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Taiwanese Universities

Curricula for Taiwanese Enterprises that have Branched out across the Globe


Curricula for Taiwanese Enterprises that have Branched out across the Globe


With a Southeast Asian economic boom fueling demand for business professionals, Taiwan's universities are recruiting large numbers of Southeast Asian students in what has become a new, lucrative trend.



Curricula for Taiwanese Enterprises that have Branched out across the Globe

By Alice Ting
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 373 )

"Scribbling ungainly Chinese characters, V? Danh Nhân hurries to finish answering the questions in his end-of-term exam before the school bell rings. Stretching his hunched back, he glances at the burning hot summer sun outside the window. V? ponders whether he should use the summer break to reunite with his long-missed parents in Vietnam.

A Vietnamese national, V? studies at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management of National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences. Three years ago his businessman father suggested that he study in Taiwan, arguing, “Taiwan has an economic structure similar to that of Vietnam, based mainly on small- and mid-sized enterprises, so there will be a lot of things you can learn.”

NguyenTrung Thành, who also hails from Vietnam, had another motive for coming to Taiwan: “I want to find a very good job.” Aware that many Taiwanese companies have invested in Vietnam, Nguyen thought that he needed to seize that opportunity. And his calculation should prove right. Directly after graduating from the university’s Department of Mold and Die Engineering with a master’s degree in July this year, he will become a manager at a Taiwanese factory in Vietnam.

In recent years the number of Southeast Asian students like V? and Nguyen flocking to Taiwan for studies has soared, thanks to the economic boom in Southeast Asia and encouraged by massive Taiwanese investment in the region.

Meanwhile, Southeast Asian students account for the largest contingent of foreign students in Taiwan, namely, 45 percent or 1,757 students, according to Ministry of Education statistics for school year 2006. Moreover, while in the past the vast majority of foreign students studied Chinese or history, the new generation of overseas students is gravitating to more practically oriented business schools and engineering colleges. 

Eying Southeast Asia’s vast potential education market, the Ministry of Education in 2003 proposed a plan to double the number of foreign students in Taiwan, with a goal of reaching 13,000 by 2012. Mu-Lin Lu, political deputy minister of education, notes: “To a certain degree we need to regard education as an industry that must be competitive.”

In that regard the emerging economies of Southeast Asia, which are on an industrial and commercial development course similar to Taiwan’s, are a major target.

Vo-Tech Colleges Take the Lead

Since Taiwanese enterprises have a strong need for overseas talent, the Ministry of Education encourages vocational and technical colleges, which are geared toward practical professional skills, to spearhead the talent cultivation drive.

National Kaohsiung University for Applied Sciences was the first school in Taiwan to establish special programs for overseas students. The Vietnam MBA course established at the university’s Graduate Institute of Commerce in 2003 integrates the resources of the Nantze Export Processing Zone in Kaohsiung and the Tainan Science Park, and succeeded in attracting 20 lecturers from Hanoi University of Business and Technology to come and study at their own costs.

After successfully building up its reputation, the university gradually expanded the scope of its special programs for students from Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Department of Mold and Die Engineering has added masters programs in mold and die engineering research that are “custom-made” to satisfy the human-resource needs of Taiwanese businesses in Vietnam. Various companies including electronics maker Mitac International, notebook manufacturer Compal Electronics, and chemical equipment maker Asia Giant Engineering have already knocked on the school’s door to recruit graduates.

“Students who have been educated at our school will know what the expectations are. Therefore, it is easier for companies to communicate with them,” says Chengter Ted Ho, director of the university’s Vietnam Economics Research Center.

Taking the School to the Students

Going a step further, the Ministry of Education in 2004 allowed Taiwanese universities to open special courses in Southeast Asia, making it easier for Taiwanese businesses “to recruit talent locally.” Deputy Education Minister Lu points out the advantages of cultivating talent in the country of recruitment. “Locally hired executives need to come to Taiwan to learn the language and culture, but they are a minority. If the average technician or engineer remains locally, the costs are lower, and the volume larger.”

Universities have been quite enthusiastic in their response. National University of Kaohsiung has set up an international executive master of business administration (IEMBA) program in Vietnam, while Shu-te University in Kaohsiung County opened non-accredited graduate courses in business management in Malaysia last year and will launch a master’s course in information management in Vietnam this year. Chaoyang University of Technology in central Taiwan is also planning to open an information management course in Vietnam. As the Southeast Asian economies gain steam, recruiting Southeast Asian students has become a new trend.

This Southeast Asia craze is now also engulfing the comprehensive universities. At National Taiwan University, Southeast Asian students, mainly from Vietnam, already account for one third of the foreign student body this year. Tung Shen, director of the university’s Center for International Academic Exchanges, notes that demand for engineers is very strong in Vietnam. Therefore, the university has begun to “design a special program that Vietnam can use,” making preliminary plans for an international course at the Department of Civil Engineering.

National Taiwan Normal University, however, explored a different path, gunning for the Chinese-language education market in Thailand. Since last year the university has dispatched more than 50 faculty members to teach Chinese at Thai schools of all levels.

National Cheng Kung University in Tainan has founded a forum that brings together the presidents of Taiwanese and Southeast Asian universities. The forum achieves considerable synergy by pooling the resources of more than 20 universities in Taiwan and a total of 42 Southeast Asian universities, from such countries as Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand.

Jenny Su, the university’s vice president for international affairs, is optimistic that the large influx of Southeast Asian students will also bring different ways of thinking that will have a direct impact on Taiwanese academia. Su believes that the thinking of teachers and students alike will become more open-minded and pluralistic. This virtuous circle might help improve Taiwanese students’ international competitiveness. “International competitiveness is not just a matter of language skills and professional capabilities, but also means knowing where the world is,” she says.

“The universities have connected to the world and the world has linked the universities,” Su adds. As the economies of Southeast Asia take off, Taiwan’s institutes of higher education are going international, following in the tracks of Taiwanese enterprises that have branched out across the globe.

Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz"