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Universities face inquiry on foreign student management

The Education Ministry will select the bottom 15 percent of universities which poorly manage international students, and restrict visa issuance, while disclosing their list as well, in an extension of its efforts to restructure badly managed universities.

It plans to conduct inquiry into schools with foreign student enrollment from next month to November, and announce the results in December.

Based on the inquiry results, the ministry will certify exemplary schools, while sanctioning low-ranking schools by restricting student visa application for the schools, Ha Hyun-soo, head of the inquiry committee for universities with foreign students enrolled, said. 

The schools in the top five percent are expected to be certified by the government as exemplary schools to receive some incentives in government projects and funds related to international students.

“We will look into the level of language proficiency, grades, student attendance records and others related to international student performances and student services,” said Ha. Some students disappear after the term starts for illegal employment and some don’t make any progress in Korean language proficiency during their school years, Ha noted.

The number of foreign students attending Korean universities is expected to hit an all-time high at 100,000 in 2012, but the increase causes concerns as some schools consider admitting foreign students as a commercial business, ministry officials said Wednesday.

Some 83,842 international students attended South Korean colleges in 2010, quadruple the amount four years ago due to demand for higher education in China and some developing countries. Also, the Korean culture wave hallyu had an affect.

Many are concentrated in Seoul, making up 40 percent of the total number, and the rest are scattered across regional provinces such as Gyeongsang, Chungcheong and Jeolla Provinces. And Chinese students make up about 659 percent of the total international students from about 160 countries, followed by Japanese at 5 percent and Mongolians at 4 percent.

But the expansion in the number of international students hasn’t necessarily been accompanied by the improvement in education quality as some schools become financially dependent on enrollment of international students and some don’t provide adequate student service, education officials said.

Their increase shows worrisome trends as Korean universities can instill a bad image in international students because of a few schools taking advantage of foreign students to fund their own schools and neglecting student management.

“Recruiting international students was supposed to boost globalization of a school, but some schools do it for business,” said Kwon Min-kyung, education official of foreign student management.

“Some schools offer international students tuition at half price of what domestic students pay to take in as many students as possible. At some schools, all international students are Chinese, all from the same region in China,” Kwon said. “It will only undermine the reputation of Korean universities in the long term.”

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)
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