Universities up in arms about ministry's evaluation results

Universities up in arms about ministry's evaluation results

Kim In-chul, chair of the Korean Council for University Education, speaks during a seminar of university chancellors at the Paradise Hotel in Busan, in this July 1 photo. Korea Times photo by Kim Jin-joo

By Bahk Eun-ji

Universities are protesting the provisional results of the Ministry of Education’s certification and competency evaluation, announced earlier this week, claiming that the government-led evaluation may create a ranking of schools and overheated competition among them, while undermining their autonomy.

In addition, they also urged the ministry to come up with a remedy for universities that failed the evaluation.

The protest came from the Korea Council for University Education (KCUE) and the Korea Association for Professional University College Education (KCCE), following the education ministry’s selection of 136 four-year universities and 97 two-year colleges, as general institutions to receive financial support through the competency evaluations, Tuesday.

Twenty-five four-year universities, including Sungshin Women’s University in Seoul and Inha University in Incheon, and 27 two-year colleges, were excluded from the beneficiary list of the government’s support.

Those selected institutions must set up their own quota reduction plans, instead of receiving billions of won in three years until 2024, while those universities excluded from the list will receive support only for national scholarships and student loans.

Although it is different for universities with limited government financial support, which are unlikely to recover, the excluded universities are expected to have difficulties in recruiting new students, given the fact that the results came to light ahead of the admissions process for the 2022 academic year, which begins next month.

The ministry will finalize the list of universities that can provide general financial support at the end of this month after receiving objections.

In October, it also plans to disclose the amount of financial support and the details of projects to apply to the universities, as it is currently discussing them with financial authorities.

However, the KCUE said that the ministry’s evaluation results merely triggered competition among universities

“What the ministry has done will only rank universities and colleges, as they evaluated them based only on the reports that the schools submitted,” KCUE Chairman Kim In-chul said.

“Even universities that are healthy and highly likely to revive have received restrictions on state funding based on this ranking.”

Kim then said that the education ministry, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the National Assembly, should work together to increase the amount of innovation support project expenses for universities to 2 trillion won ($1.7 billion) and to grant universities autonomy the execution of those expenses.

“The ministry also come up with a separate way to provide relief for the universities that have been excluded from the support due to the unreasonable evaluation,” Kim said.

If such a demand is not accepted, the council said that it will take collective action, such as raising tuition fees.

“University tuition has been frozen in the name of half-price tuition for the past 13 years, but such efforts have been undermined by the ministry. If the government and the National Assembly do not fully accept the demand for financial expansion of higher education, we will inevitably have no choice but to actively review the exercise of autonomy in setting tuition fees,” he added.

The KCCE also said that the number of admissions quotas has been drastically reduced by about 60,000 or 27 percent over the past 10 years, in accordance with the government’s university restructuring reforms.

“It is very regrettable that there was no evaluation of the university’s autonomous quality management and efforts according to the characteristics of each region and major,” said KCCE Chairperson Nam Sung-hee.

“If the government subsidy is limited based on the results of the evaluation, the damage will be passed on to the students. Rather than uniformly restructuring the colleges by ranking, based on the evaluation of the university, we request that the financial support for colleges be greatly expanded so that they can strengthen their role as a lifelong vocational education institution,” Nam said.

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