[Letter to the editor]Evaluation must be done rightNo Korean university was included in the list of 100 global universities issued by Newsweek last year. There have also been some complaints over the fact that Seoul National University was ranked lower than Japanese, Chinese and Singaporean universities in a list of the world’s top 200 universities in the English newspaper The Times.
Research on the impact of college educations in society and economy by the Swiss business school IMD was even more shocking. Out of 60 universities tested, Korean universities ranked only 52nd.
Korea is the world’s 11th largest economy and is one of the most developed in the IT sector. The current standard of college education will be an index of the country’s future competitiveness. Therefore the poor results shown by Korean universities are a matter of pride not just for university faculty, but also for the whole nation.
Of course there is no point in being too reliant on international rankings in judging the quality of college education. But considering the fact that most developed countries rank their universities according to international accessibility, there is a definite need to change the way domestic universities evaluate themselves. Korean universities still rank themselves according to domestic demand, or simply put, by comparing themselves to one another. Therefore it is imperative that they change their evaluation methods to fit global standards and build systems that can work within global networks.
Countries in the European Union have been working together for international accessibility for a long time, by building an evaluation system that can connect the academic credit systems in their respective countries. It is a realization of a “borderless education,” so to speak. An estimated 15 million European students will be able to study freely at over 5,000 universities from 2010, thanks to the new system. In addition, many developed countries are reforming university evaluation organizations according to new guidelines set by Unesco and the OECD. The guidelines cover how to manage “borderless” higher education.
Korea is aiming to become a part of the Washington Accord by 2009. The accord currently includes countries such as the United States, Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. It enables science and engineering graduates in member countries to take engineering license exams in other member countries. It also allows graduates from member countries to have their degrees recognized as equivalents to local degrees. In order to be a part of global standard agreements like this, certain criteria must be met: student education objectives, program evaluations, quality of faculty and facilities and program certification standards, and so on. The task of qualifying for these criteria is too large to be left to separate committees.
There needs to be a government organization that deals especially with evaluating colleges in order to strengthen Korean higher education. To this end, the issue will be examined next month under the title “Evaluation of Korean Higher Education,” at an extra session of the National Assembly. I hope it will be a good opportunity to specialize and systemize the current university evaluation system according to current global trends and form a system of cooperation with international evaluating organizations.
For the significant number of regional colleges based outside of Seoul that are experiencing difficulties, such as a shortage of students, there needs to be a delay in evaluation until they develop the ability to run themselves autonomously. For the top universities there must be a separate support system so that they can determine whether they can satisfy international standards.
Despite many people’s concerns that the system for evaluating higher education will be superfluous to the current university evaluation system, or that the new system will be a way for controlling domestic universities, the popular opinion in the ivory towers is that if we’re going to be evaluated, we want to be evaluated properly.
Oh Sung-sam, dean of education graduate school at Kunkook University