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Yonsei head calls for independence

Schools can thrive by regulating admissions tuition, president says

May 09,2015
Yonsei University President Jeong Kap-young says there should be 10 Korean universities in the list of the world’s top 100. By Shin In-seop
The beginning of Yonsei University’s 130-year history in Seoul dates back to the 19th century when Kwanghyewon, the first modernized medical institute in Korea, was founded. The institute was then developed into Severance Medical College, and formed what’s now the current university in 1957 after merging with Yonhi College.

In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo last month, Jeong Kap-young, the president of the university, said the school plans to expand its admission quota for underprivileged students, in line with the founders’ intension.

He also called on the government to allow an independent university model in which schools have autonomy over tuition and admissions procedures, as many restrictions now make it difficult for universities to admit students with good academic records and offer benefits to low-income students.

Q. What is the purpose of expanding admission to the unprivileged?

A. All higher educational institutes aim to improve academic effectiveness and pursue social equality. In the past, the university helped neglected students raise their status, but now it serves as a barrier, deterring the escalation. The better universities are, the lower the percentage of low-income students they have. Yonsei University has to make a contribution, particularly to society, in line with its founders’ intention. That’s the way to stabilize society.

How would you change the school’s admission process?

More students would be included in an admissions process currently only available to applicants receiving basic livelihood subsidies from the government. So far a small number of applicants have applied for admission, and student quota has not been filled because many low-income students have low academic scores on the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT). Also we plan to give vocational school graduates an opportunity to attend after earning a job. The quota for underprivileged students, including family members of fallen veterans, will be increased.

Does it mean that the university will change the academic requirements for the underserved?

If we give more advantages to them in the admission process, it will lead to changes in required academic background. [The school] has to provide additional basic education [to them.] To offer scholarships, we need to secure more revenue sources. This is why the government has to change its university policy. [The amount of university tuition has been one of the biggest issues in the country for years. The government has pushed a half-price university tuition policy based on income, but is concerned the policy could fail.] One goal of the half-price university tuition plan might be to provide more favors to the neglected.

But because the government prevents schools from raising tuition and provides scholarships based on individual income, it is difficult to provide opportunities to escalate their social status.

Please describe a system included in the university model that you could have.

By applying the model to some universities, it would allow independence in setting tuition and more freedom in the admissions process; at the same time, those schools must be responsible for educating the underserved. Now, it is difficult to admit students due to government restrictions, and tuitions have been upheld or lowered for years.

What is your opinion about the government-led university reform?

It is right to reduce the admission quotas for each university because the number of students is expected to decrease overall. .?.?. There are a lot of universities incapable of filling their quotas. Nevertheless [the government] pushes to cut admissions quotas at every university; it’s only the students who will take the risk [that would be caused by the reform.]

In regard to concerns that regional universities outside Seoul will be more influenced by the reform, the government must support some of them as regional education institutes. While giving some universities autonomy over the entrance quota, the government pushes a policy to build education institutes outside Seoul with some regional universities.

How do you think the school should raise its autonomy in the admissions process?

Academic supremacy is one of the most significant values [pursued.] To achieve it .?.?. it is necessary to fill 80 to 90 percent [of the entire entrance quota] with students with good academic performance, and the remainder should go to the underserved.

What direction do Korean universities have to take?

Considering the scale of the Korean economy, 10 schools should be on the list of the world’s top 100 universities. That will be possible after the government gives autonomy to some universities.

BY KANG HONG-JUN [nam.yoonseo@joongang.co.kr]


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