Taiwan’s universities are set to begin accepting Chinese students this fall after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday indicated it would no longer attempt to halt amendments to bills that would allow Chinese students to study in Taiwan from becoming law.
The surprise announcement, made by the DPP caucus, brings to an end a year of gridlock over the controversial bills that led to physical clashes between lawmakers late last month.
The amendments to the Act Governing the Relations between Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area and the University Act, proposed by the Ministry of Education, will allow Chinese graduate and undergraduate students to enroll in local universities.
However, the DPP has called for the inclusion of an alternate bill proposed into the final draft. The DPP bill would strengthen and codify the “three restrictions and six noes” arrangement that the ministry plans to impose on Chinese students.
The arrangement places restrictions on the schools and locations available to Chinese students as well as stiff restrictions on the number of spots available each year. Chinese students will also be forbidden from receiving academic entrance bonuses or scholarships and prevented from taking up part-time work, professional licenses and work after graduation.
The total number of university spots open to Taiwanese students would also not be affected by the bill, the ministry said.
The alternate bill proposed by the DPP goes one step further and would cut the maximum number of students proposed by the ministry version in half, from 2,000 students annually to 1,000 in the preliminary phase of the law.
Saying that it is a necessary measure to prevent so-called “professional students” from coming to Taiwan, the DPP has also proposed that Taiwanese universities be allowed to attract Chinese students individually and reject batch applications filed by Chinese organisations.
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling said that the compromise came after members of the caucus realised that they would no longer be able to block the ministry’s proposal from becoming law because of the KMT’s legislative majority.
The DPP has 33 seats in the 113-seat legislature, while the KMT holds 75.
“After all these sacrifices and boycotts, we regret to say that we cannot block them anymore,” Kuan said.
The DPP has previously raised concerns that Taiwanese jobs would be affected by opening Taiwan’s borders to Chinese students, a move that could lead to the recognition of Chinese educational certification.
Kuan said the DPP version would address these concerns by including a clause forbidding Chinese educational certification from being used in obtaining professional certification or taking part in public service and teacher exams.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng said both the KMT and the DPP had expressed their willingness to resolve the dispute during a cross-party negotiation session last Friday.
Wang told reporters at the legislature that the DPP’s proposal was expected to be referred to committee review during the plenary session on Friday this week.
He urged the KMT and the DPP to rationally review the bills within the Education and Culture Committee and the Internal Administration Committee.
At a different setting, KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih said as long as the DPP’s proposal was reasonable, everyone would accept it.
However, KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu of the Education and Culture Committee criticised the DPP for seeking to enshrine the ministry-proposed restrictions in the amendments, saying that the move was redundant.
KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng, head of the Internal Administration Committee, threatened to allow relevant proposals to skip committee review should the DPP continue to boycott reviews of the bills in the two committees.
Meanwhile, the Education and Culture Committee decided to keep the majority of the articles in a proposed amendment to the Act Governing Awarding of Degrees that would allow local universities to jointly award academic degrees with universities abroad after DPP legislators questioned whether the proposed regulations would also apply to Chinese universities.
The proposed amendment was originally scheduled to pass the committee’s preliminary review yesterday, but Kuan said the committee should put the proposed amendment on hold until after the two committees handle the relevant bills regarding recognition of Chinese credentials and recruitment of Chinese students.