A growing number of international students are choosing to study in Taiwan, an ‘Asian Tiger’ nation perhaps best known for its world-leading tech industry, but also offering strong academic programs across the full subject spectrum.
Close proximity to Hsinchu Science Park – Taiwan’s answer to the US’s Silicon Valley – makes universities in Taiwan such as National Tsing Hua University and National Cheng Kung University exciting places to study for anyone interested in high-tech.
But while Taiwan’s tech sector is undoubtedly impressive, the country has much more to offer, and its popularity as a study destination is growing across a wide range of subject areas. In fact, government statistics from 2011 showed that the most popular courses for international students were in business and management, followed by engineering, arts and humanities, social sciences and media. Taiwan is also a popular destination for language courses in Mandarin Chinese.
The government is keen get more international students to study in Taiwan, having set the ambitious target of reaching 150,000 international students by 2020. Continuing in this effort, many universities in Taiwan are increasing the number of degree courses taught partly or entirely in English, and the government is also offering a series of scholarships for international students. Many of Taiwan’s top universities also offer their own international scholarships.
According to a government survey of international students, other top reasons to study in Taiwan include the high quality of the country’s academic resources, the rich cultural environment and future job prospects.
Overall, Taiwan has 165 higher education institutions, of which 70% are categorized as universities and the rest as colleges. 15 universities in Taiwan are ranked in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017, and as many as 34 universities are featured in the QS University Rankings: Asia 2016.
Of the top universities in Taiwan, National Taiwan University (NTU) is the leader of the pack, ranked 21st in Asia and joint 68th in the world this year. Also among the world's top 250 universities are National Tsing Hua University (31st in Asia), National Chiao Tung University (38th in Asia), National Cheng Kung University (39th in Asia), National Taiwan University of Science And Technology (50th in Asia).
In general, you can expect student life in Taiwan to be lively and varied, reflecting the growing international student population, as well as the country’s existing cultural diversity. The influence of mainland Chinese culture is widely in evidence, in Taiwan’s architecture, cuisine and of course the official language. But Western, Japanese and aboriginal cultures have all left their mark too.
As a student, it’s likely that you’ll be based in one of Taiwan’s larger cities. However, it would be well worth spending some time exploring other parts of the country during your stay, particularly the eight national parks. You could also take the opportunity to participate in traditional celebrations, such as the renowned Penghu Seafood Carnival, Confucius Ceremony and Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival.
Many of the leading universities in Taiwan are located in its politic, economic and cultural capital, Taipei City. Located at the northern top of the island, Taipei is about 25km inland, on the Tamsui River. A 24/7 kind of city, Taipei fuses the ultra-modern and the historic; skyscrapers and high-tech headquarters intermix with ancient temples, traditional tea-houses and busy markets. It is surrounded on all sides by New Taipei City, formerly known as Taipei County, Taiwan’s largest metropolitan area.
Universities in Taipei include Taiwan’s highest ranked university, National Taiwan University (21st in Asia; joint 68th in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017). Known locally as Táidà, the university is in the Daan district, close to one of the points at which Taipei ends and New Taipei City begins.
Other high-ranking universities in Taipei and New Taipei include: National Yang-Ming University, Taipei Medical University (74th in Asia; 401-410 in the world), National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, or ‘Taiwan Tech’, National Taiwan Normal University (58th in Asia; joint 310th in the world), National Taipei University of Technology (112th in Asia; 551-600 in the world), National Chengchi University (95th in Asia; 701+ in the world) and Fu Jen Catholic University (211-220 in Asia; 701+ in the world).
While the Taipei area has the lion’s share of Taiwan’s top universities, there are also high-ranking institutions across the country. Hsinchu City, about 80km south-west of Taipei, is known as the home of Hsinchu Science Park. Dubbed Taiwan’s ‘Silicon Valley’, the park has become a major hub for high-tech development, drawing on the region’s existing strengths in this field. National Tsing Hua University and National Chiao Tung University are both located in Hsinchu, and are both ranked within the world’s top 200 universities.
In the south of Taiwan, Tainan City is home to National Cheng Kung University, and Kaohsiung City to National Sun Yat-sen University (73rd in Asia; joint 395th in the world). Back in the north, Zhongli City boasts National Central University (75th in Asia; 411-420 in the world), while Guishan Township is home to Chang Gung University (122nd in Asia; 441-450 in the world). Finally, National Chung Hsing University (96th in Asia; 501-550 in the world), known in Chinese as Xingda, is in Taichung – Taiwan’s third-largest city after New Taipei and Kaohsiung, located towards the central part of the country.
Tuition fees vary by university and by subject, with private universities typically charging slightly more, and subjects such as medicine at the higher end of the fee range. To give an idea, National Taiwan University’s international students tuition fees for the 2015/16 academic year are NTD 50,460-62,100 (US$1,700-2,100) per semester for undergraduates and NTD 51,280-62,360 (US$1,750-2,125) per semester for most graduate programs. Tuition fees for the MBA program meanwhile are much higher, priced at NTD 142,600 (US$4,800). There are two semesters per year.
Overall, the university advises students to budget up to NTD 350,000 (US$11,900) per year, to cover tuition fees, accommodation, food, health insurance and course supplies.
Applications to universities in Taiwan are made directly to the institution, either through an online system or by sending completed documents in the post. Students may be asked to provide photocopies of academic qualifications and study records, letters of recommendation, proof of language proficiency, proof of sufficient funding (or scholarship award), and an application fee. Some courses may require students to sit an entry exam.
Applications are processed at the start of the calendar year, up to early March. Applications for the government-run Taiwan Scholarship Program must be submitted between the start of February and end of March.
Once accepted onto a course, international students will need to apply for a student visa and, after entering the country, a resident visa. Students who want to work part-time must also apply for a work permit; this allows them to take on employment of up to 16 hours per week during term-time.