Cross-Strait Talent Competition Means Taipei Must Let Mainland Students In
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 25, 2011
The Mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office has announced that beginning this year, Mainland universities will recruit high school graduates from Taiwan without requiring them to take entrance exams. They will broaden their standards to include academic scores from Taiwan. According to estimates, 30,000 or more students on Taiwan will become eligible. Beijing University, Beijing Tsinghua University, Fudan University, and other prestigious Mainland universities will be among the 205 universities listed. Students may apply for admission without entrance exams. Those passing a live interview will be admitted and enrolled.
There is no denying that expanded Mainland recruitment of students from Taiwan will impact university education on Taiwan. The reason is simple. The Mainland is on the rise. Its annual growth rate exceeds eight or nine percent. Well-known universities the world over have all added "understanding of China" to their curriculum. The Mainland is vast. Although its universities are of mixed quality, many of them are famous and historic universities that rank among the world's finest. They have attracted considerable attention. The two sides have the same roots. Culture and language pose no barriers. Attending university there is relatively easy. For students from Taiwan, studying on the Mainland holds considerable appeal.
In addition, the Mainland market has great potential. Cross-Strait exchanges are increasingly close. For Taiwan, the Mainland has become an indispensable partner in economic and trade development. Students from Taiwan studying on the Mainland, can choose to stay on the Mainland or to return to Taiwan for future employment. They enjoy options. From the perspective of workplace diversity, studying on Mainland China also allows students to establish contacts for the future. Of course, another factor cannot be ignored. Tuition and fees for students studying on the Mainland are much lower than for students studying in Europe and the US.
In fact, in recent years more and more students from Taiwan are studying on the Mainland. Over 40% of the children of businessmen from Taiwan on the Mainland, are choosing to stay on the Mainland to study. Last year, for the first time, the Mainland admitted the top 12% of students from Taiwan, based on academic grades, into Mainland universities without requiring entrance exams. Eighty-three high school graduates were admitted to 37 Mainland universities. This year the Mainland has broadened its standards to include the top 25% of all students from Taiwwan. Any student able to gain admission to Fu Jen Catholic University may apply. As one can imagine, the number of students applying for admission to Mainland universities this year has exploded.
So what should the government do? This is more than a competition between schools. This is a competition for human resources. These young people will attend university. After completing their studies, they will become the vanguard of the labor market, They will also become the main force behind the nation's development. The probability of a brain drain has increased. At the same time, we lack the courage to open ourselves up. The Mainland has opened itself up to students from Taiwan, virtually without limits. Taiwan, on the other hand, persists in tying Mainland students hand and foot. We deny them scholarships. We deny them extra credits. We deny them the right to moonlight. We deny them professional certification after graduation. We deny them the opportunity to seek work on Taiwan. Superficially, these restrictions protect the interests of students on Taiwan. In fact they merely limit the possibilities for students from the Mainland. In other words, no matter how good universities on Taiwan might be, the incentive for outstanding students from the mainland to apply will be limited. The result can be imagined. The two sides are competing for outstanding university students. The numbers will rise and fall. The competitiveness of universities on Taiwan is certain to fall. Once it does, a vicious will begin, and they will find it increasingly difficult to attract the best students.
This is not merely a cross-Strait competition for talent. This is a global competition for talent. The Mainland has picked up its pace. Taiwan meanwhile, is spinning its wheels. The Ministry of Education boasts that "The quality of universities on Taiwan is better than those on the Mainland." "We recognize only 41 universites on the Mainland." "The two sides have a tacit understanding to recruit no more than 2000 students." Such whistling in the dark will not reverse our fortunes. Can superior private universities on Taiwan ignore competition from Beijing University, Tsinghua University, and Fudan University? Students from Taiwan studying on Mainland China may attend schools not recognized by the Ministry of Education, But university attendance does not mark the end academic life. The government may refuse to recognize their diplomas. But Europe and the United States will. After graduating from universities on the Mainland, students may seek advanced degrees in Europe or the US. They may or may not return to Taiwan to work or conduct research. Their academic credentials will not be an issue. Far more worrisome is the Ministry of Education's negativity. These outstanding young people may choose never to return. Doesn't that constitute a far greater loss to the nation? Forget the fact that the Ministry of Education lacks the wherewithal to verify whether the Mainland has admitted only 2000 students from Taiwan.
Time waits for no man. The Mainland is undergoing vigorous development. It is not about to wait for Taiwan to catch up. In the face of competition, the government must accelerate our opening up. We must adopt international standards. The Obama administration has decided to send 100,000 students a year to Mainland China. Hong Kong and Singapore are offering generous scholarships to Mainland students. Taipei's policy regarding Mainland students is in clear defiance of gobal trends. This highlights the serious lack of self-confidence on Taiwan.
We live in an era of global competition. National competitiveness is tied to individual competitiveness. The Mainland is rapidly catching up in all areas. It is displaying powerful ambitions. It is liberalizing in one area after another. Even Europe and America must remain vigilant. They cannot afford to take matters lightly. If we constantly tie our own hands, it will negatively impact higher education. it will harm the development of human resources on Taiwan. The government must adopt a more inclusive posture. It must contemplate its own globalization and regional integration. It must contemplate even the Mainland's role as it too undergoes globalization. We were once proud of the "Taiwan experience." We did not impose limits on ourselves. In the face of competition, we must once again open ourselves to the world. We must once again pick up the pace.