Students to be cut some slack to set up start-ups

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Students to be cut some slack to set up start-ups


Undergraduates at science and engineering universities will be allowed to take up to eight semesters off from college if the break is spent setting up a start-up.

The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning said on Tuesday that it will require five specialized colleges - Kaist, Postech, the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology and the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology - to allow such breaks.

Faculty members and school staff will be able to take up to six years off for their businesses. The scheme is intended to encourage college students to get involved in new ventures amid a skewed job market in which the vast majority of graduates aim for positions at big conglomerates despite the fact that they only account for 13.2 percent of overall employment in Korea.

“The policy guideline is aimed at giving students leeway to further pursue their dreams of running their own businesses,” said Lim Seung-cheol, a Science Ministry official. “Students don’t need to abruptly abandon their start-up companies because they need to go back to the school.”

The specific timeline and detailed rules were discussed yesterday at Kaist in Daejeon. Currently, Kaist, Postech and DGIST allow aspiring entrepreneurs to put their courses on hold for a maximum of four semesters, while UNIST and GIST have no break policy regarding student ventures.

The Park Geun-hye administration has championed funding for young entrepreneurs but school policy and the lack of support from some professors have often been blamed for keeping students from launching ventures.

The need for better rules regarding such breaks gained attention when Bill Gates visited Korea in May to meet President Park and deliver a lecture at Seoul National University. During a question and answer session, one student asked if he should quit school to launch a start-up, hinting at the difficulties engineering students encounter trying to juggle their studies and potential business ventures.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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