Taiwan has not seen any local COVID-19 infections since April 2020. When the outbreak took hold in January this year, Taiwan’s Centre for Disease Control reacted quickly and started to roll out a series of epidemic control measures, and so did the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (Taiwan Tech). Although most Taiwan Tech faculty and staff were still on Lunar New Year vacation, a university-wide Epidemic Prevention Response Team was set up to coordinate measures.
“Taiwan’s experience with SARS in 2003 has certainly helped to deal with the situation,” said Taiwan Tech Vice President Rong-Huay Juang, who is a trained biochemist, “and what is more, several public health experts are currently serving in high government positions, including our vice-president.”
Of course, it has not just business as usual on the Taiwan Tech campus, with almost all cultural, sports, and social events canceled – including the celebration for Taiwan Tech’s 45th anniversary.
International degree students continue to be admitted, but they are required to undergo a two-week, strictly controlled quarantine in government facilities before the start of term. Dispensers with hand sanitizer are deployed at the entrances of all buildings, in cafeterias, seats are divided by plastic partition panels, and the Computer Centre has developed an attendance tracking app that allows immediate contact tracing in case of on-campus infections.
Another challenge has been to safeguard the right to education of enrolled Taiwan Tech students who got stuck in their home countries due to travel restrictions. Taiwan Tech decided to introduce hybrid teaching so that classes could still be followed through distance learning. The Taiwan Tech Centre for Teaching and Learning Development has been quick to set up training sessions and workshops for online teaching tools, assisting our academic staff to offer distance learning materials in addition to their on-campus courses.
With visits by international delegations, academic conferences, and other important events, like the annual APAIE conference, canceled or postponed, the Office of International Affairs now focuses on carrying out epidemic prevention measures. This translates into a lot of detailed planning and frequent overtime work for OIA staff.
At the end of August, before the start of the winter semester, OIA staff had to be at the Taoyuan Airport almost all around the clock, to welcome international students and guide them through the immigration and epidemic prevention procedures. As of October, 18th Taiwan Tech has welcomed a total of 144 foreign students from 22 countries, with most of them coming from Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Ethiopia.