South Korea is known as one of the four “Asian tiger” economies, with an economy based on its fast-growing education, technology and tourism sectors.
More and more students are choosing to study in South Korea, and the country has recently seen dramatic increases in foreign enrolments. The government announced a plan to increase foreign enrolments to 200,000 by 2032 and is working hard to encourage even more students from the US, Europe and Asia to study abroad in South Korea. If you’re considering studying in South Korea, these are the best universities, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022.
A falling birth rate and a projected shortfall in the number of domestic applicants, combined with a desire to foster strong international ties, are behind the government’s efforts. The government hopes to entice even more young people to study abroad in South Korea by offering a range of financial incentives to institutions and individuals, streamlining student visa applications and providing employment support for those who have studied in South Korea and wish to stay on and work.
The Incheon Global Campus outside Seoul is a partnership with universities from around the world, offering degrees from the home university taught by faculty members based on-site in South Korea. By some estimates, almost a third of university courses in South Korea are now taught in English, and many universities offer new, dedicated international campuses.
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Top 5 universities in South Korea 2022
Considered one of the most prestigious higher education institutions in South Korea, Seoul National University offers students a chance to study in the heart of the country’s bustling capital city. The university sits comfortably among the top universities in Asia.
The university has 16 colleges, a graduate school and 10 professional graduate schools offering hundreds of undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD courses.
The main campus, Gwanak, is based in southern Seoul and consists of more than 200 buildings catering to thousands of students and staff. The site is served by its own subway station. The university’s Yongon campus, based just north of the Han River, is home to the main branch of the Seoul National University Hospital and the medical, nursing and dental schools.
A little way outside town, the Pyeongchang campus includes the Graduate School of International Agricultural Technology as well as the Institutes of Green Bio Science and Technology and the university’s own farm complex.
Famous alumni include former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, former president of the International Criminal Court Song Sang-hyun, and Lee Jong-wook, who used to head the World Health Organization. Academic staff include Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen and Fields Medal winner Hironaka Heisuke.
Set up by the government in 1971 with help from US advisers, KAIST was South Korea’s first research-led science and technology university. Based in the central city of Daejeon, the university was set up “in recognition of the nation’s need for elite human resources in science and technology”, and it has stayed true to its founding philosophy.
It is possible that your smartphone, laptop or car was designed by a KAIST graduate, and the teaching and cutting-edge research conducted at the university have been crucial in developing South Korea’s reputation for high-tech prowess.
The university has an innovative academic system and is allowed to operate autonomously, outside the government curriculum and admissions rules applied at other universities. KAIST implemented South Korea’s first test-free admissions system (admissions instead being based on grades, letters of recommendation from teachers and personal statements). Undergraduates may try courses before choosing their major and may switch their major at any time. More than 80 per cent of courses at KAIST are taught in English.
Sungkyunkwan University was founded more than 600 years ago and is the oldest university in East Asia.
The university has two campuses: the humanities and social sciences campus in Seoul, and the natural sciences campus in Suwon.
The university has academic exchange programmes and partnerships with 653 universities in 73 countries. It is also aiming to expand its dual-degree programmes with many prestigious universities all around the world. The university currently runs 33 dual-degree programmes with partners including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Schools of Engineering and Business, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Fudan University, Peking University and the University of Birmingham.
It also offers the first fully English-taught MBA programme in South Korea.
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Yonsei University started life in the late 1800s, and founded by Horace Grant Underwood, a Christian missionary. It had many identities before becoming Yonhi University in 1946, taking on its current name in the late 1950s.
It is a member of SKY universities, a term for the three institutions widely regarded as the most prestigious in the country.
Alumni include Han Seung-su, former prime minister of South Korea, who also served as the president of the United Nations General Assembly. Professional golfer Ryu So-yeon won the United States Women’s Open Championship, while a student at Yonsei.
Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology is located in Ulsan, the industrial capital of South Korea, also home to renowned companies such as Hyundai and SK Energy.
The only university in South Korea where 100 per cent of lectures are conducted in English, the research oriented institution is focussed on scientific and technological advancement.
Courses are available most kinds of engineering, physics, mathematics, computer science, chemistry and many more sciences. You can study at the undergraduate, master’s or doctorate level and beyond.
There are also a number of state of the art research centres, such as the Green Energy Material Technology Development Center and the New Growth Engine Project Group.
Top universities in South Korea 2022
Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2022 results.