Too many graduates devalue university, Taiwan warns

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 March, 2013, 3:43am

Hong Kong education chiefs have been warned to remember the hard lessons learned in Taiwan before rapidly increasing the number of university places.

A senior Taiwan education official described the "side effects" of a quick expansion of availability in tertiary courses over the past century.

Tony Lin said the abundance of places had undermined the quality of degrees and created a skill mismatch in the job market.

"If I were to advise my Hong Kong government counterparts, I would say do not increase the number of places too quickly," said Lin, director general of the Taiwan Ministry of Education's department of international and cross-strait education.

Taiwan is now reducing the number of its universities.

"Elitism has its values," Lin noted.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim has suggested 70 per cent of secondary school leavers will have a chance to pursue tertiary education by 2015 - 30 per cent on degree courses, with others pursuing sub-degree or other post-secondary programmes.

Lin said Taiwan's reforms had led to an almost 100 per cent university entrance rate, with many students also undertaking post-graduate programmes.

"We would not like to see low-ranking jobs that only require a high school education flooded by applicants with PhDs," he said.

Taiwan now plans to reduce its number of universities from 163 to 110 by encouraging some to merge, and is focusing on attracting more foreign students, Lin said.

He advised that Hong Kong - which has one-third the population of Taiwan - should not have more than 20 universities.