Five Exemplars of

Developing International Competitiveness by Pursuing Higher Education in Taiwan

Spanning eight countries in four continents - Japan, South Korea, the United States, Canada, Austria, France, New Zealand, and Australia

Attracting participants from medical science, bio-resources, agriculture, industrial design, mechatronic engineering, management, general education, and life sciences

Field surveys covering Dazhi in Taipei, the Sizi Bay in Kaohsiung, and the Huadong Valley

In-depth reporting on Taiwanese students‘ international competitiveness at the campus without borders

Chief Editor: Kiara Fu
Media Coordinator: Chih-Wei Hung
Text: Hsin-Yi Chen
Photography: Wen-Feng Xu, Cheng-Hsien Hsieh,
Amos Chiang, Nelly Chen, and Chih-Wei Hung

“Taiwan’s higher education is still of excellent quality in the face of fierce international competition. It’s a bit of a pity seeing some Taiwanese high-school students studying abroad right after graduation.”

This September, a senior secretary at National Taiwan University shared her perceptive observation with us. She gained extensive work experience in the central and local governments, and has engaged in international higher education affairs for more than a decade. What has been puzzling her is why the Taiwanese society became doubtful about its higher education’s strength overnight, and why the news on brain drain as well as outflows of teachers and top students spread like wildfire.

Is the outlook for Taiwan’s higher education really gloomy?

The strength of a country’s higher education directly affects the willingness of foreign higher education institutions to cooperate with it. According to official statistics of the Ministry of Education, Taiwan’s universities and colleges have signed a total of 17,797 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) between 1966 and 2015 with their counterparts in 106 countries around the world, and over 30% of these institutions are located in the United States, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

Over 70% of higher education exchange between Taiwan and foreign countries are substantial cooperation.

[Table 1] The distribution of MoU types in percentage (1966-2017.9)

The top three types of these MoUs are sister university partnerships, student exchange programs, and academic research projects. Of all the types of international collaborations, transnational dual degree program is the most popular, which accounts currently for 4% of the total and its number is increasing.

There has been more than a tenfold increase in the number of dual degree MoU over the past decade.

[Table 2] The growing trend in the volume of academic cooperation

Over the past decade, academic research projects, industry-academia collaboration, summer schools, and Mandarin programs for international students have become popular MoU types in addition to transnational dual degree programs. Moreover, Taiwan enjoys an increasingly diverse student body from all over the world which approximates 120,000 in the number of international students.

The number of international students in Taiwan was 30,000 ten years ago, and it’s approaching 120,000 in 2017/18.

[Table 3] The growing trend of international student body in Taiwan

Source: The Department of Statistics and the Department of International and Cross-strait Education, Ministry of Education
Data compiled by Kiara Fu, Manager of Bilateral Collaborations , FICHET

Domestically, Taiwan is indeed hit by the crises of sub-replacement fertility and the withdrawal of higher education institutions. Internationally, Taiwan is confronting unprecedented challenges from the global higher-education market and talent flows. However, by looking at the rising numbers of both higher education exchange and international student body, Taiwan’s higher education as a whole is unquestionably vigorous enough in tackling these radical challenges.

The steady accumulation of efforts by all practitioners in Taiwan’s higher education manifests itself in these statistical data and the sheer vitality the data reflect.

The original intention behind the Call for Best-practiced Bilateral Collaboration, a special event organized by the Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education of Taiwan (FICHET) in March 2018, was to discover the abundant, heart-touching teacher-student interaction and comradeship among students.

An Interview with Tei-Wei Kuo, the Interim President of National Taiwan University

From a total of 40 entries to this event, we selected 5 stellar exemplars featuring the perfect fusion of innovation and reciprocal exchange, including

  1. the Multilateral Strategic Partnership between National Taiwan University and University of Tsukuba in Japan;
  2. the ACT Global Program among National Sun Yat-sen University, University of Victoria in Canada, and Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria;
  3. the Asia Summer University by Shih Chien University;
  4. the Industry-oriented Cross-disciplinary PBL Model by National Taipei University of Technology;
  5. the Taiwan-Aotearoa Connection: Austronesian Education Project by National Dong Hwa University.

This summer, FICHET’s executive officers Kiara Fu and Chih-Wei Hung, along with our media team, not only personally visited the five aforementioned academic institutions, but also interviewed their presidents, directors of international affairs, faculty members and students, thereby documenting their practical experience of internationalization from the dimensions of strategy, teaching, and learning.

The Strategic Dimension
Leadership’s Determination


The belief that “internationalization is a path we must tread” is almost shared by the leaderships of the five academic institutions. However, it not only entails huge operating budget and staff’s active engagement, but also requires a long gestation period. All these challenges have put the five institutions’ perseverance, sincerity, and strategy to the test.

The Teaching Dimension
Teachers’ Engagement


Believing in that “internationalization shall not be a minority privilege,” these teachers spared no effort to expand their course scale and accessibility, insofar as to awaken young people’s passion and sense of mission, in hopes that their horizons of life can be ergo widened.

The Learning Dimension
Students’ Gains


Taking international exchange courses of all stripes, students developed their global mindset, followed by the improvement of their self-confidence, a clearer vision for their future, and the increase of their employability in the competitive job market.

As far as universities and colleges are concerned, internationalization is as much a stiff challenge as a must, which relies heavily on the leadership’s knowledge and experience, resource availability, staff’s engagement, and teachers’ passionate devotion. These nutrients will be the most precious backing for the young generation in Taiwan against the heightened international competition, enabling them to confront the world fearlessly.

The five exemplars we selected this year will show you how to develop international competitiveness by pursuing higher education in Taiwan through various ways such as dual degree program, overseas training, student exchange, or short-term study tour.

As a case in our field surveys exemplifies, the 9-month intensive and hectic schedule of the ACT Global Program, which required the participants to take courses in Canada, Taiwan and Austria, opened up new horizons for Chu-Hsuan Chang, a student from National Sun Yat-sen University. As a German major, Chang originally thought that working in Germany would be her only career option. However, after completing the program, she realized that there are many career options open to her. “Now I feel that I can work in whichever country,” she said.

Taiwan’s higher education should not sell itself short in the face of global competition. Instead, it shall guide students to demonstrate the full scale of their boldness in taking up exciting new challenges.

Text / Chih-Wei Hung and Kiara Fu