After the establishment of the Moon Jae-in government in May, the new government has introduced policies in various fields such as economy and diplomacy. In the education sector, a national university joint degree policy has been proposed as an education reform policy. As the policy intends, it becomes innovation rather than a mere joint degree. To explain the difference between the two policies, the joint degree system has the same name, identity, and administrative organization as each university and it is similar to the union of universities that share similar institutions. However, the integration of national universities means the absorption of universities and administrative organizations into one university.
The reason that this policy has been proposed is to solve a problem- national universities are less competitive than private universities in Seoul during the entrance examination process, which causes university ranking inequality. Currently, most of highly-educated students are attracted to private universities in Seoul, which have a better educational environment than national universities. By providing support for national universities and suggesting additional education policies, the level difference with private universities can be minimized. Also, these policies can be expected to increase the educational scale of national universities and improve their educational competitiveness by installing a major field on each campus. However, it is difficult to say that the education policies that have been implemented by past governments are worse because both policies have advantages and disadvantages, so the citizens’ responses are different.
We can classify the benefits of this policy into different sections. First, it will make the entrance examination system in Korea simpler. As everybody knows, this system is too complicated and it is in flux. This integration network will consolidate the entire university admission system because the students can apply to all Flagship Korean National Universities using one application through the policy. It could be the solution to the problem of excessive competition for entrance exams and normalize public education.
Second, the students of Flagship Korean National Universities can share all nine campuses' facilities. This means wherever they enter, they can study on every campus of Flagship Korean National Universities (Chungnam National University and other 8 Universities). These universities will share not only their facilities, such as buildings and laboratories, but also their good education curriculum and professors. In addition, students can choose what campus they want to study in, and they can also choose the university that they will graduate from. Moreover, if the Flagship Korean National Universities specialize in their own fields after the policy is carried out successfully, it can yield more powerful benefits for these universities. These factors are expected to reinforce the Flagship Korean National Universities' competitiveness.
Third, if this integration policy takes effect, the budget support for universities will be expanded. Last May, Kim Sang-gon, the Minister of Education, remarked that the expanding support for Flagship Korean National Universities will improve the quality of the universities' education because the support money for each student (Today’s support money for Flagship Korean National Universities' students is 15,000,000 won) will be increased by 21,900,000 won, which is the same amount as the money for the students of the 5 major universities in Seoul. This means that students in these universities can get an education of good quality.
Lastly, the biggest benefit of this policy will be the dissolution of the problem of university rankings. Korean universities are now in a distinct ranking, and the problem of academic factionalism in Korea is really serious. However, if this policy is established, the level of Flagship Korean National Universities will be improved to a level similar to that of famous universities in Seoul, and the national or public universities competitiveness will be advanced. Therefore, the problem of university rankings, academic factionalism and the inequality of education can be resolved. In addition, this can be connected to the result of the balanced development of regions.
However, this policy also has negative aspects that cannot be neglected. First of all, this policy is being criticized since nothing was discussed between students and universities. This policy was first brought up in online communities such as Facebook. Students who were not even aware of the integration policy criticized that this is nothing but disregarding students’ right to know about their universities. Some people are uncertain about the effectiveness of the policy while the universities have only interacted with each other administratively. Also, people have doubts about this integration since it lost its credibility from students before it was actually implemented. In this situation, implementing the policy could raise students’ hostility towards it.
Furthermore, some are concerned that this policy might deepen the gap between capital regions and non-capital regions, which are called by the term 'Seoul Republic Phenomenon.’ The Seoul Republic phenomenon has been a serious issue, since almost every major infrastructure is excessively concentrated in Seoul. The compelling reason why students choose a national university in non-capital regions rather than private universities in Seoul is mostly a financial issue. Since some high ranked national universities are competitive with some private universities in Seoul, many students choose to enter affordable national universities. However, the possibility of integrated national universities being standardized downwards is not negligible since there is a gap between universities. The integration could degrade students’ morale that have endeavored to enter high ranked national universities and make students think that entering private universities in Seoul is more advantageous. As students choose to enter universities in Seoul, this could eventually cause a downturn in the local economy if the young population moves out. Consequently, the movement of the young population could intensify polarization between the capital and non-capital regions even more than before.
Also, it is insufficient to break down academic factionalism practically. It is no exaggeration to say that Korea’s employment is mostly based on academic factionalism. Unless the companies improve their employment system, which is based on an applicant’s educational background, integrating national universities cannot be an actual solution to break down academic factionalism. Companies should consider the applicant’s executive ability more than their educational background. It is crucial for companies to rectify the employment system, which could be seen as a fundamental cause of academic factionalism.
by Ju-yeon Han, CP Reporter /Min-seong Kim, CUB Reporter/Joo-eun Kwon, CUB Reporter
Ju-yeon Han, CP Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
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