NGO Leaders Forum: Engage Taiwan in Global Citizenship 

Research and Development Center for Community Learning (RDCCL) at NCCU, 15 Sep - 14 Oct, 2010 

CU phenomenon

For the last 11 years, "community universities (CUs)" are a significant grass-root movement, initiated by local NGOs in almost every district around Taiwan and developed into a big, 100 CUs established, 150,000 people involved, non-profit sector, with stakeholders from central and local governments, local schools and academic institutions.

CUs are not institutions for higher education, yet they are civil society organizations (CSOs) focusing on community development and they provide programs to train local people into volunteers to engage them in long-term civil actions for urban/rural socio-cultural, economical and environmental issues.

CUs call themselves "universities" because they set their mission as to "emancipate" sustainable development knowledges by engaging experts from academic institutions in volunteer training programs; to develop local knowledges by preserving local cultural and natural heritages, which will never taught in any textbooks made by formal educational institutions; to find out best practices from real experiences dealing with specific local issues, which had evolved into expertise and innovations for human change and social reform.


Perhaps Taiwan is too isolated from the global society for such a long time, for most of the CU stakeholders, including the local NGOs themselves, lack the knowledge of "international development", "human capacity building" as well as "development leadership". They'd therefore not recognized the achievement of CUs as "development NGOs" but rather treated them as traditional "non-formal adult education institutions."

Regulated under the "Lifelong Learning Act", partially funded and monitored by educational departments of central and local governments, and evaluated annually by academic experts from the adult education sector, all these could have made CUs more unclear on their mission. Now CUs have to face the questioning that they don't have qualified teachers with certified adult education teaching skills, instead of qualified NGO executives and staff with sustainable development knowledge and field work skills. In addition to community development commitment, they even have to spend a lot of time to keep their training programs following the genuine adult education principles, in order to help CU participants get some kind of disputed "non-formal college degrees", although the need from the local people for this kind of degrees is proved to be quite small.

Not to mention the neglect of a development leadership program for CU staff. Nowadays there are only training programs left for acquiring educational administration skills, with little importance comparing to CU teachers training programs. The CU crises is not that the government grants are confirmed to decrease year by year, but the CU leaders are so burnt out after a decade of dedication without any rest or further learning, and the CU executives and staff are so confused with the CU mission thereby not knowing how to contribute and quiting their jobs so often.