East Meets West in Higher Education
Perspectives from National Cheng Kung University
Michael M.C. Lai
President, National Cheng Kung University
Invited speech delivered at EITC 2007 August 10, 2007 Princeton University
I am honored to be in the company of this distinguished panel of speakers in the University Leadership Forum. I am the president of National Cheng Kung University in Tainan, Taiwan, which will soon welcome the chairman of this session, Da-Hsuan Feng, to be its Senior Executive Vice President. I received my medical school education in Taiwan and postgraduate education in the U. S. and spent my entire scientific career as a virologist in the University of Southern California and Howard Hughes Medical Institute before I returned to Taiwan 4 years ago. Thus, I have personal experience of the higher education system in both the East and the West.
NCKU originally started out as an engineering school and is now one of the largest comprehensive universities in Taiwan, covering various disciplines from engineering, liberal art and medicine to management. It is located in a historical town Tainan. Most of its student body of 20,000 are the cream of crop of elite students in Taiwan. College entrance in Taiwan is extremely competitive. High school students spend enormous efforts studying for entrance exam in order to gain entrance to NCKU and other elite universities. On the other hand, there are so many universities and colleges in Taiwan that 97% of college applicants can be accepted to one college or another. So, the