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President Lee Ho-young Presents Solutions to Higher Education Crisis
  • By Shin Jeong-eun,cub-reporter
  • 승인 2022.04.10 23:18
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▲ President Lee Ho-young's interview with the Korea University Newspaper (Source: University Newspaper Network)

CWNU President Lee Ho-young revealed solutions to the crisis of higher education institutions in a power interview with the University Newspaper Network, which was reported on March 7. In this interview, President Lee Ho-young said that universities across the country are currently facing an unprecedented crisis that could be called ‘the collapse of higher education,’ and suggested directions with specific methods to solve this problem. President Lee has been Chairman of the National and Public University Presidents' Council since January, and said that universities across the country must unite as one regardless of differences such as regionality, form of establishment, and subject of establishment. He also conveyed his intention to revive the university's original meaning: "a place to cultivate talents who will determine the future competitiveness of the Republic of Korea."

President Lee stressed the importance of higher education, noting that, "the competitiveness of higher education is the future of the country." He mentioned the conversation he shared at a meeting with Colombia's Ambassador to Korea, saying that, "education," is the key to Korea's growth into becoming a country with excellent economic and technical skills. During the Korean War, Colombia was in a position to help Korea by sending troops, and now Korea has advanced technology and economic power because it invested in education, according to the President. Over the past 70 years, previous governments have considered the future, created research complexes, supported the R&D (Research and Development) Sector, and such growth in theses talents have improved shipbuilding and semiconductor technology, to create the current Republic of Korea.

On the other hand, unlike in the past, he said, “that the difficulties faced by universities in recent years deserve to be called the, 'decay,' of higher education. Two of the factors of this, ‘decay,’ were the freezing of tuition fees and the financial difficulties, caused by the decrease in the number of students enrolled. In order to solve this problem, it is urgent to expand the finances of higher education. They say that due to financial difficulties, they have no choice but to cling and depend on the government's financial support projects, and universities have become uniform as they try to meet the government's evaluational standards. In the past, universities worked hard to cultivate and characterize talent, however, but now both Private and National Universities are in a difficult situation to consider reducing costs." For the future competitiveness of the Republic of Korea, he soon reaffirmed the competitiveness of higher education, and mentioned that this crisis should be considered as a top priority by the next government.

In addition, he expressed his opinion that the difference in interests according to the establishment subject of the university should be viewed, not as a matter that rests with Private Universities or National Universities, but in the large framework of the crisis of higher education in Korea. It was also reminded that local universities play an important role in regional development. If there are no universities in the region, all young people will leave, along with companies that will also flock to the metropolitan areas, rather than stay in areas without manpower to support industry. He argued that local governments should coexist with local universities in order to provide support to their local communities by creating jobs and developing local areas.

In addition to expanding finances, President Lee suggested expanding the autonomy of Private Universities and exempting tuition fees for Fine Arts and general studies at National Universities. Only by giving Private Universities autonomy can they develop further, by utilizing the specialized fields of each university. He also argued that the state should be responsible for providing scholarships to the departments of Fine Arts and general studies at National Universities, as a way to exempt tuition fees. As competition for recruitment among universities arises due to a decrease in the number of students, Fine Art and general studies departments with low student preferences are often abolished. He explained that as technology and applied studies, including the 4th Industrial Revolution, begin from the Fine Arts and general studies, fostering talent in these disciplines is a responsible duty at the National level. Furthermore, since these departments contain a small number of student enrolment, operating expenses should also be provided, so that it is not difficult to manage them. He explained that if Private Universities and National Universities are not in a competitive structure, but are instead open to new ways to do what they can, the issue of decreasing students can be resolved in the direction of improving the quality of education.

In a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Education, Yoo Eun-hye, in January, President Lee Ho-young, held various discussions on the future development direction of National and Public universities across the country. In addition, they shared opinions on the Ministry of Education's interest and support in enacting the National University Act, which is currently proposed in the National Assembly. In an interview, President Lee stipulates that the National University Act should not cause a gap in the National Treasury subsidies per student of the National University and the National University Corporation. In addition, it clarified the legal status of national universities that were currently established and operated under the National School Establishment Decree (Presidential Decree). It contains comprehensive content on the state and local governments' obligations to provide support, fiscal expansion, and securing autonomy and accountability in operation. If the Bill is finally passed, the autonomy of National Universities can be strengthened, and expenses necessary for the operation of National Universities can be set, based on the total amount. In addition, the financial crisis is expected to be largely resolved as the average government subsidy per student attending National Universities stipulates that there is no gap with the average government subsidy per student at national universities.

Through the direction and solution presented by President Lee Ho-young, we hope to overcome the current crisis of higher education, and to achieve fruits that contribute to the development of National and Public Universities nationwide, including our universities and Korean education. The original text of the Power Interview of the University Newspaper Network can be found on http://news.unn.net/news/articleView.html?idxno=524835.

By Shin Jeong-eun,cub-reporter  jes203id@gmail.com

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