The temptation for Taiwan

November 1, 1996

The number of Taiwanese students at university in Britain has soared over the past ten years. In 1986, only 167 were studying here. This year there are more than 12,000.

The explosion reflects the growing interest by Taiwan in Britain. Its manufacturing companies are now looking to follow the route of their Japanese and Korean predecessors and set up shop in the country they see as the "gateway into Europe".

David Warner at the University of Central England helped set up the Anglo Taiwan Education Centre in Taipei, which encourages students to opt for an education in Britain rather than the United States.

"British universities have a strong reputation for high quality and the centre is working hard at diversifying Taiwanese students away from their traditional destination of the US."

There remain political difficulties for Britain and Taiwan however, as there are no diplomatic links between the two and this means no embassy.

To get around this problem, the Taiwanese have set up the Majestic Trading Company in London. It acts as a representative office for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and assists Taiwanese companies investing in Britain.

There are 68 Taiwanese companies in Britain and more than a third have arrived in the past three years. The largest is Tatung, a television, video and computer manufacturing giant, which launched in Britain 12 years ago. Now Tatung is making a huge investment in Lanarkshire, in a bid to service the markets of Europe. The company has already sponsored one of its employees to do a first degree at Birmingham University and believes this procedure is becoming more common.

Tatung has its own research and development department on site but works closely with Taiwan so it has little need for graduates, but this may change."A lot of our development could be done anywhere in the world so if the HQ in Taipei decides that a product should be developed in Britain we will be looking to take on many more graduate engineers," says a spokesman.

At the University of Central England, John Law, head of industrial design, has maintained links with Tatung, for whom he worked. He has proposed a model for managing industrial design in companies that are producing for European markets. His students have also worked on projects for Tatung, coming up with new design concepts for consumer products.

"We've had staff from Tatung coming to the University of Central England to give lectures," says Professor Law. The university is launching a professional development programme to attract Tatung employees.

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