Lingua frankly

February 11, 2010

South Korean universities are recruiting more foreign faculty in a bid to internationalise their campuses and boost their standings in world university rankings. But unless better attempts are made to integrate foreign faculty into their academic life, this effort will bear little fruit.

It is standard practice for academics at universities around the world to have regular faculty meetings to discuss key issues. After all, they have the most contact with students and best know their needs, dilemmas and difficulties. But in a significant number of South Korean universities, foreigners are often not invited to such meetings. It is claimed that they cannot attend because of cultural differences and language barriers.

Of course, as we're talking about South Korean universities, it could be convincingly argued that all attending faculty should be prepared to speak Korean, and if they are not, they should be excluded. But English is the world's lingua franca and is spoken by most faculty in Korean institutions, whatever their nationality.

If Korean universities fail to allow faculty members to become integral parts of proceedings, they are neglecting their students' needs. Moreover, it is nonsensical to hire foreign faculty to boost rankings and then not invite them to staff meetings. Measures should be put in place to stop this.

Paul Jambor, Full-time instructor of IFLS, Department of education, art and design, Korea University.

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