The education ministry will set up overseas offices in countries including Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines to help meet its new target of attracting 320,000 international students by 2030. There were approximately 19,000 international students in Taiwan in 2022. Pre-covid the figure was close to 57,000.
Taiwan is grappling with an ageing population and declining birth rates.
“The government must therefore take measures to proactively recruit international talent to fill gaps in domestic manpower and strengthen industrial competitiveness,” the country’s Executive Yuan wrote in a statement.
“Improving the attraction and retention of international and overseas compatriot students is key among those measures.”
The strategy focuses on attracting STEM students due to “strong demand for talent” in these disciplines from Taiwan’s companies, deputy minister of education Liu Mon-chi reportedly said.
Approximately $162 million will be invested in the plan, with eligible international students able to apply for government scholarships and living stipends from sponsoring companies.
The majority of these students will take dual degrees, completing two years in their home countries and two years in Taiwan.
Students will be expected to stay and work in Taiwan for an additional two years after graduation for the company that sponsored them, or pay back their scholarship. The government is set to streamline processes for securing residency in Taiwan to support the plans.
This plan is separate to the government’s existing international student recruitment plans, which focus on attracting undergraduate students to study full courses in Taiwan.
Earlier this year, a government watchdog accused the education and labour ministries of failing to protect overseas students from exploitation in the workplace. Yang said the new scholarships will mean students won’t face these issues.
“They should be able to focus on their two-year studies in Taiwan with the scholarships provided by the Taiwanese government, which include a one-way air ticket, visa application fees, and university tuition and fees,” Yang Yu-hui, director of the Department of Technological and Vocational Education, told reporters.
“Corporations working with universities would offer a monthly stipend of at least NT$10,000 [USD $312] and other job opportunities. These should be sufficient to cover daily expenses.”
Taiwan launched its New Southbound Policy in 2016, which aims to build relations with countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Australasia, including deepening educational ties by offering scholarships to students in these regions.
Christopher Green, a researcher at National Chiayi University’s Department of Education, said it can be challenging for overseas students in STEM disciplines to find graduate work in Taiwan, in part due to language barriers.
“Students come for the scholarship but generally are stuck”
“Students come for the scholarship and knowledge opportunities but generally are stuck and do not move to business within the country as they perhaps assumed would be the case,” he said.
Taiwan’s universities have seen a reduction in enrolment levels, down 20% this year compared to 2012 levels .
“International student recruitment is key to all universities both private and public,” Green said.
“The current policies of pressure on women to work and men to work harder has led to many not having children or emigrating to other countries for better pay.
“The level of pay is one third of Korea or Japan. Taiwanese can go abroad and get better pay and therefore take their families with them.”