Universities Are Forced to Lose Weight







Recently, after the government released university structural adjustment project, many people have feared that the project is killing regional universities by ranking universities. For universities located in the capital region, there is an issue related to “the project is reverse discrimination.” Although the project has many problems, most universities, including Yeungnam University, is going through restructuring. Let us examine why they are restructuring, which is currently under dispute, how this is being resolved and how do regional universities overcome this crisis.

Purpose of university restructuring
The decrease in school population is the reason why universities are restructuring. We can see the reversal in the numbers as university admission availability is higher than the number of high school graduates in 2018. Also, universities are preparing measures to boost competitiveness and develop a winning situation for both parties through restructuring.

Government’s Restructuring plan
The number of university entrance will be reduced by 160,000 in the next 9 years. The drop in the numbers will be about 40,000 in the next 3 years, 50,000 in the next 6 years, 70,000 in the next 9 years. The 40,000 will include about 25,000 students from four-year colleges and about 15,000 in junior colleges. The government evaluates the university’s performance into five different levels and to downsize, it will be graded according to the new university’s evaluation standard, which will not only has quantitative indicators, but also a qualitative index, involving satisfaction of lecture surveys. The best universities will have a self-regulating system to downsize the number of students but the universities ranked as 2nd and 3rd tiers, will reduce the designated numbers. If universities are ranked below the 4th level, the univeristy will be at the limit of available state scholarships and student loans. Also, they will need to reduce far more number of university admissions than higher ranked universities. Lower ranked universities were at the bottom 15% but the rate will be more than 20%. If the university is ranked as the lowest (5th level)twice, it will get shut down.

YU’s restructuring plan & current state
The number of applicants to universities are getting smaller each year. The rate of student application at universities in Daegu,Gyeongbuk is especially low compared to other regions. Thus, to prepare for the drop in the number of applicants, YU will reduce the quota for each department that is less competitive. It means that the downsizing of YU will have efficient structure. Therefore, YU had the plan to also merge several departments. Through it, YU tried to receive the highest-rated quantitative indicator but it had failed because there was no sufficient reason for downsizing the departments. This drew strong opposition from students. YU eventually put it off to hear students’ opinions.
YU’s structural adjustment involves social demands, helps increase employment rate and merges similar majors to enhance effectiveness of teaching and sophisticated research. This means that YU solves the problems through interaction. YU will reduce 4% of its quota through the drop in the number of Free Majors, Art and Physical Education departments and Chunma Honors School by 2017. There are three standards to stop recruitment: first, if majors are in the bottom 10% twice within its field. Second, if the rate of the department recuitment quota is below 95% twice. Third, if the quota of the department is below the minimal 30 students. Before stopping recruitment, the majors that meet the standards can be merged to a single department, with the approval of the responsible committee and the president. In YU, the student cut will begin starting 2015.

Restructuring of universities located in Daegu, Gyeongbuk
Now, Gyeongsangbuk-do’s universities are getting ready with university restructuring. In the case of Keimyung University (KMU), last June, their plan was finalized and are now waiting for implementation. KMU will select about 10 departments into subcategories to stop recuitment in 2015. It means that KMU will reduce 10% of entrance quota within the next 10 years. Also, KMU is planning to merge similar departments. For instance, they will merge the engineering and architecture departments, the environment and natural science departments and the fashion and arts departments, etc.
In the case of Catholic University of Daegu (CU), it had plans for the specialization of departments last October. The plan shows that first of all, CU will single out about 20 departments from all the departments and develop itself within them.
In the case of Daegu University, if the rate of department entrance quota is below 90% or the rate of enrolled students are below 70%, there is a 10% drop in the rate of the departmental entrance quota as the first penalty. If the department receives three penalties, they will get shut down. The plan’s goal is to get departments to reduce their quota and survive on their own.

Crisis of regional universities
Concentration on capital city of subsidy
Although private university’s subsidy, which is disbursed from the Treasury, have increased, more than half of the subsidy is provided to universities located in the capital region. The reason why the government does it is because the “General Purpose Fund” for all universities was repealed in 2004 and the government needed to institute policies to improve specific areas known as “Special Purpose Fund,” causing the subsidy to give to one side. The subsidy was 3,450,000 won per pupil that is student in the capital university but it was only 2,220,000 won per pupil that is student in the regional university, there was a 1,230,000 won gap in 2012.

Regional universities have trouble recruiting students
96 percent of enrollment quota, which is not meeting the quota, occurrs in universities located in the non-capital regions. Also, Gyeongju University, Uiduk University, Hanzhong University, Jeju International University were put on the list, “crisis of university” because of poor rate of recruitment and high student dropout rates. Gyeongju University’s rate of recruitment was 40.6%, student dropout rate was 11.5% and Jeju international University’s rate of recruitment was 52.4%, student dropout rate was 18.6%. Hanzhong University’s rate of recruitment was 59.6%, student dropout rate was 11.8% and Uiduk University’s rate of recruitment was 87.2%, and their student dropout rate was 13%.

Handle of the government and estimations of it
It was a controversial topic that the government estimates regional universities and metropolitan universities at the same standard. The government handles this problem by partnering the Regional Specialization Project with the university to specialize in specific areas starting this year to 2018 to enforce university reconstruction. The government grants approximately 203.1 billion won a year to national, public and private universities in noncapital regions and more than 1 trillion won will be used for promoting regional universities. The value bases of selecting evaluation to choose funded universities are calculated by foundational capabilities of a university and the specialized area of foundational capabilities. However, if a university campus had moved, it would at a disadvantage during evaluation. Also, the government will not count the employment rate, which is too distorted to evaluate. The government anticipates 60-70 regional universities will be benefited by this policy and will reward the university with 2,000 entrance quotas. Also, the government enforces supporting policy of characterized regional colleges that chooses 78 universities including 70 characterized colleges and 8 Lifetime vocational education colleges, and this policy supports 3.4 billion won to each college. It will take 269.6 billion won. However there are opinions about this policy which is reverse discrimination to metropolitan universities and it will make regional universities bigger and stop merging universities.

Regional universities that have competitive power
Handong University
Handong University is educating students with quality education which is allotting 20 students per professor and giving almost all classes in English. Also, there is a Non-major system that allows students to choose their major during sophomore year. Non-major system allows freshman to be in the global leadership school to explore several majors and apply a desired major without any limits as a sophomore. Also, they can change their major freely after they applied.

Konyang University
Konyang University has motivation semester which includes an academic aptitude test, introducing major and motivation program. Also, they tried a creativity fusion university, which allows students to attend various lectures beside their major since 2012 and enforced 10 semesters a year system to break the existing system. Konyang University made new colleges like medical engineering department to increase the rate of employment.
Also, they have a high region development contribution. For example, the Foundation Supporting Group helped to promote small business by converting a closed middle school in Nonsan to a factory. Furthermore, they enforce their freshmen recruitment system which recruits high school graduates from corresponding areas about part of the school such as the medicine and nursing majors to fulfill the university’s quota before the government enforced the system.

The seminar about universities structural reform and promoting plan of local universities was held at Catholic University of Korea in a discussion form.
We interviewed with Son Gwang-lag who participated as a representative of the local universities at this seminar.

What is our university’s opinion about university structure reform?
Our university is a private university so we can preserve majors if it maintains their proper entrance quota. It is different from national universities which are supported by government grants to preserve majors. However, in our university’s case, it becomes expensive to preserve majors so it is hard to support majors with a lack of minimum recruitment as national universities. Frankly speaking, the university’s best service is to get students employed. We started majors which were in tune with the current times. However, time has changed so the needs that are valued by society has also changed. Nevertheless, our university has been holding these last generation values though the times have changed. This needs to be organized to current times. If I compare this problem to the Titanic, the Titanic sank because the ship was too big to handle even though the sailors saw the iceberg approaching. Similarly, Yeungnam University which is a giant university, needs to look forward to sail in the right direction.

At this seminar, you discussed the plan to promote regional universities. How did you organize your thoughts?
At this seminar, one panel criticized the promoting plan of regional universities as wasting the budget. He thought it is too much support for the regional universities. However, our country has problem in which the population is too concentrated in the capital. If there was no support for the regional universities, it would increase population concentration in the capital which is already a serious issue. This opinion is of one that does not know the reality of the regional universities. Therefore, if the government decreased entrance quota of the metropolitan area initiatively, it would increase students regionally and obtain effect of reinvigorating the regional economy.

Six hundred fifty million high school graduates this year will decrease to 390 million in 2023 and there are universities than necessary compared to other countries. So this is the reason to restructure universities. If the government is obsessed about restructuring universities and judge the results of universities without fairness, it would decrease the power of regional universities and regenerate imbalance between regional and metropolitan cities. Regional universities make a big part of regional economies. So the government needs to consider the fairness of the non-capital regions and not obsess over the quota of universities and decrease the inefficient size of universities. Also, regional universities need to reinforce collaboration with regional community and utilize each asset as much as metropolitan universities. It would help to keep alive the regional universities.

Observer  yno1@ynu.ac.kr

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