Vietnam the first target for Seoul searchers

John Morgan reports from South Korea's capital on plans to establish an overseas campus

十一月 4, 2010

South Korea's most prestigious university wants to make Vietnam the location of its first overseas campus, part of an internationalisation strategy billed as putting "obligation and responsibility" above revenue streams.

Seoul National University believes it can pass on academic expertise in development informed by South Korea's rapid transformation into an advanced market economy, presenting that as a motivation for its overseas-student recruitment and plans for a branch campus.

Junki Kim, Seoul National's dean of international affairs, pointed to the experience of South Korea, a nation with few natural resources, in making education a cornerstone of economic growth.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development forecasts that by 2025, South Korea will have the highest proportion of university graduates in the world - about 80 per cent of the population aged 25 to 44.

"When many of the developing nations are looking for ways in which they can improve through the learning process, we can provide that knowledge," Professor Kim said.

"When less developed nations are looking to drive their economies, where are they going to look? At the US and the UK? No, the gap is too huge."

He added that countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia needed "different patterns of growth. What they are looking for is an example like South Korea - where the state provides guidance and capital - and ways in which they can guide or develop a market economy."

Professor Kim said Vietnam had been "searching for ways to develop human resources in areas in which we have done relatively well", citing industries as diverse as medical services, IT, engineering and shipbuilding.

"In order to do so it needs human capital," he said. "We have been doing that - we have been providing very able people over the years."

He added that Seoul National would like to start the campus "modestly" by offering courses in development, public administration or public policy, and then gradually develop a full-scale outpost.

Professor Kim said that at South Korean universities, the rate at which tuition fees can increase is capped by the government, a rule that applies to both domestic and overseas students. This leaves little scope for charging overseas students higher fees, he added.

By contrast, he recalled a representative of the University of California, Los Angeles discussing the recruitment of overseas students to "fill the gap" left by California's budgetary crisis and declining state funding.

"We can't do that," he said. "Also, our business model is different. We are attracting overseas students as part of our obligation and responsibility to developing nations."

Professor Kim added that in terms of links with overseas universities, "the UK is the area in which we are lacking". His comments coincided with a visit to South Korea by pro vice-chancellors from five UK universities, organised by the British Council.



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