The ministry will invest NT$1bn (US$31.77m) to increase the number of students from overseas from 28,000 to 58,000 in three years, said Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung at an Education and Culture Committee policy meeting.
The announcement came as the government introduced the “new southbound policy” to strengthen relations with ASEAN member states and South Asian nations, its major source of foreign students.
The Ministry of Education will invest NT$1bn to increase the number of students from overseas
Interactions will be in the areas of human resources, investment, industry, education, culture, tourism and agriculture.
The move will better capitalise on the vicinity and economic success of the region, according to the ministry.
Another NT$160m (US$5m) is also allocated to help higher education institutions enter into an alliance of academic exchanges, and NT$61m (US$1.9m) for bilateral exchanges on culture and sports, said Pan.
The ministry will also subsidise 10 universities next year to set up a presence in the Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries.
To further market Taiwan as a top study destination, the government will leverage Taipei as an attractive city in the region, both for higher education and professional education.
It will also be branded as a language learning hub for Mandarin, the official language in the Chinese-speaking world.
Widely heralded as a positive move, the plan has also drawn speculations about worsened ties of the self-ruled island with China, its major education market. Some said the plan is to reduce Taiwan’s economic reliance on China.
The million-dollar investment will be “counterproductive” to Taiwan’s development, said Zhang Zhijun, director of Taiwan Affairs Office of China’s State Council.
Political deputy minister of education Chen Liang-gee, however, has said the initiative aims to fully tap into the growth of ASEAN countries and South Asia and does not relate to cross-strait tensions. Neither would China be a competition to Taiwan, he said.
“Foreign students coming to study or work in Taiwan are a powerful resource”
Relations between China and Taiwan have hit a new low since the election of Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party as Taiwan president in January.
Beijing has turned off the tap on tourism, suspended all official talks with Taiwan, and blocked it from international meetings that Taiwan was previously allowed to participate in.
Chinese group tours to the country are down 40%, for example, hitting certain regions of Taiwan hard on top of an already sagging economy.
Tsai Ing-wen said foreign students coming to study or work in Taiwan are a “powerful resource”, vowing to help them further develop their skills and get a place in the job market. “We believe in a people-oriented approach to create value for all,” she said.
Democratic Progressive Party legislator Chung Chia-pin said the ministry should implement job placement programs for foreign students, as other countries have done for Taiwanese students overseas.
It should help them gain useful work experience in Taiwan, he urged.