[EDITORIALS]Colleges must merge to surviveThe exchange of a memorandum of understanding for the merger of two national universities, Gyeongsang and Changwon, represents the best chance for the survival of regional universities. There is no other realistic way for regional universities to survive when the number of high school graduates is dwindling and there is difficulty in obtaining new enrollments.
We hope that the merger of these two schools will be an impetus for the further restructuring of national universities in Busan, Daegu, Gwangju and the Chungcheong, South Jeolla, North Gyeongsang and Gangwon provinces. We especially urge that private regional universities take an interest in the restructuring move.
With the declining birth rate, the number of college applicants is dwindling annually. Last year, the average percentage of non-enrollment in regional universities was 18.3 percent, more than 14 times that of universities in the Seoul metropolitan area. Whenever the university entrance season arrives, professors neglect their research and teaching to recruit more students. By deducting from professors’ salaries, regional universities grant scholarships and give mobile phones as presents to students for coming to their schools.
Even if the schools meet their enrollment numbers, once students reach their sophomore or junior year, many transfer to universities in the Seoul metropolitan area. If this trend persists, regional universities may go bankrupt and will have to close their doors.
For regional universities facing a crisis, they must downsize in order to survive. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development must come up with plans, such as financial support that will allow regional national or public universities to merge or shut down.
The biggest obstacle is the opposition of professors, staff, students, alumni and citizens. If a merger takes place, it will undoubtedly result in a streamlining of the staff. But this is an obstacle that can be overcome. In the case of a merger, universities must endeavor to explain the inevitability of the action to the affected people. Regional universities must not make the mistake of succumbing to such opposition and undertaking a merger in name only that will make them fat.