Taiwan talent drain sees professors poached by Hong Kong

Pension reform and wage stagnation among reasons for continued talent drain in Taiwan's academia

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National Tsing Hua University campus (Facebook photo)

National Tsing Hua University campus (Facebook photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — At least five faculty members from Taiwan’s most prestigious universities have been poached by Hong Kong over the past two years, highlighting the academic talent drain of the island country.

National Chiao Tung University (NCTU) and National Tsing Hua University (NTHU), both celebrated for their scientific prowess, have seen five professors lured away to the semi-autonomous territory of China, reported UDN. National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (Taiwan Tech) has also experienced a loss of six to seven teachers annually over the past three years.

The worrying trend is believed to have been sparked by pension reform and wage stagnation, said Hocheng Hong (賀陳弘), President of NTHU. The government of Taiwan can’t afford to double the pay for university professors in order to retain talent, which would require a budget of more than NT$10 billion (US$3.3 million).

In addition to salaries, the environment, and career prospects, tertiary education in Taiwan is also being blamed for its strict rules that hamper talent recruitment. According to Taiwan Tech President Liao Ching-jong (廖慶榮), an individual with a UC Berkeley doctorate degree failed to gain employment at the school due to teaching experience being a legal requirement, wrote UDN. The talented individual ended up landing a teaching position in Singapore.

While there’s room for improvement in Taiwan’s pension system for educators, the government has implemented a number of incentives to retain talent. The research program spearheaded by the Ministry of Science and Technology to enroll senior researchers and scientists at universities has proven effective in employee retention at university level, said NCTU Acting President Chen Sin-horng (陳信宏).