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[Op-Ed] University or Culture Center?

Posted June. 10, 2009 09:49,   


Most liberal arts classes at Korean universities are known to provide either an “understanding” of or a “walk” through certain subjects. A check of the names of liberal arts classes offered on university homepages shows many of them containing the words “understanding” or “walk.” Many of the liberal classes are on unfamiliar subjects such as “Understanding Stock Investment” or “Science of Sex.” In addition, many others are on hobbies including golf, skiing, yoga, weight training, ballroom dance or bowling.

Doosan Group Chairman Park Yong-sung, who is also the chairman of Chung-Ang University Board of Directors, told students who want to take those classes to instead go to cultural centers. He criticized the situation in which schools offer such superficial lectures for liberal education when their parents work hard to pay the tuition for their children in the hope that they gain deeper knowledge. Schools, however, are offering those classes to attract students. Many classes closed due to a lack of students are on basic subjects and practical knowledge such as differential and integral calculus, statistics, general chemistry and practical Chinese literature.

A year has passed since the Doosan Group bought the university, and Chung-Ang is going through seismic changes. It has adopted an annual salary system for professors and is restructuring curriculums for 77 departments in 19 colleges. Chung-Ang is one of the Korean universities with the most colleges, graduate schools and departments. While other universities were closing colleges for restructuring, every Chung-Ang president did the opposite. Incumbent president Park Bum-hoon has also opened a college of traditional Korean music.

In a phone interview, Chairman Park said he is shocked over the molasses-slow decision-making process at the university. For what would take only a month for a company to make a decision on, the university took more than six months to get a consensus. As a former businessman, Chairman Park knows through experience that nothing can be done by adhering to cause and logics. He said the direct election system to elect the university’s president should be the first thing abolished. He asked how a university president who is swayed by popularity can change the school in just four years. The future of Chung-Ang University is attracting attention, as it combines corporate management with university education that has long been immune to reform.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)