Readjustment of college departments is needed

Home > Opinion > Editorials

print dictionary print

Readjustment of college departments is needed

The Education Ministry last week announced a plan to increase university student quota in high-tech fields such as artificial intelligence and semiconductors to 1,829. Under the plan, Seoul National University (SNU) will be able to expand enrollment by 218 for the first time since 1990.

It is necessary to create new majors and adjust class sizes to provide the talents key industries demand. Korean universities were restricted from opening new programs or increasing quotas because of the law designed to contain the over-concentration of human and industrial capital around the capital region and due to resistance from existing departments.

Stanford University had upped its engineering and computer science quota to 745 from 141 in 2008 to meet the growing demand for software engineering amid digitalization in the last 10 years. In the meantime, SNU’s student quota in the field rose to 80 from 55. The situation has been similar or worse in other universities, causing a serious shortage of workforce in digital and software fields.

Society is rapidly turning to digitalization with the advance of AI technology. But university courses remain in the past framework. Nearly 80 percent of new recruits by Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor and other big companies came from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) backgrounds from 2018 to 2020. But graduates with humanities degrees still outnumber STEM ones, with 43.5 percent of all college graduates in 2021 holding humanities degrees and 37.7 percent having STEM degrees.

The expansion in high-tech fields for colleges is meaningful. Schools must be able to meet the growing demand for STEM talents. But the government in the past only increased the quota for popular departments in colleges in the capital region. Enrollment in semiconductor programs in regional universities stopped at 81.1 percent of their quota in 2022.

University applicants are estimated at 370,000 for next year, declining 50,000 from this year’s count. A mechanical increase of quota when the number of first-year students already fell 100,000 short of the admission quota of 470,000 is not effective. The same goes for top schools. Universities must streamline departments and majors where the demand is falling.

The Latin origin of university — univérsĭtas’ — means “a whole.” The oldest institution of higher education was the University of Bologna in the 11th century where scholars formed free associations to teach young people about laws and logics, for example. Students recruited teachers on the need of the times. The founding role of university was to provide students and society with the education in need. Less popular departments should be flexibly adjusted so that universities can advance together with society.
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)