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“Collegiate Competitiveness Deserves Priority Over College Mergers”

“Collegiate Competitiveness Deserves Priority Over College Mergers”

Posted April. 04, 2005 00:01,   


After the resignation of former Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Lee Ki-jun, who left office due to increasing question on his morality, Kim Jin-pyo took over his role in January 28. As new Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, his top issue is undoubtedly the reform of colleges.

Yesterday, in an interview held by Dong-a Ilbo, Minister Kim stressed, “I will strengthen regulations in the establishment of colleges in order to cut the mushrooming establishment,” adding, “Rather than a merger and acquisition (M&A) type of restructuring, increasing competitive power will play a critical role in deciding the direction of reform, which will be based on exhaustive evaluations of each college.”

Dong-a Ilbo: You, a mogul of the economic sector, have spent two months as education minister. How do you feel now?-

Minister Kim Jin-pyo: “Education is a concern of all nations and each has different perspectives. It is, therefore, not an issue we can easily handle according to our conviction. Reform is a must-do. However, the outcomes of educational policies tend to appear 10 years—at least more than three years— after their introduction. Nevertheless, I will try to do my best with the support of inspired officials in the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development

Dong-a Ilbo: What do you think are problems in our education?-

Minister Kim: “The problem is that the fever for education, which is the highest in the world, is being wasted in the struggle to enter into prestigious universities. There are only two or three universities parents want their children to go to. Only when we have a number of universities with strong competitive powers can we solve the problems in middle and high schools. This is why the college reform is important.”

Dong-a Ilbo: Do you have any plan for college restructuring?-

Minister Kim: “After an announcement that the number of national and public universities will be reduced from the current 50 to 35, people seemed to wrongly understand that the plan aims to shake the foundation of the college system itself. The primacy of the reform is to strengthen colleges’ competitive power. Korean universities are only in 59th place among 60 countries, and the satisfaction rate of corporations in Korean college graduates is a mere 26 percent. There is a big gap between demand and supply, quantitatively as well as qualitatively. On top of that, since human resources and material resources are concentrated in the capital and its adjacent areas, universities located in local areas have nowhere to go. In order to tackle this problem, we have to develop about 15 universities nationwide as research-centered institutes, and the rest have to adopt specialized fields for survival.”

Dong-a Ilbo: College M&As are not easy processes, aren’t they?-

Minister Kim: “I think we can move professors and students by providing choices and stimulating concentration through unifying similar majors, a Big Deal among colleges, and developing particular majors. But, this is a task that individual colleges should carry out. When it comes to national universities, the committee of operating restructuring will play a central role in each district. However, presidents of these universities, who are elected through direct elections, often express opposition to restructuring proposals due to concern over voters’ interests. This is another obstacle we have to consider.”

Dong-a Ilbo: How will you support reform financially?-

Minister Kim Jin-pyo: “We have set aside 80 billion won for this year and 300 billion won for next year. Being worried that if colleges survive by subsidies, not by reform, it would be against the goal of this plan as well as cause a moral hazard, we, therefore, give a preference to those who carry out reforms successfully. For national universities who do not follow the reform plan, a financial penalty will be imposed on them via cutting their budget or collecting subsidies. We believe that, amid such circumstances, private colleges will have no choice but to follow suit with the national universities.”

Dong-a Ilbo: There is criticism that the Ministry of Education, which increased the number of colleges is now passing the buck to colleges-

Minister Kim: “It is not true. Since the introduction of standard rules for the establishment of colleges, 39 four-year universities were established. However, of those, only 21 are newly established, and 18 are a result of reorganization. The number of students who enter into colleges has slightly increased by 4,183 (1.3%). By strengthening regulations in regard to establishment conditions, such as the number of students entering colleges, the ratio of professors to students, and basic assets for earnings, we will prevent further reckless establishments.”

Dong-a Ilbo: Do you have any plan for the improvement of poor finances in higher education?-

Minister Kim: “Presidents of private colleges frequently complain about the high cost of restructuring and financial difficulties. Of subsidies for research and development (R&D), amounting 7.7796 trillion won, the share assigned for colleges is just 14.3 percent, and the rest of it goes to research institutes. In order to solve this problem, I had a talk with Oh Myung, the deputy prime minister and minister of science and technology, through which we agree to give financial support firstly to colleges that have programs for supporting technological alliance-making between colleges and industry.

Dong-a Ilbo: There is strong resistance among teachers’ associations over the evaluation system of teachers’ abilities. How do you deal with it?-

Minister Kim: “The current promoting-oriented evaluation system is not efficient because it is highly likely to appeal to personal relations. Principal and teachers have to evaluate themselves together. If co-workers, parents, and students all participate in evaluation, we can get objective outcomes. At first, we will use this data to boost professionalism rather than as material for promotion. I believe that this method will settle in enough within three years to be able to evaluate teachers properly.”

Dong-a Ilbo: How is the revision of the Private School Act and the introduction of the direct election of the superintendent of education affairs going?-

Minister Kim: “There are some criticisms over the lack of transparency in the indirect election of members of school operations. In order to pass the bill in an extraordinary session of the National Assembly to be held this month, we will push ahead with the revision for direct election through lawmakers’ legislation. In terms of the Private School Act, even lawmakers of the opposition Grand National Party call for the revision. Even though there are different opinions among lawmakers, I believe that it will be passed sometime this month.”

In-Chul Lee inchul@donga.com syroh@donga.com