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Singapore and Taiwan: Mobility concerns

Singapore and Taiwan are both reviewing their national mobility policies, but heading in very different directions. In mid-August, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that 2 000 more university places will be created in the next four years for Singaporean students, while the percentage of foreign students in Singapore will be capped at the current 18%. With such a “Singaporeans First” approach, it is hoped that the city-state’s universities can “strike the right balance” by “staying open yet controlling foreign student numbers”.

Despite Singapore’s aggressive moves to attract talented immigrants and develop itself into an education hub in the past years, the influx of foreigners has aroused growing political concerns over the loss of jobs and study opportunities for locals. The “Singaporeans First” approach in student enrollment is therefore seen as a scaling back of the country’s openness. This follows a similar change in the government’s manpower policy, which is moving from attracting foreign workers to developing the local workforce, as seen in Singapore’s Budget 2011. 

Going in an opposite direction, political concerns over “brain drain” of talented academics and professionals have led to the release of a declaration and a proposal for “Talent Recruitment” in Taiwan. Academia Sinica – a reputed research institution in Taiwan which also enjoys high regard in other Chinese-speaking societies – has joined forces with the academic, business, arts and media sectors to urge the Taiwanese government to catch up with its Asian neighbours (such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea), which have attracted many Taiwanese academics with more attractive and flexible remuneration systems. Specifically, they are calling for the decoupling of the Taiwanese academic system from the civil service system, both of which are deemed to be inflexible and overregulated when competing for talented academics. 

Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore – 2 000 more university places for local students

Singapore, Budget 2011 

Academia Sinica – Manifesto for talent attraction

Academia Sinica – Proposal for decoupling higher education and civil service systems