The Daily Californian Online

UC Berkeley Cements Research Partnership With Taiwan

By Madeleine Key
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Category: News > University > Academics and Administration

In an effort to strengthen relations between American and Taiwanese scholars, UC Berkeley entered into a three-year partnership with 15 major Taiwanese research universities last month.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau cemented the agreement - which grants $5 million to the campus over three years to fund Taiwanese graduate, postdoctoral and visiting scholars in the field of humanities - on Sept. 24 by signing a memorandum of understanding with the Taiwan's Ministry of Education.

As part of the agreement, nicknamed the "Top University Strategic Alliance" in Taiwan, the ministry will encourage outstanding students at 15 Taiwanese research institutions to apply to graduate programs at UC Berkeley. The applicants will receive no special consideration, however, and must be accepted into graduate programs independently on their own merit.

If accepted, the ministry has pledged $1.2 million to fund 15 students' first three years of study - five each year - at UC Berkeley, including living expenses. The agreement also funds five visiting scholars and five postdoctoral researchers each year for the partnership's three years, each of whom must be nominated by the alliance and accepted by UC Berkeley's Institute of East Asian Studies.

Although numerous similar exchanges exist between Chinese and American scholars in the hard sciences, the agreement is unique in its focus on the social sciences, said Martin Backstrom, associate director at the institute.

"It's recognition that the social sciences and humanities are as important at Berkeley as other studies," he said. "This is a world-class opportunity for scholars in these fields."

The institute, which Backstrom said was instrumental in the formation of the partnership, will set the research agenda next fall in conjunction with campus faculty. Research project topics, all of which will pertain to East Asia, will fall under the five themes of sustainable urban living; nature, society and the humanities; the media, the public and governance; borders, boundaries and networks; and knowledge, professions and the economy."

Backstrom said although scholars from East Asia regularly conduct research at UC Berkeley, they primarily work on their own individual research. This partnership differs because it is "a more systematic and organized research effort," he said.

While many other regional and ethnic studies programs suffer from a lack of funding, the partnership is likely to raise the profile of the East Asian studies program, Backstrom added.

"Anything we can do to bring in research money helps," he said. "Berkeley has to be a lot more clever these days."

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