Academic autonomy

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Academic autonomy

One of the cornerstones of school autonomy is the school’s right to select its students. In other words, schools should be free to decide how they select the students they will teach. Only by doing so can the effectiveness and competitiveness of education be secured.

However, such right had not been granted to Korean universities until now due to the past Roh Moo-hyun administration’s “Three Nos” educational policy. It stipulated that universities should not receive donations in exchange for student admission or develop their own admission test questions. The practice of ranking high schools by academic performance was also banned.

Under these circumstances, the Korean Council for University Education’s recent remarks that there is a growing consensus for universities to have more autonomy in conducting admission exams were encouraging. Along with a move to lift the ban on ranking high schools, they indicate the Three Nos policy will be phased out.

It is absurd to evaluate the achievements of high school students across the country with an identical yardstick while differences in academic performance and characteristics between schools clearly exist. Furthermore, it is anti-educational to hold fast to the ban on ranking high schools while students will be given free rein to choose their high schools starting in 2010. It is also reasonable to let universities freely devise their own entrance test questions in order to secure their right to select their students.

The council said it will be more cautious about allowing universities to receive donations in exchange for student admission, considering the public sentiment against it. However, a social discussion on the issue cannot be delayed forever.

If strict requirements for admission donations and reliable systems for managing the donations received are established, it will be a good thing.

It will also be good for universities if they can expand scholarships and improve facilities with such contributions.

Meanwhile, there are things that universities should do following the abolition of the Three Nos policy. Above all, they should earn the public’s confidence in what they’re doing. Recent admission irregularities involving Korea and Hongik universities should not be repeated. Universities should demonstrate that they can conduct a fair and transparent admission process on their own. Giving universities more autonomy is valid only when they earn the public trust.

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