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Insights from the 2024 Taiwan-France Higher Education Leaders Forum

The '2024 Taiwan-France Higher Education Leaders Forum,' a collaborative endeavor between Taiwan's Ministry of Education (MOE), NTNU, the Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education of Taiwan (FICHET), the Bureau Français de Taipei, and Campus France, convened at NTNU from March 11 to 12.

This event marked a significant gathering of over 100 directors, administrators, and 12 university presidents from approximately 50 universities across Taiwan and France aimed to enhance internationalization in higher education, scientific research, industry-academia collaboration, talent development, and language education, with a focus on deepening Taiwan-France academic partnerships.

In the opening remarks, Deputy Minister of Education Dr. Mon-Chi Lio, highlighted the substantial educational collaboration between Taiwan and France, evidenced by 875 academic cooperation agreements and an active student exchange program.

The forum featured leaders from institutions of higher education from both countries, with discussions on the 'Key Development Points for Taiwan-France Science and Technology and Talent Cooperation,' sharing insights on successful research collaborations and talent development strategies. Notable participants included such as President Wen-Chang Chen of National Taiwan University (NTU) and National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) President W. John Kao, alongside other distinguished figures from institutions like the University of Bordeaux and the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Cultures (INALCO) in France.

A highlight was the collaborative session between President Kao and President Dean Lewis of the University of Bordeaux. President Kao emphasized the complementary strengths of Taiwan and France in R&D, manufacturing, and intellectual property protection, advocating for expanded collaboration for mutually beneficial outcomes.

The forum allocated a special segment for the enhancement of Chinese and French linguistic skills, underscoring innovative pedagogical techniques and strategies for promoting these languages. This initiative exemplifies the depth of educational and cultural exchanges between Taiwan and France. NTHU President W. John Kao discussed the institution's 'people-centered' educational philosophy, prioritizing inclusivity, equity, and diversity. These principles cultivate an academic atmosphere conducive to freedom, democracy, personal growth, and societal contribution. He cited successful collaborations with French entities like Air Liquide and the Centre d'Elaboration de Matériaux et d'Etudes Structurales (CEMES), exemplifying the productive outcomes of such partnerships.

University of Bordeaux Vice President Joanne Pagèze noted the extensive scope of Taiwan-France cooperation, spanning fields such as engineering, IT, healthcare, agriculture, business, law, politics, and linguistics. She advocated for further talent development support, particularly through the integration of soft skills training into curricula to equip students for future professional challenges.

During discussions, Hassane Sadok, President of the Université de la Mer in France, expressed concern over the waning interest of local students in graduate studies, suggesting that enhancing international experiences could boost their academic involvement.

The forum's second session, led by NTNU Vice President Frank Yung-Hsiang Ying, featured contributions from notable French representatives, including Senior Director Alain Bonafous-Murat of the French University Alliance, President Michel Ogier of La Rochelle University, Coordinator Alexandre Wallard of the European Master Medical Technology and Healthcare Business Erasmus Mundus Program (EMMaH) at the University of Lille, and Thierry Burnouf, Vice Dean at Taipei Medical University. They discussed effective educational collaborations as demonstrated by the EU's Erasmus Mundus program and the European Universities Alliances.

Alain Bonafous-Murat emphasized the importance of university partnerships between Taiwan and France, advocating for a strategic approach to fostering specialized projects and noting the fundamental role of cross-border cooperation in both educational and business contexts.

The Erasmus Mundus program, emblematic of European transnational education, serves as a prime example. Officially known as the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees (EMJMD), it is notable for fostering collaboration among multiple EU universities. By offering diverse programs that leverage the unique expertise of each participating institution, the initiative facilitates student mobility across countries. This enhances talent exchange and cultivates unity within the EU.

'Through local actions, we can think more internationally,' said President Michel Ogier of the University of La Rochelle, introducing the 'European University for Smart Urban Coastal Sustainability' (EU-CONEXUS) project. This collaboration among nine EU coastal universities, through the Joint Program on Smart Urban Coastal Sustainability (SmUCS), seeks to develop talents in coastal engineering and ecological disciplines. President Ogier emphasized Taiwan's critical position as an island nation confronting climate change effects, like rising sea levels, illustrating shared challenges with EU coastal areas. The SmUCS initiative focuses on addressing vital coastal and marine issues through collaborative efforts to harmonize coastal development and environmental preservation.

The forum concluded with remarks from Director-General Dr. Nicole Yen-Yi Lee from the MOE's Department of International and Cross-Strait Education. Dr. Lee expressed gratitude towards the French delegates for their contributions and the joint efforts to bolster international educational exchanges. She emphasized the importance of such forums and student exchange programs in reinforcing the global connections of higher education, aspiring for ongoing, comprehensive project planning and partnerships.