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Tradition, innovation, excellence, dedication
Striding to the top in the 21st century
Speech delivered before National Taiwan University Council

Speaker: Yang Pan-Chyr
19th October, 2013

Tradition, innovation, excellence, dedication
Striding to the top in the 21st century

On 22 June of this year, I took office as President of National Taiwan University. In so doing, I took on the task that falls to everyone here at NTU: to take as our credo a future of tradition, innovation, excellence and dedication. This means the whole university—teaching and administrative staff and students striving together so that NTU can become the top university in the Chinese world and enter the first rank of educational institutions across the whole world. In this way, we shall become a powerful force in Taiwan’s continuing progress and also make a contribution to humankind itself.

Now, in accordance with article 9 of university regulations, I shall present to the Council the broad lines of what I wish to accomplish in the next four years and respectfully ask Council representatives for their feedback.


1. NTU current status and performance
NTU currently has 1,993 members of teaching staff and 32,674 students (16,925 undergraduates and 15,749 postgraduates). With everybody pulling together, we enjoy exceptional performance in all areas—teaching, research and community work. (In 2013 NTU was ranked 82nd by QS and 125th by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the THE World University Rankings placed NTU in the 51–60 bracket, and 51 NTU academics in 19 subject areas achieved ESI ranking.) NTU has long been established in Taiwan as a typical large-sized international university that enjoys academic freedom, intellectual diversity and a good balance of areas of expertise.

2. NTU’s most important missions

  1. educational and intellectual innovation
  2. training future talent for Taiwan
  3. leading the way in social transformation; promoting continuous human progress and sustainable environmental development

3. Future goals
In order to take on the forces of globalization and the era of high competition it entails, NTU must shoulder its responsibility by training outstanding and talented new leaders for our country and ensuring they have both solid practical skills and a foundation in the humanities; more importantly, they must also be competitive on the international stage and able to match the pace of students from the world’s best universities. To this end, we must set the following goals:

  1. Short- and medium-term goals: a first-rate campus environment, with dedicated teaching, academic excellence and an international
  2. Long-term goals: to become the top university in the Chinese world and a first-rank university on a global scale.

Key Tasks for NTU

To achieve the goals laid out above, our tasks over the next four years may be broken down as follows:

1. Dedicated teaching
Using a solid grounding in the humanities to train outstanding and talented individuals who can bring what is needed to our society and the development of our country.

a. Encouraging diversity and depth of learning

  1. We shall improve the flexibility of course credit authentication by guiding senior high school students into advanced study and accreditation, using OpenCourseWare (OCW) to set up Advanced Placement Programs (AP) in calculus, basic chemistry, basic biology, basic physics and year one English which will enable senior high school students to study independently online and obtain course credits by sitting our accredited examinations. In addition, we shall increase the number of foundation courses that can be waived, so that first-year students have the opportunity to study a wide range of specialist subjects.
  2. We shall enlist the help of senior students to design new courses. Such students have past learning experience that can help us make learning achievements more profound and ensure that students do not take on too many course credits, which tends to water down the quality of courses. Student input may also be of help in rewriting lesson plans and remodelling existing courses. This will revitalize departmental course programming; using these methods, each department can devise a single unified course plan that builds up from cornerstone, to keystone, to capstone.
  3. In line with the movement towards digital learning, we shall use the concept of the “flipped classroom” by setting up an accessible, multi-faceted, online learning platform to coordinate methods of learning and assessment. Digital learning infrastructure is used to create an unbounded learning environment and pre-recorded lectures are set for homework, thus freeing up valuable class time for practice, explanation, discussion and other teacher–student interaction. Using the flipped classroom can have very positive effects on learning.

b. Fostering interdisciplinary core skills

It was during their time at NTU that our many distinguished alumni developed the broad and solid basis of core skills that have enabled them to shine so brightly in their various careers. Core skills are skills which are required across a wide range of professions, so we shall enhance students’ core skills such as literacy, communication, leadership, creativity, self-confidence, drive and teamwork.

  1. We shall encourage the use of integrated creative entrepreneurship courses and capstone courses to enable students to learn teamwork and problem-solving skills at an early stage.
  2. Optional courses and general education courses need to be modified in order to equip students with a well-balanced set of core skills in a range of areas so that by the time they graduate they are citizens of the world and ready to contribute to society. By making courses that build core skills more flexible and reinforcing summer learning, we can provide a multifaceted, holistic education.
  3. Transition courses should be programmed, and should cater to second-, third- and fourth-year students in particular, to help them adjust to the outside world after graduation so that they can carefully choose the career that suits their talents and inclinations. Transition courses are planned in the same way as project courses and use a planned course map. The courses foster personal development and leadership abilities by helping students to find their own identity, build up their self-confidence and find out what direction they want to take with their lives and what goals they want to achieve. At the same time, the courses show how things are done in real life and enable students to understand and get to grips with interpersonal relations and communication skills that are useful in both the workplace and everyday life, thus turning NTU graduates into true members of society.

c. Enriching teaching and activities with humanistic content

In the face of challenges posed to human nature and ethics by rapid social change, the diversification of values and the proliferation of high technology, it becomes even more important to focus on education in the humanities and to promote cultural achievement. Such an education enables students to perceive social problems and resolve them in a way that promotes peaceful social development.

  1. Courses should incorporate the sense of social responsibility proper to a university. Increasing learning motivation through exposure to culture and giving students a grounding in the humanities will give them an inner desire to help and care for others. Creating a humanistic spirit is also a benchmark, breaking down the barrier between the university and wider society and enabling students to participate in cultural discussion and reflection.
  2. We shall set up an altruism award and consolidate character building by commending students who go out of their way to help others and engage in philanthropy. This will encourage students to stop focusing solely on academic achievement but to think about what they can do to help others and make society a better place.
  3. We shall continue to encourage students to get involved in community service and promote the diversification of service courses, including service learning and volunteer programs. Such learning opportunities inspire students to care for their community and strive to help others, foster problem-solving abilities and promote personal growth and fulfilment through service to others. Ultimately, this will increase student ability and desire to participate in public life.

d. Cross-industry seamless collaboration, integrating social capabilities, training research talent to address our society’s needs

In order to address the current imbalance between the talents our society needs and what higher education actually provides, we have to effectively channel industry and government resources in a way that is beneficial to both sides and to pull down the barriers between industry and academia by bringing outstanding industrial specialists to teach in our university. We have to make creative use of collaboration with industry and specialist teachers to extend academic research units and locales to industrial R&D centres. All parties will benefit from enabling specialist teachers with hands-on industry experience to supervise postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers and to collaborate in research. Such a multi-pronged approach will enable us to train R&D talent with skills that are really needed by our society and its industries.

2. Academic Excellence

Prioritizing social responsibility and human wellbeing; using local values to create unique, visionary, innovative, outstanding research

a. Greater institutional flexibility, enabling us to net international talent

  1. The most important asset in our drive to enter the first rank of global academic institutions is human talent, so our system needs to be sufficiently flexible that we can spread our net wide enough to catch outstanding international academics. We should aim to set up a flexible system of remuneration that differentiates and rewards results so that there is more flexibility in the appointments, salaries and allowances of new teaching staff and they have more incentives. Reducing the disparity in teaching staff pay between our university and those of neighbouring countries will help to attract top-flight talent from home and abroad and bring eminent scholars to teach in our university.
  2. NTU’s teaching and research staff, especially our more well-established researchers, are the main motive force behind our R&D. We have to take steps to reward excellent teaching staff and researchers in relation to their performance in order to encourage them in their teaching and research.
  3. We have to strengthen cooperation with top-flight academic institutions, bring renowned international scholars to lecture at NTU as adjunct faculty members, co-teaching and supervising students, and undertake collaborative research.

b. Better use of R&D outcomes

  1. Let us set up a sound patent application and technology licensing system, improve administrative efficiency and actively help R&D teams to produce even more valuable patents and patent portfolios.
  2. More functionality is needed in incubation centres for NTU staff, students and alumni and industry. A comprehensive induction and service system should be set up. An innovation ecosystem should also be set up in order to foster an entrepreneurial spirit on campus that will inspire staff and students to get involved in innovation.
  3. We shall create opportunities for university–industry collaboration, found a university–industry alliance, set up industry advanced guidance courses and put in place a mechanism to encourage university–industry collaboration and industry consultation by teaching staff. We shall use all manner of professional feedback mechanisms to promote the integration of academic theory and industrial practice. At the same time, setting up an IPR database will enable the rest of the world to access NTU’s abundant R&D achievements and promote university–industry collaboration.

c. Set up various forms of teaching assessment

  1. In recent years university assessment has been based too much on quantitative evaluation indices (SCI, SSCI, TSCI), which has led to an excessive pursuit of performance indicators in science research, to the neglect of humanities and the social sciences. The thinking that humanities and social science scholars create, commentate and transmit is oriented towards deepening students’ humanistic education and public culture and so really plays a very important role. NTU must break free of old patterns of thought in order to revalorize the humanities and social sciences and integrate them with professional training.
  2. Teacher assessment, promotion and performance incentives should avoid stressing research to the detriment of teaching, limiting staff growth potential, or encroaching on the autonomy of any field. Thus, in the future both teaching and contribution to university–industry collaboration will be incorporated into assessment indices, and a more diverse promotion system for teachers is already in the pipeline.
  3. Let us respect the differences between the human and natural sciences, to value and encourage innovative, relevant and ground-breaking new research in the humanities and social sciences.
  4. We should amend the procedure for selecting teachers for commendation and recognise outstanding teaching at three levels. Adding a university-level committee will mean we can give a cross-faculty award for the most outstanding teacher. The selection process should be reviewed in order to increase incentives.
  5. Put in place a “professor of teaching” title to recognize members of staff whose teaching is outstanding.
  6. Set up a “professor of service” title to recognize teaching staff who have made an outstanding contribution to the development of NTU.

d. Develop unique and innovative interdisciplinary research

Over the past few years, NTU’s remarkable performance across the board—from basic and applied sciences to humanities and social sciences—has brought us into the top 100 universities worldwide. The path NTU must now take is to strive for forward-looking innovation, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary research with local characteristics.

  1. As our top comprehensive university with a full range of academic disciplines, NTU sets the benchmark. Henceforth, we must make still greater efforts to integrate our various departments in interdisciplinary research to promote a synergy between academic development and practical application. In the future, we must set up an NTU innovation promotion platform, with regular reviews of results, to take stock of each faculty’s strong points and to develop promising new fields of study and research. Setting up an interdisciplinary research centre will give encouragement in key areas. For example, interdisciplinary translation research can take advantage of each faculty’s and affiliated hospital’s goal-oriented projects; and clinical faculty members can carry out interdisciplinary research, such as the relationship between biomedical informatics and the health industry, new medical diagnostic materials, genomics, new pharmaceuticals, biomedical ethics law, etc. We also have to encourage interdisciplinary humanities and social science research, which can contribute to the improvement of human life, improve social well-being, and make Taiwan more competitive in economic and cultural areas.
  2. NTU’s 38 university-level research centres comprise the best platform for carrying out outstanding interdisciplinary research. By holding quarterly technical exchange meetings to share approaches, in the future we shall create opportunities for interdisciplinary dialogue. NTU’s core of young teachers will spearhead future research and we shall set up an integrated system and a platform for dialogue among young teachers from different fields. The pilot will use biomedical engineers. Another new mechanism will be to invite teachers with outstanding teaching or research records to participate in meetings in the form of an “innovative milieu”, where discussion and debate will abound.
  3. We shall promote creative courses in every field, promote forward-thinking R&D that can benefit society, set up “innovation clusters” and “garage entrepreneurship”, and look into using the Coursera platform to disseminate creative courses. In order to train innovative new research talent, we could bring in industry resources to set up an innovation incubation realization plan like the Stanford SPARK program. Also, teaching staff and students should be encouraged to form interdisciplinary teams that will compete to come up with the best innovation plan; they could then be given start-up funds and workspace. Innovation courses should be closely tied to initiatives like the NTUEA (National Taiwan University Entrepreneur Association) and angel investors in order to realize the route from innovation to entrepreneurship. We could also set up an “open innovation” platform to work on urgent problems that industries are facing; NTU staff and students would compete to find the best answers. This would encourage their creative thinking and mark a turning point in university–industry collaboration.
  4. Strengthening cooperation with Academia Sinica, National Health Research Institutes, National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL) and other research units will create a synergistic, mutually beneficial environment. Let us actively develop interdisciplinary research into the unique characteristics of Chinese culture and local cultures, deepen our research into East Asian and Chinese cultures and encourage humanities-related business innovation so that NTU will become the teaching and research hub for Chinese culture and humanities studies.

3. International outlook

Building a first-rate academic institution with both local characteristics and a global outlook, standing on a foundation of Chinese culture

A platform for Chinese and East Asian culture, based in Taiwan. Even if we are oriented towards and moving towards the international scene, our foundation must be firmly rooted in Taiwan. Internationalization does not mean becoming completely westernized or adopting the English language; rather, it means using the unique and valuable qualities of East Asian and Taiwanese cultures to position ourselves and respond to local needs. We must find a balance between the local and the international, discover our own niche strengths and seek a path to global higher education that is based on the unique strengths of NTU, East Asia and Taiwan.

a. Internationalization of academic programs

  1. The internet has made the world a smaller place. NTU should step up its offering of courses taught in foreign languages and actively promote OpenCourseWare (OCW). We must collaborate with overseas universities to enable our students to take online courses under the world’s great scholars at a time and place of their own choosing. By accrediting such courses, we can reach our goal of internationalized, independent and diverse learning.
  2. Actively promoting Chinese culture OpenCourseWare and setting up a Chinese language and culture summer program scholarship will attract the children of ethnic Chinese or alumni who live abroad, as well as high-level international students, to come and study in Taiwan and learn about Chinese culture. At the same time, these students can use their language skills to make bilingual versions of our online courses. By setting up online open courses in the humanities with Chinese characteristics, NTU will become the world’s most accessible knowledge platform for Chinese culture.

b. Bringing a global perspective to teaching and learning, making international cooperation a reality

Internationalization is not a mere target. It is also hoped that students and teachers will acquire an international view and use it to improve the quality of their teaching and research.

  1. Comprehensive promotion of the Student Ambassador Program, in each and every faculty, will reinforce students’ ability to communicate through reading, speaking, listening and writing in English and other foreign languages. We must provide opportunities for students to play an active role in international events and to communicate with international scholars. By training students to act as ambassadors for NTU, they can be part of an international campus lifestyle and learn to interact with international scholars and students in a professional, confident and cordial manner.
  2. We must improve the quality of international students coming to NTU and find new sources of international students. Simplifying the application process and actively encouraging international exchange students to apply for international joint degrees will increase the quality and quantity of international students at NTU. The university has already set up successful exchange programs with a number of well-known universities around the world: these should be continued and expanded. We also need to offer more generous scholarships to attract outstanding international students, in particular we should systematically select key universities or research institutions and set up substantive relations, including both student and teacher exchange, joint degrees, and collaboration in teaching and research.
  3. We have to work hard to set up more mechanisms for international collaboration, such as the current collaborations between Intel and NTU’s Innovation Research Centre, between MD Anderson Cancer Center and the International Center for Excellence in Cancer Research (ICECR), and between the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and NTU’s International Center of Excellence in Intelligent Robotics and Automation Research (NTU-iCeiRA). In the future, we shall continue this drive for substantive international collaborative research.

c. Making NTU the centre of the Chinese culture world

  1. To make sure we are delivering what students need in an effective manner, we shall plan and set up a functional international college and develop programs and courses to suit all types of international student, such as Chinese-only courses, international summer school, and other areas that have significant uptake. Scholarship programs and other measure should be set up in key departments as required. In the future, we shall offer international students accredited Chinese-language programs and East Asian cultural studies programs; we shall offer our sister universities tailor-made courses and international degree programs. For example, the East Asian cultural studies program could include humanities, sociology, politics, economics, management and history.
  2. Chinese culture has played a decisive role on the world stage for thousands of years. While development in all fields of intellectual activity should be encouraged, teaching and research must focus more on the various areas that differ from Western culture, such as Confucianism in core values, professionalism and problem-solving. In this way, we can both make manifest the differences between Chinese and Western cultures and enable education and research at NTU to make a substantive contribution to Taiwanese society. NTU will not only become a world-class educational institution but will also become the most important centre of education and research for Chinese culture.

4. Optimization of Administration

Instilling a sense of service for the benefit of teachers, students and the school itself

Administration is the backbone of education and research. To support the university-wide development goals outlined above, we shall have to set up a first-rate administration that will uphold the spirit of service and support for teachers, students and the school, to deliver a more flexible, effective and human-centred service.

a. Set up a good platform for communication

  1. Weekly meetings between the president and the administrative team will focus on important campus matters and future directions; meetings between the president, vice-president and the heads of each department will involve discussion and follow-up on major initiatives.
  2. We should set up an International Advisory Board to give a broader international vision and supply advice on all aspects of teaching and research in order to quickly realize our goal of being number one in the Chinese world and in the front rank globally.
  3. Let us schedule regular meetings for multilateral exchange among teachers, students and administrative staff. We can set up a comments page on the NTU website, set up a communication platform, strengthen communication channels, and take the initiative to listen to suggestions and take them into serious consideration. In this way, the whole staff, student body and administrative team will be involved in the running of NTU.

b. Enhance administrative staff morale and efficiency

Let us strive to create more further education opportunities for administrative staff, set up flexible promotion and incentive schemes and boost morale and efficiency through constructive evaluation. We should set up a new prize for outstanding contribution to NTU. We also need good communication channels between staff and management. And we can implement a practical rotation system and give any staff members who are not well-placed in their current position the opportunity to receive training and move to another position.

c. Reorganization of administration, teaching and research departments in step with the market

With NTU’s developing needs over the past years, more administrative, teaching and research units have had to be set up to take on the additional workload. But many of these units have completed their missions, and tides and times have also changed. There should be a system of review to phase out some units and restructure others to enhance efficiency. In teaching, for example, we could look at multimedia centres, the Second Northern Taiwan Teaching Research Center, the OpenCourseWare production platform, the Academic Writing Education Center, the Statistics Education Center, the Creativity and Entrepreneurship Program, the Leadership Development Program. Areas which overlap can be integrated. Administrative and teaching areas should be clearly marked off to increase administrative efficiency and teaching quality. We should also inspect the numerous university-level and faculty-level functional centres to promote research and teaching, reduce redundant use of manpower or resources, and put in place exit mechanisms.

d. Legal affairs unit

A legal affairs unit with a dedicated professional legal staff will offer advice and help departments to draw up regulations, contracts and other legal affairs. The unit will also be on hand to offer legal advice to staff and students and help them with any legal problems they may have.

5. Friendly Campus

Shape NTU into a unique and first-rate campus environment

The NTU campus is our shared living space. Financial assistance and counselling services can help create a supportive learning environment and devise an NTU “signature”. By maintaining what makes us unique and developing a campus culture where everyone has a say, we can strengthen NTU’s identity.

a. Create a learning environment free from economic and health worries

  1. A Financial Aid Office will realize our educational ideals by actively helping disadvantaged students. We should expand the scope of financial assistance: at present only first-year students are eligible to apply—we should extend this to all current NTU students. Also, application restrictions for low-income families (those who already receive a full subsidy for tuition fees) will be cancelled, and the maximum number of recipients will be increased from 100 to 400. In addition to a waiver for tuition fees and accommodation fees, successful applicants will also set receive a yearly subsidy of TWD20–30,000. This will encourage students from less privileged backgrounds to study hard and achieve excellent results.
  2. Awards and subsidies should occupy two separate systems. The latter are intended to help economically burdened students, while the former target those who show excellent academic performance. I also suggest certain modifications to the units that allocate financial assistance so that truly vulnerable students can pursue their studies without fear of future consequences.
  3. We must improve the capabilities of the Health Center and set up a close cooperation with the affiliated hospital to provide staff and students with health management and consultation services. The professional counselling available at the Student Counselling Center needs to more effective; we might invite psychiatric health professionals to maintain a presence in the Health Center to provide professional counselling and treatment to keep the whole university healthy in body and mind.

b. A unified plan for the campus that retains NTU’s unique identity

What is the NTU “signature”? What makes NTU distinctive? Vision tempered with discretion, simplicity with refinement, elegance that does not lack warmth, tradition that embraces modernity. The most pressing problem facing NTU’s continuing drive for development is how to make effective use of present space and open up an appropriate amount of space for future use. In line with the spirit of the times, campus development has to take into account culture, history, aesthetics and ecology, as well as public participation in planning. In the future, besides balancing the special characteristics of each faculty, campus planning will also have to respect the consensus of the staff–student body, so that we can both conserve our campus and bring it into the 21st century.

c. Enhance the sense of NTU’s identity among staff and students

Multi-level events can be planned to enable all parts of the NTU community to take pride in their university and together help NTU to grow. We shall actively pursue the following:

  1. Transformation of Graduate School of Journalism: using the staff and students of the Graduate School of Journalism to publish a newsletter; using professionally designed news reports to show NTU’s sophisticated culture, intellectual culture, student movements and community work. This will concentrate NTU’s team spirit.
  2. NTU identity and students: extending student involvement in university affairs, taking the initiative to open clear channels of communication with student groups and representatives and have a frequent exchange of ideas to give them the opportunity to take part in all kinds of meeting (curriculum, academic affairs, student affairs and university affairs) and event planning; also inviting them to participate in plans for campus landscaping and renovation to build a stronger sense of community on the campus. Providing more assistance to the student union, to develop the fine traditions of the NTU student union and to encourage students to hold inter-university arts and sporting competitions. This will strengthen the sense of NTU identity.
  3. NTU identity and staff: helping teaching and administrative staff with career development and planning, so that newly hired teaching staff do not have to worry about their research and living environment, well-established teaching staff can grow rapidly and be independent, and senior colleagues can achieve international influence and become leaders in their field.
  4. NTU identity in the community: strengthening the alumni association to help the public to understand the contribution NTU makes to society and to the economy; reinforcing interaction with local residents so that the public see NTU and the surrounding area as a united living community.
  5. NTU’s international image: using NTU’s status as a distinctive university with outstanding research to propel staff and students towards the international stage so that NTU is not merely part of Taiwan but part of the whole world. NTU is currently pushing hard to create an Asian league of top universities which, it is hoped, will be able to compete with Ivy League in the US and the Russell group in the UK. In the future, our relations with other top-flight universities will not be confined to academic competition: our international image will also be built up through sporting competitions, arts events, staff and student interaction and common fellowship.

Concluding Remarks

NTU is an asset for Taiwan; we play a key role in the transformation of Taiwanese society. We must train talented young people in both the humanities and the sciences in a way that addresses what our society actually needs, to achieve yet more outstanding progress in teaching and research, with a wider, more forward-looking and global outlook. Then we can take on the responsibility and the task entrusted to us by our nation. Then we can develop our spirit of dedication to world progress. And then we can bring 21st century Taiwan to shine on the global stage.

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