Seoul National University has canceled a plan to create a new department guaranteeing employment at a semiconductor business. According to the plan, the department provides tuitions and operation budget for students and ensure job after graduation. In the meantime, Korea University and Yonsei University have decided to make a semiconductor department with employment guarantee by the year 2021 and accept 80 students every year as the Korean government has attempted to nurture talent as part of its strategy to grow the system semiconductor industry. However, the plan of the nation’s top university faltered as opposing voices within inside argued that teaching students with skills exclusive to a particular business runs against the school’s educational philosophy and tradition.
It is worthwhile for a university to make a choice over curricula according to its original philosophy and tradition as its role involves significant missions such as imparting universal values and basic science, and nurturing talent with a creative and critical mindset. However, universities are not supposed to stick to the traditional role of imparting academic knowledge in the fast-changing era of knowledge and data.
These days, businesses are struggling to find skilled talent on the working field. The same goes with Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and other large companies. Things may be worse for fabless SMEs. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has set a plan to grow thousands of experts every year with the goal of boosting the semiconductor industry. In detail, it plans to build an integrated platform for innovation in semiconductor and education at the national level to nurture related talent with Beijing University, Tsinghua University, Fudan University and Xiamen University.
One of the main reasons behind the worsening of youth unemployment in Korea is that there is a mismatch between college education and business needs. Only 56 percent of humanities majors get a job after graduation, way lower than 63 percent for social sciences majors, 70 percent for engineering majors and 83 percent for medical and pharmaceutical majors. Even though they get a job, more than half of them engage in tasks or areas irrelevant to their major. It requires a moment of thinking to see if university curricula are carved to meet the needs of providers, not those of students and society overall.
In the era of the 4th industrial revolution, global universities are eager to reinvent themselves to meet new needs. However, Korean universities seem stuck in the trap of regulation and established privilege. The Seoul Metropolitan Area Readjustment Planning Act limits enrollment of universities in the metropolitan area, which requires them to reduce the number of students in existing departments if they want to create or expand other departments. Added to this, professors with privilege belittle practical disciplines or object to the creation of new departments that are connected to industries. Seoul National University is expected to open an integrated program for semiconductor rather than creating a new department with job guarantee. Universities should full its role of nurturing talents based on societal needs while thinking out of the box.