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Professors Take to Streets to Protest Incorporation of National Universities.

Professors Take to Streets to Protest Incorporation of National Universities.

Posted September. 24, 2005 07:12,   


As the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development pushes for the incorporation of national universities, the National University Professors Association will stage a protest on September 24, voicing strong opposition to the government’s move.

In the past, professors took to the streets to rise up against authoritarian governments. But this is the first time that they put the united front to let their voice be heard on policies on universities.

The association will stage a “national university professors rally” to protest the planned incorporation of national universities at Jongmyo Park, Jongno-gu, Seoul at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. The rally is expected to attract as many as 1,000 professors from 45 member universities nationwide.

The association also plans to march from Jongno-3ga, Cheonggyecheon, Euljiro to Myungdong Cathedral after the rally.

Why Incorporate Universities?-

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development has been supervising and managing the operation of national universities, ranging from budget, organization and personnel, in exchange for the government subsides. Now it is pushing ahead with the legislation of the special law on the management of national universities, arguing that incorporating national universities will help them enhance their competitiveness.

If the law is legislated, national universities will be forced to shift to an independent corporate accounting system. They will be run by the university board, composed of the president, local community members and representatives of alumni. The status of faculty and staff members will be changed from public servants to civilians.

The ministry explained, “The government will continue to provide subsidies to incorporated universities at the current levels. And faculty and staff members will continue to benefit from the employment succession system and pension scheme for public servants,” adding, “We encourage universities, which have the capacity and willingness to embrace incorporation, to do it first.”

Why the Opposition?-

The association claims that the incorporation will result in financial problems and a reduction in the quality of education.

If a university is incorporated, it is no longer eligible for government subsidy and it is required to be managed independently. So some universities may even go under. National universities have the upper hand over private ones because their tuition is cheaper. But this will no longer be the case.

National universities will be forced to jump into for-profit businesses and raise tuition. In the end, the burden will be on parents, the association claims.

Indeed, concerns are being raised that basic or pure studies will lose ground if national universities are managed by the market principle, focusing only on studies that can make them money.

In addition, there are fears that staff members’ job security will be compromised because the new move will inevitably involve relentless restructuring, including the abolition and integration of departments and universities, and massive layoffs.

Kim Song-hee, chairman of the Gangwon university professors association and the national university professors association, said, “The incorporation will throw universities into chaos, especially because they are already pushing for reform and integration among universities.”

No University is Self-Reliant Except for Seoul National University-

The problem is that there are few universities that are capable of embracing incorporation except for Seoul National University.

Seoul National University stands by its position that it will not incorporate itself unless its members want it. But not a few professors are found to support the idea. That’s why Seoul National University professors’ association hasn’t been active in the rally, even though it is against incorporation in principle.

In-Chul Lee Se-Jin Jung inchul@donga.com mint4a@donga.com