[KS] Re: On the Korean university system

Korean Poli Sci Doctoral Students Association kdosa at mail.la.utexas.edu
Mon Nov 6 22:42:24 EST 2000

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Dear Dr. Seliger and others that have written about the univ. system:

Could you repost your message about our university system to me at
kdosa at mail.la.utexas.edu or mail at kdosa.org or on our
website bulletin board? Thank you.

Jung Choi
          / ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^\ 
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On Sat, 21 Oct 2000, Bernhard Seliger wrote:

> Dear list members,
> Currently I write a paper for an upcoming conference in Seoul with a
> comparison of the German and Korean university system and I would like to
> discuss my ideas with list members. The problem for me is that there seems
> to be few hard data on some of the problems I see. I would be glad to
> receive any additional information. My hypothesis is that in both systems
> there is an important degree of 'ossification/ sclerotization' and
> accordingly, there are growing dysfunctionalities.
> On the Korean university system
> On one hand the Korean university stands in the strong tradition of a
> society, where an examination system (originally) based on merit was
> central to the state. The examination system since 1969 for Korean
> universities shadows the former system.
> Also, Korea differently from many other countries has a population with a
> higher-than-average willigness to pay privately for education. This might
> partly be linked to the status of teachers/ professors/ educated people
> generally, i.e. again culturally. Like in other countries the
> expansion of education to the whole society was mainly due to the state
> provision of schooling. But in the university sector and the private
> learning institutes spending was simultaneously increasing and the
> demand was relatively stable in times of a reduction of income, like in the
> Asian crisis (maybe even increasing, concerning the English language - is
> there any data on this?).
> Also, the share of private institutions in higher education is considerable
> and there are tuition fees, so competition of universities (trying to
> attract students by offering a diversified programme, including high
> quality teaching and research) should work well in this framework.
> However, looking at the universities an ossification of the system seems to
> have happened.
> The ranking of universities is not the outcome of any measurable
> competition process. Generally, it is desirable, if universities can build
> up a reputation independently from individual scholars teaching
> there (like in the Germanic countries). This enhances long-term investment
> in this reputation (while in the system based on the individual scholar the
> time-horizon is one life span at most).
> However, in the Korean system there seems to be (unlike e.g. the
> competitive American system, where also the reputation and the ranking of
> universities is important) an invariable ranking of universities
> based on historical (and maybe political?) facts and achievements but not
> longer on changes in them (while the ranking of universities is clearly no
> easy task, recently rankings like that of American business
> schools by Business week or the German Spiegel ranking at least try to
> include a variety of factors allowing for often drastic changes, like in
> the case of Columbia Business School in New York).
> A second problems seems to be the evasion of screening of students through
> the generous allocation of high grades and the automatic promotion system,
> where students rarely fail. However, this is only a
> guess, since I have only anecdotical evidence on it.
> The third problem I see in the role of 'academic clans', notably based on
> old school and regional ties. However, there seems to be also a coalition
> of those professors all coming into office in the time of
> rapid expansion of the universities, preventing change and resisting
> performance measurement. Also, at least in my profession (economics) there
> seems to be a stronger-than-average mainstream orientation, even more than
> in America and Europe, where concentration is already provoking protests
> and reducing competition of ideas. So, my hypothesis is that academic clans
> also restrict in Korea (but not only there) the competition of ideas.
> Another problem is bureaucratization (concerning the whole university
> system, regardless of private or public), however, with no reliance on the
> rule of law (eg of university statutes, graduation rules etc.often are
> changed ad hoc).
> A politization of decisions about research and teaching state funding, e.g.
> the introduction of new programmes (Area studies under KYS and BK 21 under
> KDJ). While the government surely has the right to set priorities, the
> short term horizon seems to lead to inefficiency of investment and the
> priorities seem mainly to be 'political consumption goods'.
> Yours sincerely,
> Bernhard
> ______________________________________________________________
> Dr. Bernhard Seliger
> Graduate School of International Area Studies
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> 270, Imun-Dong
> Dongdaemun-gu
> 130 791 Seoul
> Republic of Korea
> Tel. 00 82 2 964 8517
> Fax. 00 82 2 965 4792
> e-mail: Seliger at maincc.hufs.ac.kr

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