Industrial revolution

A nurturing relationship with Samsung has helped SKKU scale the domestic rankings and make its mark on the world stage, writes Chung Kyu Sang

June 10, 2015
Industrial revolution

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) has been shaking up South Korea’s traditional higher education hierarchy for decades and is now rapidly expanding its presence on the global stage. SKKU has been ranked number one in the established domestic university rankings for two consecutive years and this year advanced into the Times Higher Education World University Rankings’ top 150 for the first time. In addition, more of our graduates are taking leading roles in fields including politics, public service, academia, business and industry.

These achievements are not coincidental but rather the consequence of a long-term strategic plan and serious investment.

SKKU is more than 600 years old and has experienced its ups and downs over the centuries. For example, in the 1990s its development stagnated for several years because of a weak financial structure and lack of leadership.

Deliverance came in 1996 when Samsung, the Korean technology giant, rejoined the university’s management (it was previously a partner between 1965 and 1977), enabling SKKU to build the foundations of its current success. Indeed, the relationship has become an exemplar for corporate-university partnerships. Samsung’s unmatched investment and globally focused, highly competitive organisational culture has enabled the university to establish modern infrastructure and launch several high-quality programmes, with a particular focus on globalisation and corporate-academic cooperation.

For instance, the global MBA programme at our Graduate School of Business has grown rapidly since its launch in 2004 thanks to its internationally orientated structure and concentrated investment: indeed, it has become one of Asia’s top MBA programmes in little over a decade. Its success has spilled over into undergraduate programmes such as global business and global economics, which feature curricula and dual-degree opportunities designed with world-renowned university partners.

Unsurprisingly, SKKU is recognised by the Korean government as one of the best universities in the country for academic-industry collaboration. The institution is promoting research and nurturing talented professionals in a variety of high-tech fields (including semiconductor systems, mobile technology and software) – and in close partnership with a number of companies. These relationships have helped to bolster SKKU’s graduate employment rate, making it one of the best in Korea.

SKKU also accommodates high-tech research complexes in its Natural Sciences Campus, where academics from fields including physics, chemistry, engineering, medicine and genetic engineering work together across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Moreover, the SKKU Institute for Convergence is actively promoting research and university-wide education beyond the traditional boundaries of the academy and industry. This has rapidly enhanced our research competitiveness.

A customer-oriented approach is another SKKU asset. The university strives to improve its educational environment by building new classrooms and remodelling old ones, increasing its scholarships and expanding its dormitories. This has helped us top the National Customer Satisfaction Index (co-developed by the Korea Productivity Center and the University of Michigan) for eight years straight.

But we will not rest on our laurels: a commitment to innovation is vital for sustainable development. In strategic plans unveiled in 1998 and 2004, SKKU set a clear target to achieve global excellence in learning and discovery, and to become a world-class university. Our Vision 2020, announced in 2011, sets out an ambitious but clear path to a place in the global top 50. To this end, we aim to grow a few specialised research areas to increase our recruitment of talented faculty from across the world and to turn out excellent graduates who can and will compete globally.

SKKU is committed to raising the bar in education and research by actively participating in global affairs and cooperating with the world’s most prestigious universities – which is exactly what we are doing.

Chung Kyu Sang
President, Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), South Korea

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