Taiwan’s universities collaborate in dynamic international outreach

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The Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education of Taiwan seeks to integrate the academic strength of its 116 member universities and to enhance their international competitiveness. Tony Martin invited the chairperson, Professor Huey-Jen Jenny Su ScD, who is also president of National Cheng Kung University, to tell QS Showcase’s readers about the activities of the organisation that she leads, and its impact.

When was FICHET founded? Who are its members and what are its main aims?

The Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education of Taiwan (FICHET) is a non-profit organisation founded in 2005, under the support of the Ministry of Education (MOE) Taiwan and its member universities, to integrate the academic strength of Taiwan’s higher education institutions and to enhance their international competitiveness. Currently, FICHET comprises 116 member universities. FICHET has been given the responsibility by the government to function as a platform for international cooperation between Taiwanese and foreign universities.

Current operations of the foundation focus mainly on the promotion to international students of the ‘Study in Taiwan’ brand including through the management of the Study in Taiwan website and social media. Secondly, over the years, the foundation has collaborated with 18 countries or regions to organise 43 bilateral forums at national level. In addition, the foundation is responsible for the planning of international educator assemblies in Europe, America, and Asia and to enhance communication efficiency between various agents working on these platforms.

FICHET responsibilities

  • Build the Study in Taiwan brand to promote international student recruitment.
  • Organise and plan bilateral activities to enhance academic collaboration between Taiwan and other HEIs worldwide.
  • Coordinate Taiwan’s universities to participate in international educators’ conferences.
  • Organise seminars on international education affairs.
  • Support strategic international education programs.
  • Counsel the operation and development of MOE-funded overseas ‘Taiwan Education Centers.’

What makes Taiwanese higher education appealing to international students and universities? In what markets is FICHET active? How does it reach out to potential students around the world?

From the perspective of international students, the strength of Taiwanese higher education is definitely its prolific academic resources as well as reasonable tuition fees. Taiwan’s academic research is especially strong in the fields of medical, engineering and agriculture. In December 2017, FICHET conducted an online survey of the experiences international students studying in Taiwan. Almost six thousand international students took part in the survey. The first three reasons why they decided to study in Taiwan are affordable cost of study, quality and reputation of Taiwan’s higher education, and ease of adapting to the Taiwanese culture. The holistic academic environment is certainly the main reason why many foreign universities would encourage their students to come to Taiwan.

According to the latest statistics published by the Ministry of Education, there were more than 117,000 international students studying in Taiwan in 2017/2018. Most international students come from North and South East Asia, including China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Around 10,000 students from Europe or North America also come to Taiwan to learn Mandarin Chinese each year.

 

Students from National Chang Kung University

At FICHET, we have been constantly working to promote Taiwan’s higher education, especially in the form of social media marketing, including the Study in Taiwan website, the Facebook fans page, through YouTube and Instagram posts. Our strategy to engage prospective students around the world is through social media such as SIT Facebook, which enjoys 180,000 fans and is the most popular study abroad branding page in East Asia. Over the years, we have produced 65 videos of international students studying in Taiwan, which are the most effective materials to increase the visibility of Taiwanese universities through online media. Our goal is to “make each student an ambassador of Taiwan.”

In addition, we have also created cooperative relationships with other international student information and grant awarding organisations including Campus France, ARES Belgium, Japan Committee of Universities for International Exchange (JACUIE), Association of Indian Universities, DAAD Taiwan, British Council Taiwan, Fulbright Taiwan.

 

2018 Taiwan-France Higher Education Forum

How do FICHET’s main activities reflect its core priorities? How does it develop international institution to institution relationships?

As mentioned, FICHET’s core activities include marketing for higher education of the country, organising bilateral conferences and forums with global partners, coordinating universities to participate in educators’ conferences (eg APAIE, NAFSA, EAIE), and providing the most updated international higher education trend to domestic universities. To achieve this, in the main, FICHET cooperates with counterpart organisations (or consortiums) in targeted countries based on principles of reciprocity. Our aim is to represent the interests of Taiwanese universities at the international level and to act as the first point of contact for prospective international students and universities. For example, by organising higher education leadership forums with our global partners, we strengthen the mutual understanding among countries and their universities. We also help universities to consolidate their current partnerships and to establish new cooperative programs.

Chairperson Su as guest of honor at 2018 Campus France Global Forum

What are FICHET’s key goals over the next five years? How is it strategising to achieve them?

FICHET will keep up all the successful results of international cooperation in Taiwan’s higher education, continue to enhance collaboration between Taiwan’s higher education institutions and other countries’ academic consortiums, and to promote the highlights and characteristics of Taiwan’s higher education to the world. We are ambitious in strengthening the internationalisation of Taiwan’s higher education and attracting international students to come to Taiwan. We shall analyse the current changing environment of international education and support Taiwan’s universities and government to develop their internationalisation strategies or policies. In this transformative age of the higher education environment, accelerating progress in global mobility and sustainability will be an important issue, and we will keep going forward in keeping with this.

Campus view from National Cheng Kung University

QS Showcase’s key readers include top policy and political leaders worldwide, and senior leaders of top universities around the world. As Chairperson of FICHET, what is your essential message to them?

We are all facing many world-changing challenges, from climate change, energy crises, to an aging society. To cope with these challenges, our educational organisations and universities need to play a strong leading role to create a practical education model. One of the most important things we should do is to train talents with skills for the future: creative problem-solving skills, scientific and social awareness, responsibility, and collaborative skills on a global scale.

Any such practical educational model should emphasise the process of student training and inter-disciplinary knowledge. Most importantly, the students should develop universal solicitude, global vision and ability to innovate. Although universities throughout the world are all operating in an intense competitive environment, we should not let it stop us from making changes. By training talents needed in the future, universities should, and can, play a unique and vital role in human society’s transitions towards sustainability.

Dr Huey-Jen Jenny Su is Chairperson of FICHET and a distinguished professor of environmental health at the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan. Her research has primarily focused on the topic of air pollution-related health effects, with a particular emphasis on the rising global concerns with airborne microbial hazards. She was also an expert member of the committee that prepared the World Health Organization’s report concerning guidelines for biological agents in the indoor environment. In 2015, Dr Su became the first female president in the 85 year history of NCKU. She was honored by her alma mater with the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health’s 2017 Leadership Award in Public Health Practice, which recognises a graduate who has been an outstanding example of effective leadership in the practice of public health. Moreover, Dr Su was cited for her outstanding leadership among the top 100 award-winning researchers, academics, and innovators, and leaders in the 2018 edition of Asian Scientist Magazine. She also received the 2017 Outstanding Research Award from the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taiwan. She was cited as one of the ten Science Stars of East Asia for her work on indoor air pollution by the journal Nature.

Campus view of National Cheng Kung University