Irish higher education CEO, NCKU leaders brainstorm


TAINAN–Tom Boland, CEO of Higher Education Authority (HEA) of Ireland, had a fruitful exchange of views with Vice President Hong-Sen Yan of National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) on Tuesday during a meeting in Tainan, southern Taiwan.

When the Irish visitor learned that NCKU, which is known for its engineering achievements, has been expanding into liberal arts and social sciences education, he asked, “But do liberal arts and social sciences have a role in the industry?”

“In my opinion, they don’t have a direct relationship with the industry. However, we do have outstanding liberal arts graduates-alumni who are leaders in the industry. For example, General Manager Zhi-Xian Luo of Uni-President Enterprises Corporation graduated from NCKU Department of Foreign Languages and Literature,” Hong Sen Yan replied.

“In the future, we plan to establish colleges of law and pharmacy and merge with Tainan National University of the Arts, which has a student population of less than 2,000,” said Yan.

Boland said he understands NCKU is a university primarily of science, technology and medicine, and law would seem an unusual discipline.

Yan responded, “NCKU is a comprehensive university of not only engineering, science, medicine and design, but also liberal arts and social sciences. Although our College of Social Sciences is a relative young college, it has ranked the second in Taiwan according to ESI social science rankings of the number of citations in 2011.”

“Another characteristic of the university is that its colleges are all located in one campus, and so it’s easy for cross-disciplinary cooperation. This is the trend of the 21st century higher education,” Yan added.

Boland remarked that NCKU is more comprehensive than he thought and cross-disciplinary cooperation is what he would like to see more of in Ireland.

According to Boland, one of Ireland’s biggest ambitions is to create a joint system of universities, as universities there tend to stand alone and operate independently.

“For example, we have seven engineering schools in Dublin. We don’t need seven engineering schools because some courses duplicate. If they can be integrated, human resources will be reduced and inter-school cooperation can be achieved,” he said.

Yan told him that at least 50 percent of NCKU students are enrolled in engineering departments, but the trend is shifting. Now, more students are in favor of social science majors such as finance, economics and law.

Boland said, “The situation is quite different in Ireland or the Western world. Their young generation doesn’t like to study mathematics, engineering or science.”

Yan welcomed Boland on behalf of NCKU President Hwung-Hweng Hwung by briefing the visitor on the school’s history and characteristics.

Established under Japanese occupation in 1931, NCKU was upgraded to a provincial university in 1956 and its name was changed to National Cheng Kung University in 1971. It now houses nine colleges with about 22,600 students.

After meeting with Yan, Tom Boland listened to a briefing by NCKU Research and Services Headquarters and toured NCKU Library, Magic School of Green Technology and TOUCH Center.