Flemish university touts Songdo goals

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Flemish university touts Songdo goals


Paul Van Cauwenberge, rector of Ghent University’s Korean branch (second from left), and Korean officials who led the Songdo global campus project, hope the school lifts the quality of research in Korea. Provided by Ghent University

SONGDO, Incheon - Ahead of its new campus opening set for next March in Incheon, the president and faculty of Belgium’s Ghent University visited Korea last week to attend a symposium designed to introduce its vision and goals.

The Flemish university is one of a handful of world-renowned universities aiming to open a branch in Songdo, Incheon. Songdo will be the first region which houses a regional campus of Belgian universities.

Located within the international business district of Songdo some 40 miles from Seoul, the school will be funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) and the Incheon Metropolitan Government.

The development is part of a $35 billion effort by the Korean government to form an international business district that houses competitive universities from around the world.

Beginning in 2014, the university will organize bachelor’s degree programs in food technology, environmental technology and molecular biotechnology.

“Ghent University has a good reputation in the fields of life sciences and environmental engineering, as is shown in the international rankings in these fields,” said Paul Van Cauwenberge, rector of Ghent University.

“The three majors are all related to the fields that we are already strong at,” he said.

The government officials who led the international campus project expect the school to bring its renowned quality of research into Korea.

“Korea’s higher education institutes have improved a lot, but many still lack in R&D,” said Lee Jong-cheol, the commissioner of the IFEZ.

“I believe that Ghent University will share their strong research expertise,” he said.

He also emphasized the new programs offered by the Belgian university represent a promising prospect.

“The future of biotechnology field is very optimistic. We can partly see the promising aspect in Samsung and Dong-A Pharmaceutical’s decision to invest in the region to build a biotechnology town,” he said.

Ghent is known for having biotechnology pioneers such as Marc Van Montagu, a Japan Prize-winner, and Jeff Schell and Walter Fiers, architects of modern plant biotechnology. This move follows a similar initiative by American universities to open campuses abroad, with three of their universities involved in the founding of the Songdo Global University. The Korean campus of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, already operates bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, while George Mason University and the University of Utah are expected to accept Korean students next year.

By Park Eun-jee [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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