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Korean Doctoral Students Going Global

Posted April. 24, 2006 03:22,   


In the 1970s, Korean students studying abroad earned doctorates in 19 countries. The number kept increasing to 32 in the 1980s, and surged to 51 in the 2000s.

By continents, 64.3% of those who earned doctoral degrees studied in North America in the 1980s, 17.9% in Asia, and only 17.1% in Europe. In the 2000s, the figure plunged to 48.5% in North America, but increased to 28.4% in Asia and 21.6% in Europe.

Those figures came out as a result of Dong-A Ilbo analyzing the data of 29,203 who earned doctorates abroad and declared their theses to the Korea Research Foundation. Beginning in 1982, those who obtained doctor’s degrees abroad are obliged to report their theses to the foundation. However, it is presumed that some of them didn’t do so.

According to the data, the number of those who earned doctorates in China has noticeably increased after diplomatic relations between Korea and China were established in 1992. In the 1980s, only one person earned a doctor’s degree in China. But the number of those who obtained doctorates in China has risen to 215 in the 1990s and to 484 in the 2000s.

Doctorate earners in China are working in China-related fields such as regional study and cultural study, regardless of their majors.

The largest number of students studying abroad, 832 earned doctorates from the University of Tokyo, Japan. The University of Tokyo ranked first almost every year from prior to the 1960s to the 2000s and ranked high in all fields in terms of the production of Korean doctorate earners.

Trailing the University of Tokyo, University of Texas at Austin (629), Texas A&M University (538), University of Wisconsin–Madison (504) and University of Illinois (455) also ranked high.

The top 30 universities that produced Korean doctorate earners are all located in the U.S. (23) and Japan (7), which shows a preference for America and Japan still prevails.

By majors, in economics and management area, 68.3% obtained doctorates in the United States. 65% of those who studied science and engineering obtained doctor’s degrees in the U.S. too. A total of 42.4% of doctorate earners in cultural and social sciences also went to American universities. Only in terms of producing doctorate earners in medical science did Japan (39%) outnumber the U.S. (38.3%).

Lee Hyun-cheong, a secretary general of the Korean Council for University Education said, “Since the 1990s, students have been earning doctor’s degrees in various countries, but they still prefer studying in the U.S. and Japan. Students need the courage to choose a university in which they can learn what they want to study regardless of a university’s reputation and country location.

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