A long-stalled cooperative educational program may have a new lease on life.
For years, AmCham Taipei has emphasized the potential value for Taiwan of allowing – in fact, encouraging – prestigious foreign universities and other educational institutions to set up degree and/or non-degree programs in this country as they have done elsewhere across the region and around the world. Such programs would broaden the choices available to students wishing to obtain a more international educational experience and help to cultivate the kind of talent that will increasingly be in demand in Taiwan to maintain this economy’s competitiveness.
As the Chamber’s Travel and Tourism Committee has pointed out in past Taiwan White Papers, hospitality is one of the industry sectors most in need of this kind of specialized training. Despite Taiwan’s many advantages as a tourist destination, the sector’s development has been held back by a shortage of well-prepared, internationally minded personnel.
Given that evident need, it came as a shock when local media reports recently disclosed that a cooperative agreement entered into in 2011 between the renowned French-based culinary and hospitality institute Le Cordon Bleu and the National Kao-hsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism (NKUHT) has been obstructed for the past five years by bureaucratic impediments. According to press reports, the two entities agreed to jointly establish a new institute, with the university investing to build the necessary facilities and Le Cordon Bleu providing the instructors. Although the construction work has been completed, the faculty members reportedly have been unable to take up their teaching posts because of regulations limiting foreigners to teaching foreign languages. In addition, enterprises related to culture and education have been out of bounds for foreign investors.
Le Cordon Bleu operates 50 branch campuses in 20 countries. In this region, it has facilities in Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, and most recently Shanghai. According to the school, the Taiwan case is the first time it ran into difficulties operating in an overseas location because of local laws or regulations.
Fortunately, the impasse now appears to be ending. Minister of Labor Chen Hsiung-wen told a legislative hearing last month that his ministry and the Ministry of Education have been working on finding a solution to enable the Kaohsiung program to go forward in the near future. NKUHT president Jung Chi-yeh was quoted in the press as expressing hope that the school could open as early as April.
Achim von Hake, general manager of the Sherwood Taipei hotel and co-chair of the AmCham Taipei Travel and Tourism Committee, welcomed the news as helping to boost the development of Taiwan’s hospitality industry.