Filter poorly run universitiesThe government is planning to put the brakes on universities’ unfettered efforts to attract foreign students. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has decided to introduce a system for overseeing the way colleges draw and manage foreign students by calling on universities to apply by Oct. 4 for a certificate that will verify their capability to handle those students appropriately. Once a university obtains a certificate from the ministry, it can receive preferential treatment in getting various benefits, including financial support for the foreign students a university has attracted.
But 10 to 15 universities that were ranked at the bottom five percent in the ministry’s evaluation cannot support any foreign students, as the government will stop issuing visas for them. We welcome the decision to control the quality of foreign students, even if the effort is belated.
The number of foreign students in Korea has quadrupled to 89,000 this year from 22,000 in 2005, which means we are close to the 100,000 mark. In the age of global competition, drawing excellent students from abroad is very important because universities can foster their own global competitiveness by bringing in outstanding foreigners and cultivating their talents. It also helps the government to attract Korea-friendly foreigners to promote our national interest. With this in mind, the rapid rise in the number of foreign students at local campuses is a desirable phenomenon.
The problem is that the quality of the foreign students in this country falls way short of our expectations, compared to their quantitative increase. There are many instances in which universities have neglected their obligation to manage foreign students properly after indiscriminately attracting them in order to fill up vacancies caused by a lack of local applicants. Some poorly run schools even attempt to survive by selling diplomas to foreign students.
The government and universities must reinforce their efforts to attract foreign students. But the government should first filter out poorly managed colleges keen to make money by bringing in unqualified foreign students and selling diplomas. That is why it has come up with a plan to keep tabs on suspicious universities through the certificate issuance system. That should be backed up by universities’ sincere efforts to enable foreign students to study without inconvenience through solid education programs. In a nutshell, what counts as we approach the 100,000 foreign student mark is quality not quantity.