New NTU president vows to lead university into brighter future

Kuan Chung-ming reacts during a handover ceremony organized at the NTU on Jan. 8. Kuan officially took over as president of National Taiwan University (NTU), vowing to lead the school into a brighter future. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) officially took over as president of National Taiwan University (NTU) on Jan. 8, vowing to lead the school into a brighter future.

“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose,” the 62-year-old economist said during the handover ceremony held at NTU’s main campus in Taipei, quoting the famous remark of late U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973).

Kuan said he will follow in the footsteps of his predecessors, working with all teachers and students at the university to “ensure NTU keeps moving forward toward a more glorious future.”

In his speech, the new NTU head mentioned two visions for the development of the nation’s top university — globalization and transformation, adding that NTU can only reinforce its strong position in Asia’s higher education sector by developing deeper international links.

In addition, “as technology turns the world upside down, there is no reason for education to stay in its comfort zone,” Kuan said, therefore the content and form of university education must be reviewed.

Promoting university transformation is both an innovative approach and the way to ensure teaching and research at NTU remain in step with the times, Kuan said.

The handover ceremony was supervised by Deputy Education Minister Lin Teng-chiao (林騰蛟) with former NTU presidents Chen Wei-chao (陳維昭), Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) and Yang Pan-chyr (楊泮池) in attendance.

During the inauguration, a handful of participants chanted slogans in protest but were drowned out by the cheers of Kuan’s supporters.

Kuan’s appointment as NTU president had been suspended since early last year after he was elected by the NTU presidential selection committee on Jan. 5, 2018 to take over the seat left vacant by Yang, who chose not to seek another term as university president in June 2016.

Originally, Kuan was supposed to assume office on Feb. 1. However, the Ministry of Education refused to approve his appointment, citing flaws in the selection process, while NTU insisted on the appointment as an issue of academic independence.

The standoff between the ministry and NTU over the selection of Kuan led three education ministers to stand down — Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠), Wu Maw-kuen (吳茂昆), and Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮). Yeh resigned on Dec. 25, one day after approving the controversial appointment.

Critics of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s year-long rejection of Kuan claimed its opposition was politically motivated because of his association with the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT).

Kuan served in the KMT administration as its chief economic planner from February 2013 to February 2015. The DPP’s attitude toward Kuan was cited as one factor in the falling support for the party and its drubbing in nationwide local elections on Nov. 24.

By Hsu Chih-wei and Elizabeth Hsu