Get rid of the dead weight

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Get rid of the dead weight

Our national competitiveness is directly related to the competitiveness of our universities.

So it goes without saying that we should spare no effort in making our universities more competitive in the global marketplace.

But we have a very long way to go.

This point was highlighted Wednesday in the results of a survey prepared by the JoongAng Ilbo and the Korean Educational Development Institute focusing on ways to heighten university competitiveness. Nine out of 10 professors, among 366 professors nationwide that responded, agreed that “the competitiveness of Korean universities faces a huge gap” globally.

Additionally, Korea’s university education ranks 51st among 57 countries in terms of meeting the demands of the nation’s economy and society, according to a survey released by the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. In a nutshell, Korea languishes at the bottom of the pack.

To fix this, it is necessary to increase university autonomy, expand their financial resources and facilitate innovative research and education capabilities. However, for any restructuring to be successful, it will have to involve eliminating sub-par universities.

As Chonbuk National University President Suh Keo-suk said in a recent forum, “Nearly 50 universities are being forced to close their doors, as the required number of students [required to make them financially viable] exceeds the number of high school graduates. Universities should be at the forefront of a voluntary restructuring, before the government draws the sword.”

Indeed, he is right.

Fortunately, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has started to investigate the current status of struggling private universities. But we have no need to wait until the Ministry comes up with a judgment about their operations. Universities should work out their own restructuring measures for survival.

Academic departments that aren’t competitive should be removed, while at the same time these universities should put more emphasis and resources on their strengths. Then, if it is still difficult for them to survive independently, they should close up shop. The government should also devise a new measure regarding the voluntary liquidation of insolvent universities, such as allowing a university scheduled to close down to invest its remaining property in launching a new corporation for the public good and social welfare.

We cannot afford to financially support the survival of insolvent universities. It is high time that universities make a resolute decision to improve their national competitiveness.
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