Taipei, Sept. 28 (CNA) Education Minister Wu Ching-ji said Wednesday that the government will step up efforts to attract students from abroad to local universities in a bid to make the country a stronghold of higher education in East Asia. Citing a previous comment by President Ma Ying-jeou, Wu said Taiwan, with its scant natural resources, has relied on human resources for its development, and education has played a major role. "Globalization has been the core idea of the world's higher education reforms. Exchanges of international students have become a trend in globalization of higher learning," Wu said. Every year, 10 million students around the globe travel overseas to study, Wu said, and the president has seen the opportunities that flow of people has created for Taiwan's educational institutions. The country's universities have achieved a quality level that should be attractive to foreign students, Wu said.
The education minister contended that Taiwan's universities were competitive academically and the country is among the top four in the world, along with Australia, Germany and Japan, in technical and vocational education. Also, 10 Taiwanese universities were included in a list of world's top 500 universities for 2011 published by the United Kingdom-based QS education network, with National Taiwan University (NTU) the top-ranked Taiwanese school at 87th. "We hope that in the second five-year, NT$50 billion program for selected universities, NTU will be able to break into the top 50," Wu said.
Based on the contribution of foreign students to educational sectors in other countries, Wu felt there was plenty of room for growth in Taiwan's higher education sector. Taiwan currently has 44,000 foreign students who generate NT$17 billion in revenue, far behind the NT$600 billion earned by the United States, the NT$500 billion earned by Britain, and the NT$300 billion earned by Australia from foreign students, he said. Wu acknowledged, however, that there remained obstacles deterring foreign students to study in Taiwan, especially restrictions on internships and working after students complete their studies.
One of the best opportunities for Taiwan, Wu said, was strong demand for Chinese language (Mandarin) education around the world. But that opportunity is being threatened by the continued expansion of China's Confucius Institute and its Chinese proficiency test in Southeast Asian countries, which have limited the impact of Taiwan's promotion of teaching Chinese and its own language proficiency test, Wu said. (By Lee Shu-hua and Lilian Wu) Enditem/ls