Taiwan Studies at NCCU

National Cheng Chi University Taiwan StudiesI have successfully gained entry to the International Master's in Taiwan Studies at National Chengchi University (NCCU; 國立政治大學). I will start studying there in September. I was also awarded the Taiwan Scholarship to support my studies.

FiLi has been admitted to a Ph.D. program and is making a choice between two universities. While I don't have to make a similar decision I  agree with some of fiLi's concerns, especially the lack of good information about the courses. I was also a little frustrated by the university's poor response to various enquiries by e-mail and phone during the application process. 

When I tell most Taiwanese people that I will study Taiwanese Studies they ask if I mean Taiwanese Literature. I then explain that Taiwan Studies is mainly related to social sciences which NCCU is well regarded for. There is also Taiwan Studies program at Chang Jung University (長榮大學) in Tainan.

My personal interest is in environmental issues. I  completed a Graduate Diploma of Environmental Studies at the University of Tasmania several years ago. I liked the interdisciplinary nature of the course and I think the course at NCCU offers a similar interdisciplinary approach.

A Taiwanese friend who is studying for a Ph.D. told me she thinks the only subjects it is worthwhile for a foreigner to study in a Taiwanese university are Chinese literature and Taiwan Studies. I hope I have made a good choice. I will write a more about the field of  Taiwan Studies and NCCU at a later date.

20 thoughts on “Taiwan Studies at NCCU

  1. My friend Dean went through that program, also with a scholarship. I make fun of him because he’s a Master of Taiwan Studies who speaks no Chinese.

  2. This is something I’ve also considered taking on in the future, although I feel that improving my Chinese is more important right now. I know I would slack off on one subject or the other if I tried to tackle both at the same time. Looks like I’ll be ready to begin around the time that you finish!

    I’m looking forward to hearing what your experience at NCCU is like. Good luck!

  3. Congratulations for your scholarship and welcome to the club, I’m a Taiwan Scholarship student too, even though I had to take one year of Chinese, I don’t think you will need that.

    See Ya

  4. Good for you! I’ve seen those ads in the paper, and have considered applying myself. Please let us know your continuing thoughts about the program.

  5. Same as “The Foreigner.” I’ve also seen them and thought about applying, but I live down south in Tainan with my wife, so I would have to move for at least two years and not sure if it’s worth it.
    Let us know what it’s like.

    Good luck and congrats on the scholarship.

  6. I can’t help but feel that these courses are if not dubious, then somewhat desperate, for the exact reasons alluded to by Poagao, but I know you are legit and sincere and I wish you 學業進步. But if Taiwan really wants to salvage its system of higher education it needs to: recognize PRC degrees and recruit PRC students.

  7. I inherited my current apartment from Poagao’s friend Dean. I have to admit, I find it a bit disturbing that people can get a masters degree in Taiwan studies from a Taiwanese university and not even be able to speak Chinese. Personally, I like the idea of doing a program like the one John P. is- one with textbooks, and lectures completely in Chinese. The professors can probably do a better job lecturing in their native language, and it’s good for the foreign student’s language acquisition, too.

    Hopefully, you’ll at least have the option of taking some normal classes since you do have the Chinese skills that Dean lacked.

  8. Prince Roy and Mark, you raise some important points. I won’t respond to them now, but I will address them in the future.

  9. I attended NCCU as an exchange student in spring 2006. As a marketing major I mostly took courses from the IMBA program but I took one from IMTS as well. Political Development of Taiwan was a really good class. Professor Kuo was always sharing great knowledge and insight and language was no problem, he’s actually lived in the US for many years. I think that you’ll have a great time at Zheng Da, I know I did 🙂

  10. “I have to admit, I find it a bit disturbing that people can get a masters degree in Taiwan studies from a Taiwanese university and not even be able to speak Chinese.”

    Mark brings up an interesting point here. Actually, it doesn’t bother me much that someone could get a master’s degree in Taiwanese studies without SPEAKING Mandarin, but I do admit to having reservations that one could get a one without being able to READ Chinese.

    (And I say this as one who can do neither.)

    Just as a practical matter – how could a master’s candidate do research about Taiwan without being able to read most of the original source materials?

  11. Yes, I think this is the key point. Materials about Taiwan written in English are limited and on many topics probably non-existent.

  12. One other thing about Mark’s preference for Taiwanese programs being taught in Mandarin (for the purposes of language acquisition). Well, it seems to me that there’s another side to that coin. Just today I remembered that I have a Taiwanese acquaintance who was accepted into one of these English-taught Taiwanese Studies programs one or two years ago. And for him, the attraction was that the program WAS taught in English. As someone whose mother tongue was Mandarin, he WANTED a master’s program which would put his English listening, speaking and writing skills to the test.

    Now, it probably would have been more ideal for him to pick some other major and study abroad, but that would have been tricky. He was a middle-aged guy with a wife and kids to support, a good job he was loath to abandon, and it would have been difficult and expensive for him to just up and leave Taiwan for two years in pursuit of higher education overseas.

  13. One other thing about Mark’s preference for Taiwanese programs being taught in Mandarin (for the purposes of language acquisition).

    My point wasn’t about language acquisition, though that would be a good reason for a foreigner to take a program in Chinese. It isn’t really about the fact that instructors teaching in a foreign language won’t be able to teach as well, either. My point is that it’s a bit odd to be able to get a masters degree in Taiwan studies from a Taiwanese university, and not be able to speak or read the national language. Only a very small number of people here speak English fluently, and culture is very much tied to language.

    What you think if you met a Chinese guy with a masters degree in American studies, earned from an American university if he couldn’t speak or read English?

  14. What would I say if I met a Chinese guy with a masters degree in American studies, earned from an American university if he couldn’t speak or read English?

    Obviously, you’ve got me there. What can I say? I guess I would raise an eyebrow and ask him (via an interpreter), exactly how does that work?

    For some concentrations of American Studies, it would obviously be bogus. Clearly, you can’t study American literature without knowing English.

    But for other concentrations, it might be somewhat more understandable. Suppose there was a Taiwanese version of David, interested in American environmental issues (only David’s hypothetical doppelganger doesn’t speak English, though). IF there were enough Chinese translations on the topic (and that’s a big if, as I said in my July 23rd comment), then yeah, I could sorta see that. As long as he knows his PCPs from his BVDs, then his lack of knowledge about American urban legends or inability to order from a fine restaurant wouldn’t unduly bother me.

    Or, to take another example, imagine somebody gets a masters degree in some kind of interdisciplinary Classics program, and can’t speak or read Greek. Again, I’d ask him, “How does that work?”

    If he told me that he specializes in the economy of ancient Sparta, then I wouldn’t necessarily doubt his professional knowledge. I imagine that by now there are enough translations of source material to make study of that subject possible without knowledge of the original Greek. For him, a full appreciation of Homer’s poetry is something that’d be nice, but certainly not required.

    As for it being easier for a professor to lecture in his native tongue, of course I concede that. But believe me, back in the West I’ve had my share of foreign professors with ABOMINABLE accents (and grammar). And that certainly didn’t seem to stop the university I went to from hiring them, or from assigning them to teach us.

    At least here, foreigners who’ve been here a while know what to expect. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve kinda gotten used to the Taiwanese accent.

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  17. David:

    how have you found the program you are in? how about an update, please. 🙂


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