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Gov't pushes for national university mergers

The China Post news staff--The Ministry of Education (MOE) will actively move to promote mergers among national universities to counter the steady decline in the number of students caused by the increasingly low birth rate and to better integrate university education resources, according to MOE officials.

The MOE has worked out a set of regulations governing the mergers of universities, and will set up a merger screening committee to screen merger plans filed by national universities, with the committee to be headed by the education minister or the political vice minister.

In addition, the MOE has also amended the University Act to drop the regulation that stipulates university merger plans should be approved by academic affairs meetings for national universities. The amendment was ratified by the Legislative Yuan.

Based on the revised Act, the MOE can directly propose a merger plan of national universities to the Executive Yuan for approval after taking into account factors including the overall development of higher education, the distribution of educational resources, the geographic conditions of the relevant universities and other related issues.

MOE officials said that Taiwan now boasts the highest density of universities in the world, with a total of 162 universities, including 53 national universities and 109 private ones on a land area of only 36,000 square kilometers.

As it runs counter to the R.O.C. Constitution for the Ministry of Education to request mergers of private universities, the ministry has no other choice but to carry out mergers of national universities to cope with the growing difficulty in recruiting new students as a result of the ever-declining birth rate.

Ho Cho-fei, director of the Department of Higher Education under the MOE, said that the education ministry will move to study the feasibility of mergers between national universities in accordance with the scale of universities involved, their respective academic fields, education resources allocated to students, and geographic conditions, in a bid to secure an optimal scale of economy for the expanded universities.

In addition, national universities in remote areas such as National Taitung University and National Penghu University of Science and Technology won't be merged.

Over the past few years, planned mergers among some national universities have failed to proceed smoothly, including the merger between National Taiwan University and National Taipei University of Education; National Tsing Hua University and National Hsinchu University of Education; as well as National Cheng Kung University and Tainan National University of the Arts.

For instance, the merger between National Tsing Hua University and National Hsinchu University ofa Education was submitted to the Ministry of Education as early as 2006, but both universities failed to reach a consensus on how to carry out the merger, the official name of the merged university, and the personnel arrangement.

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