SNU’s remarkable makeoverSeoul National University has been given a weighty opportunity to energize its competitiveness in the world as a result of the passage Wednesday at the National Assembly of a bill on the establishment and management of the prestigious school. The bill’s passage is welcome after the irksome meandering on the issue that we’ve witnessed for more than two decades.
The law aims to put SNU on par with the world’s top universities by changing its legal status from a nationalized entity to a corporate body. That’s a significant development in the 23 years since politicians started discussing the idea as part of a long-term development strategy for the university. It is particularly meaningful because the university now has a shot at joining the ranks of the world’s best schools, as it will be able to pursue its own growth strategy without the government’s intervention and control.
First of all, SNU can further accelerate its internal reform process because it has the right to make decisions on such serious issues as manpower, organization and the budget. It is also free to invite foreign professors or set up a new institute or school and has the jurisdiction to allocate and execute its operational budget according to its own priorities, rather than the government’s prescriptions. The removal of the government fetters will, of course, allow the university to fiercely compete with other top schools worldwide.
At this juncture, professors and other members of the faculty and the students should do their fair share to embrace their new status as soon as possible. Their previous excuse that nationalization gets in the way of their ability to enhance the school will no longer be acceptable. SNU must foster excellent education and research programs compatible with other high-ranking schools.
Although it will continue to receive financial assistance from the government after it becomes a corporate body, SNU should seek ways to bolster its financial independence by creating various profit models, including external research projects.
Yet it should not scrap the basic sciences in favor of practical ones just to gain profit. Despite the change of its legal status, the public cause entrusted with SNU is still maintained, as it still remains a national university, even though it is not nationalized anymore.
The remarkable change with SNU should spread to other nationalized universities. But it won’t take long. When SNU becomes a model of success, other universities will soon follow.