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Almost Half of KAIST Professors Have Not Gotten Tenure

Posted September. 28, 2007 03:17,   


It has been confirmed that more than ten professors in the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) failed to receive tenure. Unless they succeed in groundbreaking research in the next one or two years while their current contracts last, they are likely to be shown the door.

The failure of the professors in KAIST, regarded as the most prestigious science and engineering university in Korea, may have a larger ripple effect among Korean universities. In addition, more and more people share the consensus that the profession is no longer “retirement-proof.”

According to KAIST on Thursday, almost half of the 30 professors qualified to receive tenure failed to make it in their final evaluation held at the beginning of this month. Tenure is only given to professors who have their research recognized by the evaluation body after a certain period of time passes from the appointment date. Those who fail to achieve certain level of research will be forced to leave the faculty.

Many professors failed to receive tenure this year largely due to the more stringent evaluation criteria introduced earlier this year by KAIST President Suh Nam-pyo, who took office last July. KAIST implemented the tenure system right from its foundation in 1971, but no professors were forced to leave.

Those who fail to gain tenure this time can apply for the evaluation again in the remaining three years of their contract. However, there is a high possibility that many of them will eventually be forced to leave the school in the near future.

An official from KAIST said, “KAIST will not be renewing contracts with the professors who fail to receive tenure this time, unless they have outstanding research outcomes. The school may also shorten the remaining years to one or two years if their research is not of high quality.”

Professors at KAIST reacted angrily to the school’s statement.

A professor and dean of the school said, “When President Suh announced that the tenure evaluation would be tough, only those confident enough applied for it. Heads of departments also only picked strong candidates for evaluation. The school’s decision came as a great surprise to all of us.”

Some professors on the evaluation committee even called quits, refusing to be the “bad guys” in this situation.

A notable fact is that the applicants who failed to receive the tenure were mostly in their 50s. In contrast, many of those in their 30s and 40s who recently moved to KAIST from another university had their tenure guaranteed as their research received high recognition

A high-level official from KAIST said, “The evaluation was conducted solely based on performance, regardless of age and hierarchy within the faculty. We are well aware of the criticism that the process was too strict. However, it is a necessary evil for the future of KAIST and the nation.”