In response to globalization and the knowledge-based economy, the Taiwanese government has gradually deregulated the control of higher education since the 1990s. As a result, the higher education institutions in Taiwan have not only increased in number, but also have become far more diversified and liberalized than they were prior to the 1990s. In general, the system of higher educational institutions can be classified into three sub-systems: general, normal, and vocational. However, since the Ministry of Education deregulated these institutions, the boundaries of the sub-systems are no longer distinct. This study attempts to analyze the characteristics of Taiwan's higher educational system using the statistical method of factor analysis. This analysis is based on data obtained from 147 institutions of higher education recorded between 2009 and July 30th, 2010.
Using factor analysis, the seven factors characteristic of Taiwan's institutions of higher education are classified into two parts. The first relates to the basic state of the institution, including educational standards, size, educational conditions, established type, and local characteristics. The second relates to specialized fields in these institutions, including two factors, namely fields in natural sciences, and medicine and welfare.
Using the above classification to examine the five types of higher educational institutions in Taiwan, i.e., two types within the general system - private and public; normal, vocational and "top universities" selected by the Ministry of Education. Four conclusions were reached. First, the vocational higher educational institutions show great divergence when it comes to "educational standards". Second, the "top universities" are overwhelmingly ahead of other types in the factor of size. Third, when examining the factor of "educational standards", these institutions of higher education can be placed in the following order - "top universities", normal, public and private of the general system, and vocational. Last, in respect to the various types of institutions, each offers different components of specialized fields.
The results led to four conclusions. First, the "top universities" not only perform adequately with regard to the basic state of the institution, but also offer a variety of choices in specialized fields. Second, although the general higher educational institutions have a higher educational standard, they are smaller in size and do not offer a comprehensive list of specialized fields. In addition, the range of education offered in the private institutions is larger than that offered by the public institutions within the general system. However, the public institutions in the general system have better educational conditions and are found in relatively underdeveloped areas. Third, in the most part the normal higher educational institutions have characteristics similar to public institutions within the general system. The main differences are the fewer natural sciences fields and the fewer studies in the medical and welfare fields offered in the normal educational institutions. Last, the vocational higher education institutions have poor educational conditions and educational standards.
Consequently, despite the changes made to the institutions of higher education in Taiwan, the original classification of higher educational institutions is still valid. But, according to the findings of this research, there are factors that remain unclear and therefore require further investigation, particularly on the details of the methodology of the topic.