Keep promises to foreign schools

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Keep promises to foreign schools

Since the State University of New York at Stony Brook in Long Island opened its local campus - SUNY Korea - in the Songdo International Business District last month, other foreign universities are gearing up to establish higher education institutions in the Incheon city. George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia; the University of Utah in Salt Lake City; and Belgium’s Ghent University have reportedly requested - or preparing to request - to set up local campuses for undergraduate or graduate school programs in Songdo from the spring semester of 2013, the fall semester of 2013 and the spring semester of 2014, respectively. When that happens, Songdo could herald the arrival of high-caliber, competitive international education in this country.

As of now, Songdo has only one foreign university campus. Yet we take special note of the fact that all the efforts the Incheon Metropolitan City and the Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority have exerted to attract foreign university campuses have finally begun to bear fruit after their constant contacts with foreign universities and government officials.

At the same time, however, we should reflect on what promises our government made last year to lure top-notch foreign universities into Korea. It vowed to amend our education law by the first half of the year to allow foreign schools to remit a portion of their surplus revenue to their home countries, not to mention the promise to provide them with more subsidies for constructing their campuses here. The government’s promises, however, have not been kept at all, as seen by the dismal fate of the related bill which is on the verge of being scrapped in the 18th National Assembly.

In contrast, the governments in Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and China present extravagant incentives to attract as many upper-tier universities as possible from foreign countries. The reason for their generous offers is obvious: to avert a massive brain drain overseas and save a huge sum of money for studying abroad as well. We cannot afford to dismiss a stark reality: Our education deficit from sending students abroad amounted to a whopping 5 trillion won ($4.5 billion) in 2010.

The government must, above all, fulfill its earlier promise that it will ease various restrictions on foreign universities’ entry into Korea. Only when top-rated schools flock to this country can the government’s grand vision of turning Songdo into an education “hub” of Northeast Asia come belatedly true.

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