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Students Abandoning Liberal Arts

Posted November. 07, 2005 07:23,   


Kim, a 24-year-old senior at the Economics Department of Seoul National University, transferred from a language department of the university’s liberal arts college when he was a junior. “It is virtually impossible for a graduate of the department I initially entered to land a job. A total of 30 students entered that department, but now there are only some 20 of them still there,” said Kim.

Kim is just one of many college students lining up to “escape” from liberal arts.

According to statistics on transfers in four-year universities in Seoul for the last four years starting 2002, the number of liberal arts students seeking other majors was two to eight times that of those transferring to liberal arts departments.

This is in stark contrast to the fact that the number of students moving into the business administration major, which is considered a practical field of study, was five to eighteen times that of those moving out of the major.

The History Department of Ehwa Womans University saw 15 students moving out, but no one moving in. In the Philosophy Department of Dongguk University, 19 students sought transfers to other majors, but only one moved into the department.

With the acceleration of the so-called “exodus from the liberal arts,” a trend centering on the fields of literature, history and philosophy which started in mid-1990s, liberal arts colleges of respective universities are busy coming up with survival measures to enhance practicality in their curricula.

The Dong-A Ilbo obtained business plans of eight universities, selected for “liberal arts fields” by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MOEHRD)’s college specialization project for the year 2005, which are filled with a variety of brilliant ideas.

The University of Incheon is planning to establish “Incheon Studies” as an interdisciplinary major for nurturing local talents needed against the backdrop of the designation of the Songdo Free Economic Zone and the construction of Incheon International Airport.

In an endeavor to promote joint research in different fields of study, Dongguk University and Hanyang University are seeking to create interdisciplinary courses between cultural studies and liberal arts, and between engineering and liberal arts, respectively. Sogang University, Sungkyunkwan University and Seoul National University will engage in the “Liberal Arts Elite Promotion Project.”

To transform the liberal arts, the MOEHRD came up with the “Liberal Arts Education Promotion Bill” and has started negotiations with the National Assembly over the bill.