[Leader's Column] Bigger and Wider Higher Education

BY :Mi Ock Mun DATE :2022-04-11 HIT :4,458

After I finished my last column as “Without people, all plans become nothing but a futile dream,” I became more worried. In discussions about the government organization of the new administration, attempts from 15 years ago to combine science and technology with education are heard again. The combination of education and science and technology looks good at first glance, but the policy had no choice but to fail because it had to flow through science and technology R&D centered on the graduate school of science and engineering and fostering human resources in science and engineering. In March 2016, as the AlphaGo game took place and the world was preparing for a whole new world changed by the artificial intelligence, two of the three strategies included in a report released by the White House in the United States in December were about education. One was to provide higher education for all Americans, and the other was to provide vocational education in response to technological change. In this, the direction of higher education goes beyond science and engineering education that fosters R&D manpower who develops and advances technology, but the education beyond a junior college for active vocational activities that enjoy the benefits of technological change, in particular, to strengthen the use of digital and artificial intelligence to create new values. It is awkward that the new administration’s higher education direction starts in 2022 focuses on R&D. The question should be different. What are the human resources policy, higher education policy, and science and technology talent policy that Korea needs now?

Leaving aside the human resources policy, let's look at the higher education policy centered on universities related to science and technology, As a basic plan for financial support for higher education according to the Higher Education Act, only financial support projects for universities and students have been included. As a result, combined with the manpower policy of the national R&D project for science and technology required by the manufacturing-oriented industry that has supported Korea’s economic growth, the proportion of support for science and engineering colleges and graduate schools is large, and the Brain Korea 21 (BK21) and LINC are representative projects. However, in the future, as the culture and arts industry will grow and the convergence service industry will expand in a new technological economy environment, higher education policies should be provided for the people to work and live in a new way. In addition to science and engineering, we need to design a new higher education policy that encompasses all fields including humanities, society, economy, and arts, from junior colleges to graduate schools, and reorganize the system and properly prepare a strategy and budget to promote a complete transformation as a national higher education project. 

The starting point is the distinction between education and research in universities. The science and technology talent policy is a special policy area that is distinct from the universal higher education policy. For example, the BK21 project should be rearranged from its original purpose, which is the science and technology talent policy project centered on graduate schools of science and engineering, based on Article 10 of the ‘Special Act on Support for Science and Engineering for Reinforcement of National Science and Technology Competitiveness’ in general higher education policy projects. Furthermore, in the national R&D projects, it is necessary to reorganize the science and technology R&D system carried out by the graduate school labs, research institutes, and research centers of universities. The university’s R&D system should be reorganized to support research expenses by building it around professional researchers such as postdoctoral researchers and supporting personnel, and scholarships should be provided for master's and doctoral students so that talent training performance should be treated equally with R&D performance. The census of science and engineering graduate schools was started on a pilot basis last year for the first time, and a follow-up survey of master's and doctoral personnel was also added this year, laying the foundation for policy. It is needed to seriously consider the national policy strategy and investment method at the point of recognizing the function, role, and status of a university with 60% of Korea’s doctoral-level research manpower as a foundation for securing and growing excellent research manpower in mid- to long-term national strategic technology.

Mi Ock Mun


Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI)

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