Taiwan universities at risk of closure as student numbers plummet
An oversupply of university openings in the past 30 years has resulted in more Taiwanese youth graduating with degrees, but not necessarily with strong results or skills for the workplace. Source: Shutterstock

If Taiwan’s low birth rate persists, the number of students enrolling in the country’s higher education institutions will fall by almost 40 percent by 2028, which may result in more school mergers or closures, warns Taiwan’s Education Ministry.

According to China Post, Deputy Education Minister Yao Leehter told the country legislature’s Education and Culture Committee on Wednesday the number of prospective undergraduates in universities and vocational colleges could drop to 723,000 in slightly more than a decade’s time. That means nearly half a million fewer students will be enrolling than it had been in 2013.

Yao told universities and colleges to “begin thinking about an exit plan”.

Falling enrolment will also cause more institutional belt-tightening, such as less funding for hiring instructors and more unused school lands.

A NT$5 billion (US$165 million) trust fund will be set up to manage or close poorly performing schools. The fund will aid students and faculty members of schools that will be closed to continue their studies or work elsewhere.

The ministry’s reaction is due to Taiwan’s “education bubble”, which has been brewing for more than three decades. An oversupply of university openings in the past 30 years, led by the government’s aggressive campaign for more “high-tech talents“, has resulted in more Taiwanese youth graduating with degrees, but not necessarily with strong results or skills for the workplace.

As a result, these graduates struggle to find stable jobs, while Taiwanese local businesses are unable to find qualified workers.

To fix this problem, the Education Ministry is set to launch plans to improve how universities prepare its students to enter the job market, including increased funding of up to NT$8 billion for private universities.

“The difference in resources at school impacts students’ opportunities in their careers,” the Democratic Progressive Party’s Su Chiao-hui said.

In addition to helping institutions, the government will set in place a flexible department-altering system to allow university departments to update their teaching materials with the latest business trends.

This will strengthen the programmes unique to institutions while working more closely with the industry, Yao said.

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