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Schools expand exchanges with Southbound nations

Source:2017-12-02 / Taipei Times / By Rachel Lin / Staff reporter

The government’s New Southbound Policy aims to establish people-to-people exchanges with ASEAN members, South Asian countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, and the Ministry of Education has set up resource centers to pursue academic exchanges and cooperation with nations in its scope.

According to the ministry’s Web site, on its instruction, seven Taiwanese universities have set up “resource centers” for economic and industry-academic cooperation that should cover Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, India and Thailand.

Each center targets a specific country, except for the one established by National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, which targets Malaysia, as well as Singapore.

In addition to the centers, Deputy Minister of Education Yao Leeh-ter (姚立德) said that the ministry has also established academic coalitions for cooperation and exchanges with targeted nations in engineering, medicine, business management, agriculture, education and the humanities.

National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU) president Cheng Ying-yao (鄭英耀), whose school in Kaohsiung is in charge of the resource center for the Philippines, said Philippine universities are highly interested in the Kaohsiung-based school’s colleges of engineering, science and marine sciences.

The geographical proximity of Kaohsiung to Manila is also conducive to academic exchanges between the two sides, Cheng said.

“It only takes 90 minutes to fly to Manila from Kaohsiung, which is even faster than taking a high-speed train from here to Taipei,” he added.

Except in Malaysia, about half of all teaching staff at universities in the targeted nations do not hold doctoral degrees, the university said, adding that it has been admitting lecturers from the Philippines who want to pursue PhDs in Taiwan.

Teachers from NSYSU’s College of Engineering have also set up a workshop in the Philippines to provide professional training for local lecturers, the school said.
National Chi Nan University president Olivier Su (蘇玉龍), whose university oversees the resource center for Myanmar, said its Entrance Committee for Overseas Chinese Students has more than two decades of experience interacting with schools in Myanmar.

“We have also signed cooperation agreements with several Burmese universities, establishing a branch office and exchange programs, and inviting guest lecturers and postdoctoral fellows,” Su said.

National Chung Hsing University (NCHU) has strong expertise in agriculture and has always maintained a close cooperative relationship with Thai universities, said Chen Mu-min (陳牧民), chairman of the Graduate Institute of International Politics, which is responsible for academic exchanges with Thailand.

As an example, Chen cited NCHU cooperating with the Thailand Royal Project Foundation to plant high-value vegetables and tea in areas that used to grow opium poppies in northern Thailand, to improve the livelihood of local farmers.

The university has also signed a memorandum of cooperation with the oldest university in Sri Lanka, the University of Peradeniya, and conducted academic exchanges with universities in India, Bhutan and Nepal, Chen said.

Chen was on a visit to Assam state, India, and Bhutan when interviewed, and is part of the first Taiwanese academic team to visit the Royal University of Bhutan’s College of Natural Resources.