Quality of undergraduates declining, poll finds

In response to a survey released yesterday saying the quality of undergraduates is declining, educators of higher education argue the phenomenon.
The survey, conducted by CommonWealth Magazine, asked university and graduate students whether they think the quality of university students is declining, and more than 80 percent of the respondents agree. The survey also found that 33.7 percent of parents think that the Ministry of Education has to be responsible for the declining quality of university students, while 42.5 percent of students who responded think university students have themselves to blame. Moreover, 82.6 percent of the university respondents worry about losing competitiveness in the international community by studying in Taiwan.
Soochow University President Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), said yesterday that he does not find the figure to be strange due to the fact that the quantity of universities has increased to 162 nationwide in the past 12 years. However, Liu argued "it is 'the level' of university students that declines, not 'the quality,'" adding "the declining average quality of university students does not mean the declining of an individual quality."
Liu suggested in order to counter the booming rate of undergraduates leading to the lower quality of students, schools have to put more effort into teaching, and to figure out ways to increase the motives of learning for students.
Chen Der-hua, Director of the Department of Higher Education under the Ministry of Education, argued that it is not objective if one takes the increasing number of universities and assume the quality of undergraduates is declining. "To measure the change of students quality by taking quantity as the sole index may result in creating more stereotypes about university graduates," Chen noted.
He said that the government plays a major role in educating students, however, it is everyone's responsibility to pay attention to education. Chen said entrepreneurs can help uplift the teaching quality of university schools by donating money.
Vice President of National Taiwan University Chen Tai-jen noted a key indicator to improve the quality of university education lies on the tuition adjustment policy.
Chen said public universities offer better educational environments for students, but the tuition fee for students who go to public schools is relatively low compared with private schools.
On average, the tuition fee for a public university student per semester is less than NT$25,000 while private universities charge more than NT$40,000.
Chen argued it is unfair and unjustified to offer high quality education with low tuition fees, and it has to be changed in the immediate future.
Reflecting on Chen's statement, director Chen said the tuition adjustment has to be done by taking students from different family background into consideration, adding disadvantaged groups of students may not be able to enter public universities if the tuition spikes.
The survey was conducted between October 23 to November 3 via Internet questionnaires and 4,388 effective questionnaires were collected from university and graduate students. The survey also conducted a telephone poll with parents who have children that go to high school or university; a total of 807 samples were collected with the margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.