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[Editorial] College restructuring

[Editorial] College restructuring

Private institutions need to toe the line

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Published : 2014-01-03 20:36
Updated : 2014-01-03 20:36

Universities are in the process of voluntary restructuring, ahead of a forcible reform that will include closures or changes to institutions of further education. But the process is anything but smooth, with disaffected faculty members revolting vehemently against the administration-led restructuring.

With high school graduates rapidly declining in number, however, the government is set to reduce the quota for admissions to universities and colleges from the current 559,000 to 400,000 by 2020. To do so, it is set to grade universities and colleges into five groups, keep those in the top tier intact, reduce enrollment limits for many colleges in the lower grades, turn some into institutions of lifetime education and shut down the rest.

Most vulnerable are provincial private institutions of higher education. No wonder, some of them have already started restructuring on their own. Among them is Yeungnam University in North Gyeongsang Province, which has decided to close the worst-performing departments and cut admissions by more than 10 percent during the next 10 years.

Those universities and colleges are under attack from their faculty members, some of whom will lose their jobs when the reforms begin in earnest. They stage protest rallies and engage in other types of protest, including contributing anti-reform articles to news media.

Their plights of displacement elicit deep sympathy from society. But the problem is that not much can be done to ease their pain. Nor do they present any viable alternative reforms. The government cannot afford to spend so much in subsidies for universities and colleges whose faculties and facilities remain idle as the number of enrolled students plummets.

Moreover, some argue the scope of restructuring demanded by the administration is not wide enough to stem the tide, claiming that the administration-estimated number of high school graduates going on to university or college is too high.

One estimate puts the number of high school students graduating in 2023 at 400,000. Should 70 percent of them enroll as freshmen, their number would be 280,000, well below the administration’s planned 400,000-student cap.

Managers of provincial private universities and colleges, who should have started restructuring long ago, cannot afford to ignore the administration’s demand that they put their house in order before it is too late. They will have to toe the line in the face of mounting opposition.

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