International Comparison of Faculty Salaries

You may have noticed two additional links I’ve added to Blogs I Read.

The first of these is Higher Education Management Group. The blog is operated by Dr. Keith Hampson, PhD who is the director of E-learning at Ryerson University in Canada and is part of the LinkedIn group with the same name. The second link is to Beerken’s Blog operated by Dr. Eric Beerkens. Both of these blogs are excellent and provide very valuable information for education professionals.

One of the most significant issues to emerge on my blog has been salaries of university faculty in Taiwan. Back in November, Dr. Beerken posted a comparison of academic salaries around the world. I recommend having a look.

Faculty in Taiwan are payed through two different installments. The one most of us are familiar with is the teaching allowance. This includes payment for regularly taught hours and overtime. The second of these is the research allowance. It is this that increases as we are promoted from Assistant to Associate to Full Professor. For comparison purposes, entry-level salaries in Taiwan for Assistant Professors (not including New Year Bonus) begin around 64,000 TWD a month. The Universal Currency Converter tells me this is 1,898.69 USD. A Full Professor with senority would make somewhere around 100,000 TWD, which is 2,966.70 USD. This puts Taiwan faculty salaries amongst the lowest in the world, only slightly above India.

It’s not entirely fair to make this kind of comparison. My contract as a foreign English teacher is identical with faculty contracts offered to local professors. While faculty salaries in Japan are much higher than Taiwan, it is almost impossible for foreign English teachers to find stable, long-term work. Our teaching schedule is also very light. Positions in South Korea for foreign English teachers often include a large number of additional teaching hours during the regular schedule and in the summer. When I taught there (1994-6), we taught on Saturday. I have been told that national universities in Singapore also have a 6-day teaching week.


12 thoughts on “International Comparison of Faculty Salaries

  1. I think the graph you link to corrects the salaries for purchasing power parity (ppp). So the $1898.69 for Taiwan is much higher if you want to compare against that graph. One way of approximating it is to take the ratio of Taiwan’s gdp per capita (ppp)/(nominal) 31834/16392 = 1.94. Then multiply it by 1898.69, which gets you 3683, putting Taiwan somewhere between Malaysia and France.

    Of course, all that is only meaningful if you stay within the countries, once the Taiwanese academic travel outside to say, US or Europe, they are poorer than grad students.

  2. Let me correct myself…3683 would be an entry salary, so that’s actually pretty high, similar to Germany. Doing the same to top level gets you 5755, which is similar to Japan and the UK. So it’s not bad if you look at PPP. Though the large difference between Taiwan GDP PPP and GDP nominal is very unusual for a developed country. So again, it’s all meaningless once you go outside of Taiwan.

    1. Hi, Academic,

      I am not sure that I agree with you at all. Please take a look at my reply. I honestly don’t think Taiwanese professors are making less money than other places, considering lower taxes, retirement benefits, a world acclaimed health care system and job security. What really matters is how much really goes to your pockets at the end. I live in New York now. The salary of professors in most western countries, in my opinion, are just gross income.

      I would have moved back to Taiwan long ago if not because I need to maintain connections with the scientific world. However, this is not an issue any more since more and more western scientists are willing to travel to Asia for conference.

  3. After reading the comments on this blog, I am not quite sure the pros and cons of the salary issue of professors in Taiwan are fully addressed.

    I am a Taiwanese, but I studied and work at ivy league schools in the US for over 15 years. As far as I know, a great proportion (60-70%) of the salary for tenured professors at the medical center of ivy league schools comes from their grant funding. The university only provides roughly about 30-40% of their total salary. In other words, a tenured professor is under pressure to maintain an active funding in order to keep up with their salary. During economic downturn, it is extremely competitive/stressful to maintain continuous funding. As far as I know, several tenured professors here are making only 30% of their listed salary after losing their funding. They bring home no more than a college graduate every month, not to mention other psychological issues, such as self-esteem.

    In addition, a chunk of my salary in New York (about 25-30%) goes to taxes, medicare/social security every month. Although it seems like the salary of US professors is way higher than most countries in the world, one wonders how much really goes to your pockets at the end, how stressful it is to maintain the extramural funding and how secure the job is. I have seen many professors left the university after losing their research funding recently.

    In contrast, the salary of university professors in Taiwan does not seem to make as high as other places at the first glance. However, The job is fairly secure and highly respected in the society. Moreover, the tax burden is only about 10%. There is another BIG benefit of being a professors at national universities/ schools—retirement plan. As far as I know, a professor at public schools is considered a government employee. My government will pay 80% of the salary monthly for the rest of the employee’s life, providing the person has worked for about 25 years before retirement. This means that a professors at national universities could have a pretty decent life after retirement. It is a super GOOD deal to make more than $2000-3000 US dollars every moth for doing nothing and being old at the same time. How much a US professor have to save in 401K in order to have a decent retirement like this????? Together, a Taiwanese professor could bring home more money monthly than a US professor!!!

    After seeing the meltdown of the US economy, I gradually appreciate the Taiwanese system. Now, I am considering a position at a national university in Taiwan for the reasons I mentioned above.


    1. Hi Scott and hl428,

      Thank you both very much for your informative write-ups offering much insight into faculty remuneration and benefits in Taiwan. I would like to ask what the academic tenure system is like in Taiwan? Are assistant professors directly hired on permanent contracts, or is it similar to the US where the assistant professor has to pass an arduous tenure review after about 6 years (failing which the professor will have to leave the university)?

  4. In Taiwan cost of living is much lower than Japan, HK or the US, so the salary is acceptable here, I think. But the cost of living is not anywhere as low as India, so that number surprised me, comparing Taiwan salaries to salaries in India, that is.

    From what I understand, MOE in Taiwan tries to avoid salary competition between schools. They also try to keep tuition low. Sometimes really smart people are also really poor and it’s not good just to let the rich people go to better schools. Universities tuition lower on purpose so that smarter kids can also attend a good school. I think this is wonderful, in theory.

    But reality says that if tuition is low then salary is low and that means the quality of teaching would be low (if the two schools have the same number of students and the same input from the government). If we had salary competition, more qualified teachers should gravitate to the better paying schools. If the MOE can keep salary consistent throughout Taiwan, this solves the problem of salary competition, but they still need to subsidize schools with lower student count or tuition can’t remain the same.

    But if the subsidy is based on the quality of the program and the quality of the program is based on the talent of the teachers yet the salaries are all the same, things just can’t balance out this way. I don’t see mathematically how you can do it, unless you have a whole lot more students at your school. From what I’ve heard, universities in Taiwan are constantly fighting to get a bigger piece of the pie. What attracts students? Lower tuition, but then you have lower input. Reputation of the school, but this is only from getting talented teachers and if there’s not much salary competition then that doesn’t work. Good marketing, but that takes a bigger budget.

    The larger schools would have higher input and would need less financial support from the government. But how does a school attract talented teachers then? There’s no sense in keeping tuition low to help underprivileged but intelligent students get into schools where the quality of teaching is low. Then we’ve got really smart students going to schools where they aren’t learning much.

    I haven’t taken into account income for professors from grants at all. Personally, I think this is a failed business model. The customer is the student, not the government. When things get difficult and you have to pick your priorities, you put the most effort into whatever pays you the most. If you’re getting more money from grants, then you spend more time on research and less time on students. But the customer should be the student, I think. Anyway, I know it’s not a perfect system.

    I don’t think schools should expect to get the majority of funding from research and grants. Research may improve the image of the university in the eyes of the government but it hardly impresses students at all. I know I didn’t pick my university in Taiwan because of the quality of the research. I had no idea about that when I applied. But if schools don’t get money from research then it must come from tuition and in the US we’ve seen tuition go up 4 times over the rate of inflation. I don’t know, maybe US schools aren’t focused on research money so much any more. My father has taught at universities in Dubai, in China and in the US, and he was never required to do any research. He also got paid really well.

    One question. At public universities, the salary for professors should be public information, right? Do you know where I would find this info?

  5. I’m an expat living in Taiwan, and I can tell you one thing. If you live here, work as full time professor, earn 100k NTD a month, and get all the perks, like campus life with discounts, paid holidays etc., and IMPORTANTLY you spend the money that you earn also in Taiwan – this is good life. Not arguing super lavish great life, but very good, couple times over the average. Because while 100k NTD is not much when you spend it in New York or Paris, but when you spend it in Taiwan, especially not in Taipei but instead some other place, say, Hsinchu, which is only 1 hr away from Taipei and is home to 2 of top notch schools in Taiwan, then this 100k salary is a good life. If you are a couple working both with a salary like that, you can realistically live normal life in Taiwan renting nice place and all, and still from total of 200k save at least 100k a month, every month, or even more if you want to. 100k saving per month totals at 1.2M a year. After 10 years you have 12M NTD liquid cash, to buy a house with land without mortgage. And even if by that time you somehow did not apply for APRC (alien permanent resident certificate) owning property in Taiwan worth at least 5M NT (and you have saved twice as much) makes you automatically eligible. But even before that, after 5 years of working at the uni you are already eligible for APRC.
    Sure, it might not be a dream scenario to go to Taiwan to teach to save up and then take the money outside of Taiwan to more expensive country. But if you come, and settle here, man, good life! Working at university is extremely stable job, and a wonderful to have here.

    1. It sounds nice, but…
      a) you forgot about tax. You don’t pay 5% or 10% when you earn c.a. 100K NTD/month. You have to pay way more.
      b) to earn 100K NTD/month you have to be a full professor (it takes time)
      c) retirement for foreigners is different from retirement for citizens
      d) get a full-time position at Taiwanese university is almost impossible if you are the foreigner. You can check it browsing websites.

      1. I wrote this 10 years, but your comment is only sort of true. I have a full-time position, as do many of my friends and colleagues. If you mean that foreign teachers with an MA or MATesol have trouble getting jobs, like they can in Korea or Japan, this would be true. It’s just hard to get jobs right now, whether you’re a foreigner or a local teacher. Your information about salary levels depends on the school where you work. It would definitely be true at a national university, as would your statement about retirement. None of this is true for many foreign teachers in Taiwan who teach at private universities.

      2. Just a few comments…
        a) you are right in 100%
        b) assuming you are a full professor and you earn 100k/month you probably have a family as well so there are extra payments. At that moment 100k is not so much (remember, many things in more expensive in Taiwan than in Europe or the USA)
        c) retirement for foreigners is the same. Recently the law changed.
        d) Right on 100%. There are some rare exceptions.

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