The incorporation of Seoul National University (SNU) has been a hot issue. In Korean, incorporation of university is 법인화. Originally, the national/public university is managed by the government budget. If the university is incorporated, it would have to manage its own budget. Since SNU is one of the Korea’s major national universities, it could have ripple effects to other national/public universities. Other university students are also interested in the incorporation because of that reason. As being one of the public universities, University of Seoul (UOS) students are having activities related with the incorporation, such as the rally they held on April 9 at the Seoul Station.
The incorporation problem has been amplified ever since it was approved by the National Assembly in December 2010. The new law was passed hastily without undergoing enough discussion. The sudden enactment made people who are against the incorporation furious because their opinion was ignored.
Yeon-Cheon Oh, President of SNU, was even confined to his office room in the university. The SNU established the Administrative Body for the Incorporation of SNU regardless of the opposing opinion. Since the incorporation process is going on, the employees claimed opposing would not be an answer. They wanted to participate in to express their opinions. However, the president did not allow their participation. Being enraged, they imprisoned the president for about 12 hours.
That incident reflects how serious the situation is. UOS also held a general students’ meeting concerning its incorporation. The meeting was meaningful since it provided a chance for the students to share their ideas as well as opinions. 966 students participated, which is much higher than the quorum, and 756 out of attendance opposed the incorporation. The major concern was the rising tuition fees.
96 percent disagree shows the students have a clear opposite opinion against the incorporation. However, on the other hand, it could raise a question whether they are only considering the negative effects. Should be the incorporation welcomed or not? To help the students make a right decision, this Cover Story will deal with positive effects as well as negative of the incorporation. Let us think which the best way for our university is.
Better Quality of Education
The positive effect of incorporation is that a university can provide a better quality of education. If a university is incorporated, it can choose a policy by itself. This makes the university more efficient by allowing it to reduce unnecessary costs. Compared to private universities, national/public universities are regulated by law in decision making about human resources, organization, and financial management and so on. They have no right to appoint a level six or higher public official and can only employ professors within a quota. Incorporation makes them free from these restrictions, so they can be more responsive to social changes.
Advance of Power Structure of the School
Furthermore, the incorporation of a university can advance its own power structure such as the presidential election system which is currently known as the indirect election system and institute of board of directors. Since incorporation gives the university an autonomy of organizing human resources and finances, it can make various changes by inviting famous foreign professors, bringing in talented students from other countries, starting the policy to decide the pay on result, securing exceptional administrative manpower, making or closing an organization on need, financing more flexibly and efficiently and making plans to bring in external funds.
Improve University’s Financial Status
There are people who are worried about university tuition increases. Since incorporation also means “stand alone without national or public support,” the raising of tuition could be seemed inevitable. However, that does not mean that tuition will skyrocket. Universities will raise the tuition fees only when it is unavoidable, and will try to minimize their student’s financial burden. Also, there are laws that prevent universities from raising their registration fees too much. The cap is less than 1.5 times the average rate of the last three years’ inflation. This law applies to all kinds of universities, even the private and incorporated. If it is violated, the minister of Education, Science, and Technology can hand down sanctions both administratively and financially, which will be critical to the universities. An incorporated university has the right to carry out profitable projects and make a profit. If it succeeds in making a steady income, it could in fact cut tuition fees.
The university can also provide the finest quality of education to their students. Not only can the university spend more money on education, also encourage professors by paying them depending on how they teach. Also, the university can make professors compete with each other, raising the quality of classes. By doing so, it will make professors more eager for their work, thus can raise the quality of the education.
To sum up, the incorporation of a university has many benefits. It can release the university from many limits and restrictions by law and allow it to manage its staff and finances as it sees fit. Currently, these limits and restrictions are holding SNU back. According to research on ranks between universities done by Times-QS, during the past four years the ranking of Pohang University of Science and Technology has improved by 121 levels. Korea Advanced Institute of Science Technology, known as KAIST, also raised its ranking by 53 levels, while Yonsei University raised 61 levels. From this research, most of the major universities except SNU have grown massively. Also, this research indicates the relationship between the growth of a university and incorporation. While most of the major private, incorporated universities are growing, SNU has stagnated.
However, everything has its dark side. Even though incorporation might look flawless, it also has negative effects. In fact, some people think that incorporation will do worse than better. Since incorporation of a university is a very big move, in some way radical, there will be great consequences. For this reason, many people oppose incorporation.
Increase of Tuition Fee
The most common reason why people oppose incorporation is because there is a high risk that tuitions will indeed go up. Even though a university may plan on getting external funds, there is no guarantee that the university will be financially sufficient enough not to need to raise the tuition. They cannot risk raising tuitions since they already think tuitions are too expensive.
Polarization of Education
Also, the incorporation can cause the polarization of education. In essence, incorporation of a university means that the university will regard education as a business. The university will be under the influence of market law and it will seek profit as its first priority. It means that we, as tax payers, do not own or run it together anymore. Education should be open to anyone, regardless of his or her social status. If such a trend continues, it will be impossible for the lower classes to enroll and graduate university regardless of their knowledge.
Highten the Education Barrier Which Can Weaken the National Power
Even though incorporation can help the growth of a university and raise its level, in a long term view, it will harm the national power. The tuition fees will repel even middle classes, taking away their opportunity to learn. This will create a situation where only the people who can afford tuition will be educated. It will bury many talented and gifted great minds simply because they do not have enough money. As a result, the national power will eventually weaken.
Not All Policy Will Work as Planned
Also, the policy to pay depending on the outcome could give out a total different result than what was expected. Even though the aim was to create competition between professors to raise both the quality of education and to aid the university’s growth, there is no guarantee that it will work. Even though this might look innovative and effective, there were hundreds of precedents. In fact, such policies can be easily found in various companies since it is one of the easiest ways to put the employees’ mind on the work. However, in a university, this policy could work in an unexpected way. Under such a policy, professors could prefer to do research and give out outcomes that will raise their value. They could act for their own gain and pay less or no attention to teaching students. Since the professors are not there for volunteer work, their first priority is their income, and they will try to maximize it and set everything else as secondary. As a result, the quality of education will stagnate or fall.
The Overpower of University
Furthermore, some people are worried about incorporated universities having total control. It means that incorporated universities have a high risk of being corrupted. For example, the university can raise tuition even though it is already financially sufficient. Also, the university can make secret deals with other companies since it can choose whom it wants to deal with. People only can depend on the university’s honesty and hope it to state its financial report.
The Extinction of “Unpopular” Classes and Departments
Also, since the university will now act like a business, it will likely shut down the “unpopular products.” The incorporation can lead to the extinction of unpopular classes. Even now, most of the universities are shrinking down the quota of such minor classes like philosophy or literature while increasing the quota of popular classes like economics or management. Since incorporated universities will likely follow the law of the market, the university will shut down all the classes it see unnecessary and concentrate the remaining resources on the major ones.
Lastly, even though the university might succeed in raising both the quality of education and its ranking, it does not make it a “better university.” Students will have a hard time paying the tuition and feel slighted at having quite a lot of classes and departments removed. Some people think that incorporation will severely harm the universities’ traditions and cultures, as well as destroy the communities. Even though this might be a bit exaggerated, there is no doubt that incorporation would have a huge impact on a university.
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