TAIPEI - Taiwan authorities ratified, on Tuesday, amendments to two regulations on recognition of Chinese mainland college diplomas and mainland students studying at Taiwan universities.
Under the new regulations, mainland students could begin their studies at Taiwan universities in September, officials at the educational department said.
Further, they said the amendments were aimed to address problems concerning cross-Strait education. "As the mainland's educational quality has greatly improved, the number of Taiwanese students studying in mainland universities, and that of Taiwanese' mainland spouses living on the island and holding mainland diplomas, are increasing."
The amended regulations specify procedures for applying to programs in Taiwan universities and recognition of mainland diplomas, except for medical education.
The island's education department said they would first recognize diplomas granted by the 41 best mainland universities. The mainland has already recognized diplomas issued by all 164 universities and colleges in Taiwan.
On mainland students studying in Taiwan, the regulation says public universities on the island are only allowed to take in mainland students for postgraduate and PhD programs, while private universities can enroll all students, including undergraduates.
Also, tuition fees for mainland students will be determined by respective schools, "but should not be lower than the level for private colleges," it says, adding that mainland students are not provided with scholarships.
Mainland students will also not be allowed to hold full or part-time jobs, and must leave the island according to pre-set times, it says, adding Taiwan universities seeking mainland students will jointly form a student admission office.
Insiders say the opening of Taiwan universities to mainland youths would provide more choices for mainlanders, especially for the "new-rich" class who used to send children to schools in Britain, Australia, the United States and Hong Kong.
Amendments to laws allowing local colleges to take in mainland students was adopted in August by Taiwan's legislature, but the laws forbid mainland students to apply to schools related to the island's security or to attend the exams of civil servants and professionals, such as for doctors and lawyers.
Additionally, the island's educational authorities said the number of mainland students would only account for 1 percent of the total number of freshmen in Taiwan universities, which could only be 2,000 per academic year.
The move was welcomed by the island's educational sector, as dropping birth rates and over-development of higher education have caused many Taiwan colleges problems in attracting enough students.
Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said in August that allowing mainland youths to study in Taiwan, and accepting mainland college diplomas, would be "a landmark event for cross-Strait relations."
Also, education exchanges would help young people know more about each other and lay the foundation for long-term peace across the Strait, Ma said, adding the policy would also make full use of Taiwan's unused educational facilities.
Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung said last month that the act could "promote cross-Strait academic exchanges and deepen mutual understanding."
The mainland's Ministry of Education also welcomed the move, stressing that Taiwan should not put in place discriminatory policies that might harm mainland students.
Taiwan's Kinmen University, established in August, is hoping to benefit from the trend by attracting mainland students.
The school has no cap in enrolling mainland students, excluded from the 2,000 annual quota set for Taiwan universities, and students from outside the island enjoy the same tuition, courses and subsidies as local students.
Also, more Taiwan students have chosen to study at mainland schools to further their education, with the most popular majors being economics, management and Chinese medicine.
The most recent well-known Taiwanese public figure who studied at mainland universities was Li Kan, son of Taiwanese writer Li Ao. The 18-year-old economics major enrolled at the Peking University in September.
Taiwan students studying at mainland universities paid the same tuition and boarding fees as their mainland peers, as of September 2005. They also benefited from a scholarship fund worth 7 million yuan ($1.03 million) each year.