“Universities need to fulfill not only educational needs of its students but also one is social demands like employment placement. If not, then we are like a factory that is producing products that no one is buying. In that sense, what would be the purpose of producing?” On March 31, President Lee Young-moo made these comments in reference to the future education system of Hanyang University(HYU) in his augural speech, and Hanyangains reacted against the comments. Although the words aimed to encourage students with the promise of future employment, some Hanyangians believed it was inappropriate that President Lee compared students to products and the school to a factory.
Current education policies of HYU such as those covering graduation require foreign language certification. There is also the system of penalties for departments whose majors have low recruiting or employment rates. HYU justifies these policies as the result of measures designed to assist Hanyangians amid the current youth unemployment crisis. However, some Hanyangians criticize that this approach saying such education policies make HYU not a place for education but a training center for employment.
Recent Education Policies of HYU Focusing on Employment
On April 13, 2015, President Lee announced a new HYU graduation requirement in an interview with Maeil Business Newspaper. In the article he commented, “The 2016 freshmen of HYU should complete a education cource about Chinese as well as English. Thus, to graduate HYU, Hanyangians will be required to obtain certain certifications, such as Test of English for International Communication(TOEIC), an English proficiency test, and the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, a Chinese proficiency test.” President Lee also emphasized the importance of foreign languages in an interview for the school press on February, 2015. “Industries need students who are proficient at both English and Chinese, which are Group of two(G2) official languages, but only a few students possess both language skills. Therefore, HYU will implement G2 language education from 2016.”
Also, according to the regulations of HYU, the entrance quota of the Seoul campus will be reduced by 71 students. Also, the majors which record low employment rates require the reduction of their entrance quota by five percent by next year. Moreover, it is forecasted that a decade later, the entrance quota of universities in Korea will result in an overall reduction to 16 million students. To prevent HYU from experiencing excessive negative impacts of the shrinking student population, the university has followed the government’s recommendation to restructure and reduce the number of students accepted.
Education Policy to Reinforce Competitiveness of HYU
HYU is actively supporting its graduate schools and programs to help students pass national examinations. As the unemployment rate continues to increase, the government has been attempting to combat this crisis with countermeasures. Among them, the government is offering support to universities that demonstrate progress in projects created to help students gain post-graduation employment. Also, as companies seek talented employees who are well suit for specific fields, the government is encouraging universities to fulfill this demand. In response, HYU has established education policies concentrating on the future employment, such as the aforementioned G2 language education requirement.
According to the Office of Academic Affairs, Chinese students comprise more than 40 percent of the foreigner student population at HYU. This represents significant capital, so it should be understandable that there is a need to develop related infrastructure to cater to the Chinese student body. These are yet other reasons why HYU has decided to promote Chinese language studies.
Jung June-koo, the section chief of the Office of Academic Affairs, said, “HYU has traditionally focused on the training of scholars rather than workers. However, employment is important, so HYU is also focusing on helping students to get a job as well as on their academic achievements. But at the moment, the school restructuring efforts appear to be concentrating only on employment.”
The University Is Not a Training Center for Employment
Because the university’s education policies have been changing without discussions with students, Hanyangians have expressed both confusion and concern. Hwang In-chan, a Senior of the Department of Physics, said “While G2 language e d u c a t i o n m i g h t b e helpful for employment, this policy ignores the individual preferences and personalities of students. Those who do not need Chinese will be burdened with extra required studies.”
Aside from the G2 language education, other aspects of the school’s restructuring have been criticized. Through Facebook Page of Solution, the 43rd General Student Association(GSA) posted information about the school’s restructuring under the title, “I am concerned HYU is only focusing on the employment of students.” According to a survey conducted by The Hanyang Journal involving 200 Hanyangians, 65 percent of the respondents disagreed with the new education policies that are concentrating on employment because the university is not solely responsible for students’ employment.
Furthermore, on February, 2015, HYU announced most classes would be switched from absolute evaluation to relative evaluation or the curved system, to enhance competitiveness at HYU. Subsequently, on March 25, 2015, GSA held a grand assembly at HYU. After that, the GSA negotiated with HYU to change partially the requirement of employing the relative evaluation to absolute evaluation. GSA said, “Relative evaluation is related to the school’s restructuring. However, the evaluation system should be decided by professors and students, and not be a response of the university to demands by outside companies. While it may be understandable that companies want to hire talented college graduates, universities should nurture the talented among all students in ways that are appropriate and fair.”
Departments Negatively Affected by Focusing Only on Further Employment
President Lee claimed that his administration is focusing on the “Management of Sharing,” which aims to advance the achievements of HYU on both the national and international levels. However, the education of HYU should harmonize social demands and the demands of students, which can be another way to promote national and international progress.
A representative of the GSA said, “In terms of studying in one’s major and finding ways to develop one’s life, employment is very important. If policies of the university concentrating only on employment force or pressure students, however, this unfairly leaves some departments that do not traditionally focus on employment, like those which are more academically based, with an uncertain future.” As President Lee said, in his inauguration speech, society’s demands on universities to help graduates find future employment are growing. However, consideration should be given to all departments in the name of equity and integrity, rather than harsh justifications of survival of the fittest.