Engineering a World Class University? The Impact of Taiwan’s World Class University Project on Scientific Productivity

Yuan Chih Fu, David P. Baker, Liang Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


High profile, university excellence initiatives are becoming increasingly popular national R&D policies globally, with 23 nations implementing some form of an excellence initiative from 1995 to 2013. While differing in tactics, their common strategy is to fund accumulated advantage in science productivity, intentionally stimulating a world-class university among selected best universities to lift their capacity to compete internationally with the world’s most research-intensive universities. Here a ten-year difference-in-differences statistical evaluation of rates of scientific publications of Taiwan’s much-publicized, university excellence initiative “World Class University Project” yields findings unanticipated by the policy design. Significant financial resources provided to the selected and designated “World Class Universities” (WCUs, treatment group) did increase their volume and rate of publication of scientific papers overall and in more prestigious journals, but not at the policy’s anticipated accelerated rate. Also, interestingly the non-selected, less research-intensive universities (control group) also increased their publication rate in parallel and sometimes more than the WCUs over the same period. A possible diffusion effect of institutional norms, greater inter-institutional competition, and isomorphism around science productivity generated by the implementation of the policy is examined and discussed in light of the global spread of university excellence initiatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-570
Number of pages16
JournalHigher Education Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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