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MOE finishes plan for 13,000 foreign students to enter Taiwan

Degree students, Huayu Enrichment Scholarship students to be prioritized

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International students at National Quemoy University in Kinmen County. (National Quemoy University photo)

International students at National Quemoy University in Kinmen County. (National Quemoy University photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — With the fall semester looming and many foreign students still uncertain of their eligibility to enter Taiwan, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has announced it has completed a plan to allow thousands of students into the country without a residence permit.

Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) on Wednesday (Aug. 11) announced that a plan enabling foreign students to enter Taiwan has been completed and will be submitted to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) for approval. Degree students and Huayu Enrichment Scholarship (HES) students will be given priority, with an estimated 13,000 students eligible.

Although Taiwan lowered its epidemic control measures to Level 2 on July 27 as local COVID cases continued to subside significantly, international students without a residence permit are still not allowed to enter the country. With classes set to start in September and a two-week quarantine still mandatory, international student groups such as the Hong Kong Student in Taiwan Mutual Association and HES students have issued public statements calling on the MOE to allow in foreign students as soon as possible.

During a press briefing on Wednesday, Pan said that the issue must be handled in a way that protects the rights and interests of the students while also ensuring the health and safety of the general public. Last week, the MOE held an inter-ministerial meeting with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to assess the state of the global pandemic, domestic epidemic prevention capabilities, and the latest border control measures.

Following the meeting, the MOE completed an analysis of and preparations for a plan to allow foreign students back in and will next submit it to the CECC for approval. Pan said that the current plan will give priority to foreign degree students, including first-year as well as HES students, accounting for about 13,000 students in total.

Pan said that the students will be gradually allowed to enter the country in batches. He said that after this cohort has successfully entered Taiwan, the ministry will consider opening the country's borders to short-term Mandarin students, exchange students, and other categories of international students.

The minister added that at this time, schools will be asked to contact foreign students in advance as they prepare to leave for Taiwan. Due to the severity of the ongoing pandemic worldwide, if foreign students are unable to return to Taiwan before the start of classes, Pan suggested that schools follow last year's protocols and utilize distance learning, maintain these students' enrollment status, and take other measures to protect their rights as international students.