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June 27, 2017

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Student numbers drop by 40 percent in 15 years

Taiwan's declining birth rate will take a toll on college enrollment, as the Ministry of Education (MOE) predicted Wednesday that the number of students entering university and other higher education institutes would drop close to 40 percent by 2028.

At the Legislature's Education and Culture Committee, Deputy Minister of Education Yao Leehter (姚立德) reported that the number of incoming university bachelor freshmen and vocational colleges would drop by 40 percent to 723,000 in 2028 — 413,000 fewer than enrollment rates in 2013.

Drops in enrollment are predicted to continue the trend of institutional belt-tightening, including cuts in instructor hiring, school closures and mergers. School lands are likely to be left unused,

causing a waste of higher education resources, Yao said, warning that universities and

colleges should "begin thinking about an exit plan."

As higher education has become more accessible, the number of well-educated unemployed has increased, with many businesses claiming today's graduates do not fit the requirements of a modern workplace.

Update Education for Industry

The MOE is set to launch a project assisting vocational high school students in entering the job market immediately after graduation, in order to close the gap between education and industry.

A flexible department-altering system would be established, Yao said, to allow university departments to change their teaching materials and content to catch up with the latest business trends.

The Democratic Progressive Party's Su Chiao-hui (蘇巧慧) questioned the fact that government funds for private universities differ greatly from those for public universities.

She said that a regular public university receives three times the funding of a private university, while a regular public school student gets 2.2 times that a private school student gets.

"The difference in resources at school impacts students' opportunities in their careers," Su said.

In response, Yao said the ministry has increased private universities' funding to NT$8 billion this year, while promising that the ministry would solve the issue with continuous yearly increases.

However, in terms of an exit plan for no longer-viable institutions, Yao said that the ministry is currently sketching up a draft regulation for private universities reform and exit.

For schools performing poorly, the ministry will enhance supervision and assistance, while providing pensions for the schools' professors and staff.

A trust fund of NT$5 billion will be set up to help universities' reform and exit plans.

One of the exit options included a merger. But, while school mergers have been advantageous in the past, they face growing challenges due to overlapping offerings and differing institutional cultures.

Yao said it was necessary to strengthen the programs unique to institutions while working more closely with industry. He added that it was important for institutions to collaborate before considering mergers.

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