S. Korea out to attract more foreign students

July 8, 2015
(Yonhap)

The number of foreign students in S. Korea has fallen since 2011. (Yonhap)

By Jung Min-ho

The government is seeking to increase the number of international students studying here from 84,000 last year to 200,000 by 2023, by pledging to make universities more foreigner-friendly.

At a Cabinet meeting, Tuesday, the Ministry of Education revealed a package of new policy initiatives to revive the once-booming trend of studying in Korea. The number of foreign students has fallen since 2011.

Most notably, the ministry will revise an ordinance to allow colleges to open departments only for international students. Also, the ministry plans to help them establish more English-taught degree courses in sciences and engineering, which would be more helpful for foreigners in terms of getting a job in the nation’s tough employment market.

One of the most common complaints the ministry receives from foreign students is that degrees from Korea are not helpful in getting jobs here and the job opportunities offered them are insufficient. To solve this, the ministry said it will add more companies to the government’s employment support program for them.

The number of foreign students has decreased for three years in a row, from 89,537 in 2011 to 84,891 in 2014. The situation is worse in schools outside Seoul. According to the ministry, the 10 most popular colleges for foreigners are all located in the capital.

To encourage colleges outside Seoul to attract foreign students, the ministry will give 18.8 billion won ($16 million) this year to both schools and individual departments that demonstrate vision and specific plans.

In an effort to help them further, from this year, the ministry will sponsor a six-week program, in which 100 students from Asian countries visit Korean colleges, mostly ones outside Seoul, to experience what it is like to study here.

Through ministry-affiliated institutions here and in other countries, the ministry also will strengthen marketing campaigns.

As the number of high school graduates is expected to fall short of the college entrance quota from 2018, the ministry believes attracting more foreign students is a critical task to keep Korea’s national competitiveness.

“Getting more foreign talent has become more important,” the ministry said in a statement. “We will continue to work hard to improve and promote the excellence of Korea’s higher education.”

International students account for only 2 percent of total enrollment in Korea’s higher education as compared to 18 percent in the United Kingdom and 19 percent in Australia. The OECD average is 8 percent. The ministry said, if everything goes well, the foreign students’ ratio here will increase to 5 percent by 2023.

While foreign students spent 796 billion won ($620 million) here in 2014, Koreans spent a total of $3.72 billion on studying abroad. The ministry hopes the revenue to increase to 1.5 trillion won by 2020.

Despite the fact that Korea is not an English-speaking country, experts say it has failed to take advantage of “Hallyu,” a term that describes the growing popularity of Korean pop culture especially in Asia, in terms of attracting foreign students.

They say one of the obvious problems is that there is minimal information about Korean colleges in English.

2 Comments

  1. JongChoo

    September 18, 2017 at 5:23 AM

    The attraction of foreign students is a good factor to get some profit for the economy from educational sector and tourism. However, It seems that the increase of the interest for the foreigners could be a sign of the lowering the quality standards for study. There are a lot of students from mid-Asia that study at the Eastern European countries. Most of them go there for affordable certificates, and they just buy cheap college essays, theses, other writings and having fun during the whole period of study. I’m not sure that the same happens with South Korea, but it could be one of the reasons

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