Education before benefitsThe government announced yesterday a series of plans to provide more autonomy for colleges across the country. We welcome the move as it is aimed at substantially eliminating various forms of restrictions on universities in sharp contrast to the past lower-level deregulations, such as allowing colleges to retain the right to select students freely. Universities would probably more than welcome the government’s tangible measures to increase tax benefits or relax construction regulations, which have been a major stumbling block to building dormitories or other structures on their campuses.
If the government plan is put into action, colleges in the capital area can open graduate courses in the region without purchasing other buildings, not to mention they have permission to admit Korean students to graduate schools which are jointly run with foreign universities. That will significantly help boost colleges’ financial health.
Besides, corporate bodies of private universities will also be empowered to have some autonomy in disposing of their school properties. They are allowed to change the purpose of their basic properties and then use them for profit. Given the size of the available land for the purpose reaches nearly 51 square kilometers (19 square miles), universities would hail the government’s decision as it could most likely help ease their exacerbating financial burden.
However, the policy change can also cause worry over the possibility of moral hazard among universities, because the unauthorized alteration of purpose of their properties has long been a target of probes by the Board of Audit and Inspection. Ill-managed colleges, in particular, should not take advantage of the policy change to survive. The government must also come up with follow-up measures to avert a dangerous situation where cash-strapped universities are eager to enter into lucrative businesses after turning a blind eye to educating their students. That’s why the government must press ahead with its original plan to weed out universities in bad shape, as scheduled.
Now it’s colleges’ turn to answer the government’s direction in a constructive way. They must first strive to raise the quality of education and research and enhance their financial transparency rather than seek financial benefits from deregulation. We hope colleges keep in mind that autonomy is based on our society’s trust in them.