Kaist president retreats from controversial steps

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Kaist president retreats from controversial steps

Suh Nam-pyo, president of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist), will cancel reforms at the school that were said to have contributed to four student suicides this year.

After an investigation determined that the students had taken their lives due to intense pressure from the school, the new policies at Kaist - which required students who did not do well to pay part of their tuition - came under fire, as well as the university’s curriculum in general.

An emergency group set up after the suicides and made up of university officials, professors and student representatives released their findings, and yesterday Suh accepted 23 of 27 proposals from the group.

With this decision, Suh’s scholarship policy will be scrapped and some classes will be switched back to be taught in Korean instead of English, as Suh had decreed.

Suh at first protested the proposed changes, saying his reforms were not properly understood. However, when criticism grew, Suh agreed to accept the 23 new policies.

The remaining four, which include changes in electing directors of the school, will be taken to the board of directors.

After taking the helm in 2006, Suh implemented a graduated system of scholarship cuts for students depending on their grades instead of the policy of giving the entire student body full scholarships. His goal was to better motivate students.

Now, however, tuition fees will basically be as they were before, with students who earn a B or higher receiving full scholarships. However, students with a C or lower will be required to pay student body fees, which amount to 1.6 million won ($1,400) per semester. Tuition fees are 6.3 million won per semester.

Students had also complained about the pressure of Suh’s new policy of having all classes taught in English, and this, too, will be changed.

Elective classes that are determined to be more appropriate when conducted in Korean will not be offered in English.

Required classes for specialized majors will still be conducted in English, but for basic classes support programs will be provided for students who need help with class material.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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