|▲ CWNU's official English name logo sign, meaning Changwon National University|
A few years ago, the fear of population cliffs has been increasing since the first- ever, 'dead cross,' (the number of deaths exceeds the number of babies born) became a reality. The decline in the school- age population due to the low birth rate will soon lead to the risk of universities needing to survive the population decline. Along with this crisis of the decreasing school- age population, local universities are experiencing a crisis due to the phenomenon of, 'local escape.' In fact, in the 2023 college admissions process, 33,000 students did not register, even after passing a four- year university program in the province. The ratio of unregistered universities was only 3% (3.8% last year) in Seoul and 4.5% (5% last year) in Gyeonggi and Incheon, but 18.6% (5% last year) in provincial universities. While the ratio of unregistered local universities increased, the ratio of unregistered universities in Seoul decreased. In addition, considering that the unregistered ratio of local universities was 5% last year, the unregistered ratio of local universities is showing a very steep rise. The main cause of, 'local escape,' is the lack of educational and cultural infrastructure, including jobs. As students flocked to the metropolitan area due to the phenomenon of, 'regional escape,' local universities became financially and academically insolvent. This leads to job losses in the region, economic contraction, and further regional extinction crisis.
13 national universities, including CWNU, applied to the Ministry of Education to change the school name in order to add, 'national,' to the existing name. They have been waiting for the Ministry of Education's, 'authorization to change the name,' for 18 months since October 2021. On March 31, the Ministry of Education allowed the change of school names of 13 national universities, including CWNU. According to an official from the Ministry of Education, "We originally considered allowing each university to use the word, 'national,' but it was pointed out that it was difficult to remove and attach, 'national,'" he added. They also announced a legislative amendment to the National School Establishment Decree, so that universities that applied for the change of school name can use phrases representing national universities in school symbols, official seals, and documents. In the case of 13 national universities with basic local government names, even residents in nearby areas often do not recognize them as national universities due to their low awareness. Last year, CWNU conducted a, 'change of school name,' survey on graduates and Gyeongnam residents. According to the survey, 86.3% in favor, 12.5% in opposition, and 1.2% in other countries showed overwhelming positive responses in favor of, 'changing the school name.' An official from CWNU's headquarters said, "We applied to the Ministry of Education to change the school name to National Changwon University because the will to fulfill public accountability is implied in the word: National." He also said, "We decided that it should be established at a national university because we are promoting a public medical school in connection with the attraction of medical schools, and to clarify this, we decided to name it National Changwon University."
In March 2022, Gyeongsang National University and Kyungnam University of Science and Technology changed their school name to Gyeongsang National University at the same time as the integration. According to an official from Gyeongsang National University, "In the past, when students went to job interviews, interviewers often knew the name of the university as private universities or colleges, and professors from other universities did not know it was a national university." In addition, he said, "The change in school name not only strengthened the image of national universities, but also had a relatively positive effect on the recruitment rate of new students as compared to other universities that are having difficulty recruiting new students." If the essential problem of the decrease in the school- age population in Korea is not properly solved, it is highly likely that the university will be on the verge of survival and collapse of the local economy. Therefore, the government's active solution to this should be discussed. In addition, various efforts should be made at the level of local governments and local universities to curb the arch of the phenomenon of, 'local escape'.
By Park ChaeHyun, cub-reporter email@example.com
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