In five years, 65 of Taiwan's 165 universities will have to bemerged or closed, as a 20 percent decline in admissions is expectedover that period, according to an official at the Ministry ofEducation (MOE).
Given Taiwan's falling birth rate, its current university studentpopulation of 1.34 million is about to shrink despite the ministry'sefforts to recruit foreign students.
To meet the target of reducing the number of universities to 100,public schools with a student body smaller than 10,000 will mostlikely have to face mergers, said Ho Cho-fei, head of the MOE'sDepartment of Higher Education.
The amended University Act, which was passed on Jan. 10, givesthe MOE the power to mandate mergers of public universities.
In the past, voluntary mergers between public universities haveproduced poor results. The only two successful examples were thecreation of National Chiayi University though a merger between ateachers' college and a technology school in 2000, and National Dong Hwa University's absorption of a local college in 2008.
"Taiwan needs only 10 top research universities for its 10 percentelite students -- other schools should provide professional trainingbased on industry demand, " said Shaw Jei-fu, president of NationalChung Hsing University.
Ho said that world-class universities each need 25,000-35,000students to become economies of scale. Except for National TaiwanUniversity, which has a student body of 33,000, the studentpopulation at most schools is below 20,000, he said.
At an annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Association forInternational Education in Taipei in March, strategy guru KenichiOhmae said schools should try to create a unique brand and find aniche to attract students in certain fields.
In Taiwan, nursing schools and sports colleges are the primepotential candidates for mergers, but several general educationaluniversities have also been discussing possible integration.
There are some small private schools that do not have to worry about their future because they have stable economic resources, but most Taiwan universities will face their toughest challenge in the coming decade, which could eliminate schools that do not have a size or brand advantage. (CommonWealth 469)(translated by Kay Liu)