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More college graduates seeking master's degrees

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A sharply increasing number of graduates from universities or colleges are taking the entrance examinations in February or March this year in order to study at graduate schools for master's degrees.

The National Taiwan University in Taipei will hold its examination on Saturday with a record number of 23,546 candidates participating. Officials said the number represents a steep increase of more than 2,000 exam takers from 2008.

The National Cheng Kung University in southern Tainan City will have more than 20,000 candidates in the test set for early March. This is the sixth year with participants exceeding the 20,000 mark.

Other top schools, including the National Chengchi University in Taipei and the National Chiao Tung University in Hsinchu, reported that more than 10,000 college graduates have registered for upcoming exams.

Analysts said the economic downturn that has squeezed job opportunity is one of the major factors for more college graduates to seek master's degrees in order not to end up on the jobless list.

College graduates now have to spend longer time to land on their first formal job after leaving school in summer.

Many university graduates in Taiwan have not worked out concrete career plans and the study for master's degrees will buy them extra time to figure out future plans if they are not faced with financial pressure for the time being, analysts pointed out.

The ubiquitous college graduates produced by the large number of higher-learning institutions in Taiwan have turned themselves into high school graduates as in 20 years ago.

More major enterprises have now upgraded the qualifications of their employees to those holding master's degrees.

Some big companies have even limited applicants to those holding master's degrees conferred from selected top-echelon universities, the analysts said.

In order to win over the brightest students, the universities have continuously moved up the schedule for their entrance exams.

The NTU, the first choice for most graduates, was forced to schedule its exam right after the Lunar New Year holidays in order to attract more applicants.

The intensified competition has also spawned thriving business for cram schools that provide the service of helping graduates pass the entrance exams.

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