ability Test at the beginning of the year or the Department Requirement Test held in July. After the first test, students received their scores and then pay to apply to individual universities. On the “Selection of Universities” track, applicants were also interviewed by professors to gauge additional abilities on top of the test scores. The second track involved taking the test and being notified of admission based on the test scores.

On average, there are 140,000 students taking the general scholastic ability test, 110,000 taking the department request test, and another 180,000 taking the joint exam for the two-year junior colleges and four-year vocational colleges. The new multi-track admission program was not without its critics

New system favors the well off

Professor Chu Hao-ming of National Cheng-chi University wrote an article in the United Daily News saying that the government has adopted this multi-track admission program with the intention of correcting the shortcomings of the old system by giving students more choice, but this also has limited the admission of students from poorer families to universities.

Students from well off families can spend more time and energy trying to maximize their scores. They can attend cram classes or take extracurricular lessons on the piano or violin, go overseas to study a foreign language and need not worry about the cost of application fees. These are luxuries that are out of reach for students from poorer families, who have to work to help support their families. With less time and money, their acquired skills are also different, more likely to take up the guitar or play basketball.

Professor Luo Chu-ping of National Taiwan University expressed a similar view in the Taipei-based China Times. From his experience interviewing students applying for admission to the agricultural economy department last year, he saw a troubling trend. Of the 50 applicants, 70 percent came from rich families in Taipei City or County and they graduated from the better-known schools. Their parents were university professors, medical doctors, private business owners or mutual fund managers. None were from farming or blue-collar families. He urged the government to pay closer attention and to take corrective measures to help offset this disparity.

Current system not sustainable

In 1994, the Ministry of Education began allowing new schools to open and some colleges to become universities. This eventually led to an overabundance of colleges and universities on the island, now numbering 162. Taiwan cannot sustain 162 universities, according to the United Evening News.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s declining birthrate has had a severe impact on the vacancy enrollment of universities in the last couple of years. High school graduates still struggle to enter the prestigious schools, like National Taiwan University, and ignore the lowend schools. The universities with less than 50 percent enrollment rate have increased from 11 in 2008 to 25 in 2009. Based on a 2 percent increase rate per year, the Ministry of Education predicts the enrollment vacancy will reach 71,000 in 2021.

It will only get worse with Taiwan’s declining birth rate. The number of universities will be further reduced to around 100, meaning about 60 schools will be closed due to a lack of students. Education Minister Wu Ching-ji said the ministry has been engaged in planning an exit strategy and transition for those schools.

Not all bad

Associate Professor Hsieh Kuo-rong of I-Shou University in Kaohsiung saw a new opportunity emerging from the potential closure of colleges. He wrote a column in the China Times about Wenzao Foreign Language College in Kaohsiung, which has bucked the bankruptcy trend. In fact, its enrollment has increased exponentially.

Wenzao has continued to invest in campus construction. At the reading rooms of the library, they use Chinese living room design. They provide power wheelchair access for disabled students – the first of its kind in Taiwan. All the departments there are equipped with resource rooms, including small libraries and satellite televisions. There is an “English Park,” “European Union Park,” “Asian Language Park,” “Chinese Park” so as to present an international learning environment. Teachers’ enthusiasm and dedication also contributes to the rising enrollment rate, according to Hsieh.

There is also some good news about Taiwan’s higher education. For the first time, National Taiwan University is listed among the top 100 universities in the world by the UK’s Times Higher Education. It jumped to 95th place from 124th in 2008. Education Minister Wu said this might be the result of the NT$50 billion (US$1.53 billion) budget in five years allocated to Taiwan’s universities.

Cross-strait harmony boosts student exchanges

The rapprochement across the Taiwan Strait has enabled more mainland students to study in Taiwan. Whereas before President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008, exchanges were mainly one-sided (Taiwan to China); the recent improved relationship between the two countries has resulted in an influx of mainland students. As with increases of tourist numbers visiting from China, Taiwan hopes to reap similar rewards by allowing Chinese students further access to the island’s universities.

A win-win situation

The increase in the numbers of mainland exchange students is a direct result of the relaxation of travel regulations by the Taiwan’s Ministry of Education (MOE) and the lengthening of study times from four months to one year from October 2008. With island-wide college enrollment waning to match Taiwan’s declining birth rate the increase in student enrollment from the mainland is a boon for Taiwan’s universities.

The Taipei-based China Times reported that the opening of Taiwan’s colleges to mainland students could be worth NT$20 billion (US$615 million). There are at least 30 million Chinese seeking higher education degrees, including 3.8 million students this year who failed to pass China’s college entrance examination, 25 million vocational school graduates, and those who are working but without college degrees. Lengthening the allowable study time will allow Taiwan’s schools to tap this underserved population.

Three waves of mainland students

Yuan Chih University president Peng Chong-ping has witnessed previous waves of students arriving from mainland China. He divides the previous waves into three periods. The first was in the 1980s when a small number of mainlanders came to Taiwan for a short period of academic exchange. The second wave was around 1998 when Peng was dean of Studies at National Tsing Hua University. He helped to realize the first academic exchange between his school and “Chun-tsung Endowment” which provided funding for mainland students to visit Taiwan for six to eight weeks. The third period began in 2008 when mainland students were allowed to study for up to one year, enough time to achieve something meaningful.

According to statistics from the MOE, there were 857 mainland exchange students enrolled for at least four months in Spring 2009. Together with those who stayed for shorter periods of between two to four months, making a total of 3000 in the first half of 2009, an increase of 50 percent over the same period in 2008.

“Virtuous competition”

In studying this new trend, the Global View Monthly uses the term “Virtuous competition” to describe the increased student population from the mainland. At National Taiwan University in Taipei, there were 62 mainland Chinese students enrolled for the Spring 2009 semester. Among them was Wang Zhercheng, a biology student from Fudan University, Shanghai, China, who studied in Taiwan for two months. While in Taipei, he traveled extensively and enjoyed the inexpensive dining available in the Gongguan area. Indistinguishable from any other video-obsessed local boy, Wang enjoyed his stay in Taiwan very much. He likes Taiwanese web fiction, listens to songs by pop star Jolin Tsai, and plays e-games developed in Taiwan. With a workload of only eight units, he spent the remainder of his free time learning about and experiencing Taiwanese culture.

Zeng Hua is another student from the mainland. Hua, a graduate student of interdisciplinary studies in the Sculpture Arts Department at Chongqing University, Sichuan, China came to study at Yuan Chih University. There he switched his major and began studying under a fluid dynamics professor in the mechanical engineering department. Under this professor he began to create new fluid sculpture with flow patterns.

I Shou University president Fu Shen-li points out the admission of mainland students to Taiwan’s campuses has created “virtuous competition” between Taiwanese students and their Chinese counterparts. For example, mainland students are usually punctual to arrive in class. They take the front seats and raise their hands quickly to ask questions. Taiwanese students are very different. They arrive late, take the middle seats and are shy to ask questions. However, Fu has observed a subtle rivalry between the Taiwanese students who have no wish to fall behind their Chinese counterparts.

According to China’s MOE, there were 180,000 students studying abroad with their own funds last year. This number is expected to increase to 200,000 in 2010. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are about 20,000 Chinese students in South Korea, and roughly that many in Japan as well.

Exchange not about money, but peace making

The former chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Shih Ming-te told the United Daily News that he does not see this as a NT$20 billion (US$609.8 million) business opportunity. Rather, the young students from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should learn the political and economic systems of one another’s countries to help pave the way for a more peaceful co-existence.

In an editorial, The Economic Daily stressed that education is an expression of a nation’s soft power, because it combines the social system, lifestyle and values. In short, education reflects the core of a culture. After exchanges of business, trade and tourism, the logical progression is cultural interchange, with higher education exchanges forming an indispensable part.

Three restrictions and six nos

Despite lowering some barriers, Taiwan still imposes many restrictions on mainland students coming to Taiwan. According to Taiwan’s MOE, it maintains a “Three Restrictions, Six Nos” policy toward mainland Chinese students. The “Three Restrictions” sets a quota so only top tier students are allowed to study in limited subjects. The “Six Nos” means they are not eligible for scholarships, extra points on applications and work off campus. Their admission should not affect current school enrollment. Furthermore, mainland students cannot take license exams or seek employment in Taiwan after graduation. At the same time, Taiwan currently allows Chinese students to study at any public or private graduate schools, but undergraduates can only go to private universities or colleges.

Also, for students who study for more than six months in Taiwan, they must enroll at a college/university with “sister relations” with a school in China. According to Chou Yi-shun of Taiwan’s MOE, currently 115 out of 147 Taiwanese schools have signed “sister school relations contracts” with 302 Chinese counterparts, resulting in 1039 sister school contracts. Based on the enrollments, the top five schools are I-Shou University, National Taiwan University, National Cheng Kung University, National Tsing Hua University and Feng Chia University.

According to the China Times, other countries in Asia offer far greater latitude for mainland students studying aboard. Countries like South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong offer Chinese students scholarships, work opportunities, permanent residence, and even citizenship. Talented Chinese students, according to the paper, are not interested in coming to Taiwan for advanced studies.

Mainland luring Taiwan’s students

Meanwhile, the United Daily News reported that the China’s MOE has created a groundbreaking rule by allowing Taiwanese high school graduates who have passed Taiwan’s college entrance examination to apply directly to mainland colleges. Taiwanese colleges not only face internal competition, but also competition from the Chinese mainland now.

The paper said some of the Chinese schools that have excellent reputations in science and engineering are listed as top tier universities and get high budget allocations from the government. Besides having excellent professors, their software and hardware facilities are competitive. They also have exchange programs with well-known universities in Europe and America. If offered a scholarship, it might prove too tempting for Taiwanese students to resist. However, some students interviewed by the paper said they would stay with National Taiwan University if admitted instead of going to Beijing University.

Dual recognition of qualifications

Both the United Daily News and the Economic Daily urge the government to take more initiative in leading mutual academic exchanges, including recognizing the diplomas issued by some of the distinguished mainland schools and increasing the quota of Chinese students allowed to study in Taiwan.

In order to avoid being swallowed by China, Taiwan has to find the solutions to these complex issues and not allow talented Taiwanese students to be lured away, according to the paper. How the government responds to the issue of student exchange is likely to impact further exchanges in the airline industry, banking and other sectors.

Taiwan currently enjoys little advantage in trade and business over China, but it does have greater freedoms and democracy on its side, these are perhaps Taiwan’s best assets. Allowing greater educational exchanges is a winning strategy that can only lead to greater understanding on both sides. Taiwan has no reason to be afraid of coping with the challenges from China. College campuses on both sides are new platforms where reason and idealism can prevail, creating a new civilized model for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous society.