The Education, Science and Technology Ministry said Thursday that it will give autonomy to universities in restoring the medical graduate school system back to the previous medical college system. As if waiting for such an announcement, Seoul National, Korea, Yonsei and Hanyang universities, which operate medical graduate schools and medical colleges at the same time, expressed their willingness to go back to the old system. Considering those preparing for entrance exams, however, recruitment of medical students will continue until 2013. This will end a decade under a distorted system under which a medical graduate school and a medical college co-exist at one university. The system was introduced in 2003 by the Kim Dae-jung administration.
The U.S. runs medical schools equivalent to Koreas medical graduate schools, and European countries and Japan run medical colleges. Just like law school, the purpose of introducing a medical graduate school was noble. A medical graduate school can recruit students with diverse academic backgrounds and a strong sense of purpose, and students vary in age and undergraduate major. After graduation, they can pursue extensive careers such as forensic doctors, lawyers and international organization staff as well as volunteering.
When pushing for the medical graduate school system, the government expected it to prevent talented students from flocking to medical schools and encourage high school graduates to major in science and engineering. The results turned out vastly different, however. After the establishment of medical graduate schools, those who never thought of studying medicine flocked to them. With graduates from science and engineering colleges such as Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Pohang University of Science and Technology preparing for medical graduate school, demand for private education rose. The popularity of biology, chemistry and life sciences began growing with many students choosing to major in them to enter medical graduate schools. Many criticized that the system deprived students from low-income households of opportunities since tuition for a medical graduate school is almost 10 million won (8,150 U.S. dollars) per year.
Universities have the autonomy to choose whether to have medical graduate schools, but such schools will not just disappear. It will be difficult for universities that have medical graduate schools to convert them to medical colleges since they have received government subsidies. There is also no clear answer as to which system is the best for nurturing doctors. Medical colleges and medical graduate schools both have strengths and weaknesses. Universities that have chosen medical colleges should heed warnings of being caught in vested interests. The change in policy has resulted in confusion and inconvenience for many test-takers primarily due to reckless government pursuit of the policy. Whether a medical school or medical graduate school, the government should have allowed universities to choose one or the other after creating the system.
Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (email@example.com)