[Viewpoint] Corporate lessons

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[Viewpoint] Corporate lessons

Not everyone welcomes the recent growth in the amount of money corporations are investing in universities and attempts to introduce a more corporate management style into educational institutions.

Those opposed argue that universities run their institutions according to their own logic. They worry that forcing corporate management on campus can undermine the unique value of higher education or degrade universities to that of a corporate affiliates.

But what I like to ask these people is this: Were high values really upheld at universities before?

Universities and corporations certainly pursue different things in life. Companies aim to make a profit; universities are meant to provide quality higher education and pursue knowledge for its own sake.

Companies can perish if not efficient, working to the maxim that if they don’t eat it now, someone else will, leaving no food for later. Repeated starving will debilitate the body and lead to eventual extinction. Universities, on the other hand, pursue certain knowledge if deemed worthwhile even if no one else will and blink at inefficiency for the sake of diversity.

To the eyes of someone who comes from a corporate world, the university community and corporations appear to be at polar opposites in terms of efficiency.

Public universities are indulged with government funds while private institutions stagger along amid restrictions and financial constraints. They sustain themselves even though they are in dire need of outside help, but that help isn’t always forthcoming, which is why corporations jump in fury when someone from outside questions their viability.

For my part, I believe universities should be run on market principles, an opinion that has caused more than a ripple. What I mean is universities need to adopt efficacious corporate management to survive. I don’t mean they should turn into corporations.

But, still, many universities choose to isolate themselves and turn a deaf ear to outside calls for change, saying they are not and won’t ever be like corporations.

Universities believe themselves unrestrained and their convictions protected within the ivory tower of learning. But freedom should not license noisy sophism. The institutions want to maintain an intransigent system and ailing setup on the pretext of sustaining freedom in learning and academic value.

A university should be recognized by the performance of lecturers and students. Under the pretext of diversity, universities recklessly gave birth to myriad organizations and departments while lacking a controlling system for research and lecture. What needs to be concentrated is scattered and what should be disseminated is the opposite.

How can we talk of competitiveness in higher education in such a state?

Corporate logic is called for to help universities function better by untangling internal problems that have swelled during this hermit-like period.

In an increasingly competitive environment and with foreign institutions making inroads, what is urgent at this stage is to smarten up and reform the universities.

The country hosts a number of world-class corporations like Samsung Electronics and Posco. Yet we lack top-class universities. There is no reason why our universities cannot become the envy of the world in terms of hardware like campuses and software like professors and students. Yet they are hardly regarded, even within Asia.

Companies can shift production lines overseas when the conditions worsen at home, but educational institutions are different. Today even primary school students move overseas for education. Along with inner reform, various regulations should be lifted to allow universities to operate more flexibly.

When universities start to compete, they will vie with better educational services and effectuate accomplished learning. Then they will feel more competent next to foreign counterparts.

*The writer is the chancellor of Chung-Ang University.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Park Yong-sung
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