SNU copycats could spell disasterThe main opposition Democratic United Party’s latest commitment to revamp Seoul National University has created a stir. The party’s proposal to abolish the prestigious school and incorporate all national universities across the country into one faced a public uproar. But the party insists it came up with the idea of uniting nine national universities as local campuses of SNU in an attempt to “expand” the nation’s top university, not to “close it down.”
If SNU is merged with other national universities, their professors could teach at SNU and their students could receive diplomas in the name of SNU. That’s exactly what the DUP wants: to get more votes by taking advantage of ordinary citizens’ jealousy toward SNU.
In truth, the DUP’s plan will only harm our universities. Given that a nation’s competitiveness largely depends on excellent students at universities, Korea could not survive fierce international competition if it decides to equalize universities. If social ills from an overemphasis on educational background still remain, solutions can be better found elsewhere. If SNU is standardized, other private universities will replace it, plain and simple. That’s why the DUP’s proposal cannot be justified. And it is more worrisome if the plan is part of a bigger scheme to standardize all universities in the country.
SNU has grown to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other top universities across the world after decades of hard work. If the DUP cares about the long-term prosperity of the country, it must try to find ways to foster more globally competitive universities. And one of the answers rests on providing financial and other support for noncompetitive universities, not on closing down an already competitive university.
If the DUP is genuinely worried about the competitiveness of our universities, it must first figure out how to enhance SNU’s global competitiveness, while mulling how to establish positive relationships between other national universities and private schools.
The liberals are forewarned: If a political party uses higher education policies as a means to win more votes, the country has no future.