Lower education

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Lower education

The government has decided to work toward ridding the nation of ailing universities.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology committee on university reform conducted due diligence on 22 of the country’s weaker private universities. Of those, eight were deemed to be on a path to potential closure and characterized as having ineffective management. The universities in question failed to fill half of their freshman quotas and received the lowest marks in terms of their academic environment and overall financial health. In short, they are incapable of meeting their obligations of providing superior higher education and research to grant academic degrees.

The ministry now plans to encourage them to voluntarily merge or close down. At the same time, however, it has left open the possibility that these weak universities can seek out ways to improve their performance and thus avoid a merger or shutdown.

But essentially this loophole will allow incompetent universities to merely buy more time to squander their assets. The government should indeed give weak universities an opportunity to shape up, but it must keep the window for doing so short. When a university’s future is deemed hopeless, the government should mercilessly enforce closure.

Under the current legal system, though, it’s difficult for struggling universities to go under completely, as there aren’t enough incentives for board members to take such a step. There must therefore be more benefits to encourage founding boards to decide to let a failing university go under. Also, students enrolled in the weak universities must be protected by the law and allowed to seek transfers without disadvantage. The campaign should extend to public and state universities as well.

The ministry in August proposed that state or public universities in the same regional districts form coalitions and merge their overlapping academic departments as a preparatory step to full-scale mergers in the long run. The proposal, however, was largely ignored. The government should work on a more feasible plan and pursue the restructuring of state and public universities. Starting in 2012, university classroom quotas will outnumber high school graduates due to a decrease in students. There will be a handful of empty campuses if restructuring doesn’t start soon.
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