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‘Open Major’ Competition Rising Among Universities

Posted September. 16, 2008 08:37,   


Competition among domestic universities is heating up over the open major slated for introduction next year, given its rising popularity among college applicants.

Schools had worried over lack of applicants, but are now trying to invest more in the open major department in the belief it can nurture talented students.

In the early admission process in the second semester, the open major department at universities had an applicant-to-seat ratio above the national average and higher than those of traditionally popular majors at certain universities.

Korea University’s open major ratio was 43.6:1, higher than its business major’s 36.8:1. Yonsei University’s ratio was 55.2:1, beating out that of its business major at 54.7.

The majority of elite high school students seeking to study liberal arts have apparently chosen the open major because the introduction of U.S.-style law schools have led to the demise of the undergraduate law major.

More students hoping to study liberal arts have overwhelmingly chosen the open major at Seoul National and Kyung Hee universities, both of which recruits open majors separately by dividing students who want to study liberal arts and science.

Seoul National recorded an applicant-to-opening ratio of 9.42:1 in the special talent admissions program. Its competitive ratio for its liberal arts open major was 11.9:1 and that of its science open major 7.6:1.

When universities first announced the creation of the open major earlier this year, many criticized it as a quick fix without a firm curriculum or courses.

A private university that decided against the open major said, “We opened a new department even for small openings, but the result was unsatisfactory. We will create an open major department next year.”

No universities have unveiled specific curriculums for the open major yet, but most plan to develop it as a pre-law major and a nurturing ground for world-class talent.

Kyung Hee will teach open majors leadership and law with lectures by law and public administration professors.

Other universities that want to use the major for pre-law plan to give students as many options as possible in choosing subjects, instead of making law subjects mandatory to avoid criticism that they are dodging law to their advantage.

Seoul National will also focus on increasing its global competitiveness by creating the mandatory subject “Study Abroad.”

Lee Man-gi, a board director at Uway Joongang Education, said, “If the open major is successful, colleges will increase the number of seats to nurture talent in a variety of areas. It can emerge as a new popular major among top-class students who want to study liberal arts.