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According to both press reports and confirmation from official sources, Taiwan’s legislative body, the Legislative Yuan, has recently approved three acts that will allow students from China to enrol in Taiwanese higher education institutions. This development comes on the heels of rather intense political debate during the past several months over the degree to which ties between Taiwan and China should be fostered in this area. In the final compromise, the opposition Democratic Progressive Party yielded to the ruling Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) on the grounds that three key limitations on Chinese-Taiwanese engagement be upheld. To this end, Taiwan will not recognize medical diplomas awarded in China, nor will it allow mainland students to enrol in any areas considered sensitive to Taiwanese national security. Furthermore, only Taiwanese nationals will be allowed to sit for examinations leading to employment in the professions or in the government of Taiwan.
There is apparently as much pragmatism as politics driving this shift in policy, as many local colleges in Taiwan are facing a shortage of students. Meanwhile, there are indications that Taiwan is aiming to raise its international profile more generally, in a bid to attract greater numbers of international students across the board. For example, the Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education in Taiwan (FICHET) launched a new Study in Taiwan website in May 2010. Moreover, the Ministry of Education’s Bureau of International, Cultural and Educational Relations announced plans earlier this summer to publish a list by September 2010 of Taiwan’s top 50 universities and colleges, and its top 100 best international student programs. These programs and institutions will not necessarily be ‘ranked’, but instead will be designated as superior through student feedback on an FICHET-administered survey.
Ministry of Education figures indicate that in 2009 some 22 300 foreigners studied in Taiwan in full-degree, exchange and language programs. The vast majority of these (nearly 73%) hail from other parts of Asia, with students from the Americas (North, South and Central) accounting for the second-largest group, at 17%.