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Universities Compete for Grad Students

Posted November. 09, 2005 03:02,   


Drastic curtailment in tuition fees, the abolishment of English tests, private use dormitory offers, and foreign students recruitment.

These words all reflect the current situation in which universities in local provinces are vying for new graduate students with each other. This is like a sale event in which salesmen promise to offer benefits in order to attract more customers at a large shopping mall. This situation is because university graduates are unwilling to enter graduate schools or those who want to study more at graduate schools tend to enter graduate schools in the metropolitan area.

Yeungnam University decided to halve its tuition fees for all graduate students who enter next year to a level of 99 percent of the national universities. In addition, it is planning to complete the construction of a new dormitory accommodating 130 students just for graduate students from other regions next year.

“If the number of graduate students is reduced, the research capabilities of a university might be also hit by it,” said Yeungnam University President Woo Dong-gi. “Lifting the financial burden from graduate students as much as possible is what we can do as the last resort,”

The number of new students in master’s degree programs at this university has fallen nearly half from about 810 in 2000 to about 520 this year.

Taking into consideration that there are not many students who want to enter graduate schools as well as that those who aim to enter graduate schools apply for master’s programs at national universities or universities in the metropolitan area, universities in local provinces are planning to offer financial benefits to new students.

Daejeon University is planning to return one to 1.5 million won out of its three million won in tuition fees to new students who enter its humanities and sociology colleges in the name of scholarship. A university in South Gyeongsang Province carried out a plan to provide new students with 80 percent of its tuition fees in scholarships in a newspaper advertisement.

Professors are engrossed with recruiting new graduate students from around the world, including Southeast Asian countries, while actively publicizing that graduate students can devote themselves to studying without any burden to undergraduate students who have the intention of studying more at graduate schools. However, it is not easy to single out qualified students from foreign countries.

An engineering professor who recently succeeded in recruiting two students from Vietnam expressed his concern, saying, “I managed to persuade them to enter my program by pledging financial and fidelity guarantees,” adding, “Even if research facilities significantly improved compared to 10 years ago, it is difficult to single out new graduate students.”

Most foreign students from Southeast Asian countries who enter local graduate schools are given considerable benefits such as an exemption of tuition fees and housing.

Korea Engineering College Association Chairman Lim Seung-sun (the dean of Engineering College at Hanyang University) said, “Only after the regulation stipulating that universities should fill 50 percent of their enrollment quotas with new students from other universities at engineering graduate schools is abolished will universities in local provinces be able to single out new graduate students,” adding, “Like the Japanese government, the Korean government should take the lead in systemically recruiting new students from Southeast Asian countries.”

With singling out new graduate students difficult, admission procedures and curriculum have become easier.

Increasing numbers of graduate schools in local provinces are planning to do away with their English tests, and replacing tests aimed at evaluating students’ major abilities with oral examinations.

A sociology graduate school at a prestigious national university in a local province has decided to eliminate its English test requirement starting this year. A professor at the university said, “This plan is designed to prevent students from dropping out due to their English test scores, reflecting the current situation in which universities seek to recruit more students,” adding, “Professors have decided to single out new students regardless of new students’ abilities by tacit consent.”

Kwon-Hyo Lee Myung-Hun Jee boriam@donga.com mhjee@donga.com