TAIPEI (TVBS News) — The pursuit of doctoral education in Taiwan is facing a significant downturn, attributed to a declining birth rate and economic challenges.
The number of Ph.D. students has seen a notable decrease from 34,000 in 2010 to 28,500 in 2020, a 16.5% drop.
This trend raises concerns about the future of the country's research and development sector and the overall impact on industrial technology advancements.
Evaluating the Doctoral Journey
Cheng Ching-ping, a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Electrical Engineering at National Taiwan University (NTU), emphasizes the importance of introspection and planning for prospective Ph.D. candidates.
"The average starting salary for Ph.D. graduates and their job positions typically surpass others. However, you must first consider why you want to pursue a doctorate degree. Secondly, think about your plans after earning your Ph.D."
The role of a Ph.D. extends beyond academia, as pointed out by Shieh Jiann-shing, provost at the Office of Academic Affairs at Yuan Ze University.
"Doctoral programs extend beyond university teaching. They should focus on how candidates can elevate research standards in their fields and industries," Shieh said.
This perspective highlights the importance of doctoral studies in enhancing research capabilities across various sectors.
Addressing the Challenges
However, the path to obtaining a Ph.D. is fraught with challenges, particularly financial ones.
Chang Chih-lun, executive secretary at the Taiwan Higher Education Union, sheds light on the economic hurdles faced by students.
"On one hand, Taiwan faces a long-term low-wage issue. On the other, government and public resource investment in higher education remains insufficient. For the average middle-class family, progressing from university to a master's degree and ultimately obtaining a doctorate becomes a substantial burden."
The shift in educational preferences is also evident, with many individuals turning to AI tools and online courses for knowledge acquisition and skill refinement, driven partly by the high costs and long duration of doctoral programs.
As a result, the education sector, in collaboration with various industries, must work towards creating incentives that encourage the pursuit of higher education and address the immediate financial concerns of young adults.
The decline in Ph.D. enrollments, if it continues, could severely impact Taiwan's academic institutions, leading to a scarcity of experienced R&D professionals and a dip in research standards.
To counteract these effects, a concerted effort from educational institutions, industries, and the government is essential to revitalize interest in doctoral education and ensure the sustenance of Taiwan's research talent pool and industrial technology development.