SNU’s stunning makeover

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SNU’s stunning makeover

Seoul National University’s College of Engineering has decided to forgo its traditional way of incubating talented students and their projects in the classroom by joining up with actual companies. It aims to work closely with existing players in the field to help groom new technologies and start-ups. The school’s dean, Lee Kun-woo, said universities should be the first to change in order to combat the industrial challenges created as China catches up in Korea’s traditionally dominant areas like semiconductors and shipbuilding. The school believes Korea Inc. could achieve technological breakthroughs if the elite university’s 4,000 lecturers and graduate students join forces with midsize companies and small start-ups.

The school set up a joint workshop in one of its buildings where electronics and engineering students study, reserving the space as a lab for smaller companies so that it can serve as a hub for innovation and the creation of new technologies. The move comes after the school recommended in July that it should reorient towards research and development that can be commercialized and change society.

A transformation of the country’s top engineering school can shape the country’s competitiveness in technology. For the first time since Korea began to industrialize in 1961, the nation has recorded a fall in manufacturing. It now faces an entirely new global commerce landscape with the planned launch of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal.

Local universities have been engrossed in self-indulgent studies that lack commercial feasibility and contribute little to keeping Korea ahead of the competition. Korea ranks eighth among the 24 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development members in labor mismatch. It takes nearly 20 months for companies to teach new recruits what they need to know, costing them more than 60 million won ($52,000) a year.

SNU’s endeavors must spread to other engineering schools and universities around the country. Universities around the globe are opening up. Stanford University has opened its medical, engineering and business schools to work on biomedicine with companies. Nagoya University in Japan works closely with Toyota and other companies in the area. Practicality strengthens national competitiveness. JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 12, Page 34

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