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[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]International programs aren’t truly diverse

July 26,2006
Academia celebrates diversity. Globalization inspires global conversation.
Thus, it is natural for universities, which encourage the exchange of dynamic ideas between diverse groups, to seek globalization. Korean universities are becoming a venue for international dialogue.
International summer schools are on the rise on Korean campuses ― among them Korea University, Yonsei University, Ewha Womans University and Kyung Hee University.
Each school has a different program, but at their core they are similar ― courses taught by professors from prestigious universities around the world are available to both Korean and foreign students.
As a student of Korea University, I welcome such endeavors, especially those at my school. After the International Summer Campus (ISC), opened at Korea University, foreign professors and students could be seen everywhere on our campus.
According to Korea University’s Institute of International Education, 961 students are taking ISC courses this year.
Nevertheless, I want to advise the school not to be deceived by the numbers and seek ways for the ISC to become more globalized.
This summer, 761 students from abroad participated in the program at Korea University [another 200 were local students].
However, the majority of ISC students were of Korean origin ― meaning they are either foreign citizens who are ethnically Korean or Korean citizens who came back from abroad.
That is not quite diversity.
The opportunity should be opened wider for students of diverse nationalities ― if the stated goal of the international program is to be achieved.
My view is limited to my own campus. I do not know the situation with the international summer schools of other universities. Nonetheless, I have a strong feeling they may be just as homogenous.
International summer schools should be the stepping-stone for Korean universities to advertise themselves to the world.
They should be able to attract students who are considering studying at universities in Singapore or Hong Kong, where the use of English in teaching is a big attraction.
But it is myopic to try to attract students with deceptive advertising using the “hook” of an international summer school.
Korean universities should acquire a long-term perspective, building up pools of prospective students who will actually participate in international summer schools.
This year’s international summer schools, even with their shortcomings, are doing pretty well, I heard.
Through these programs, international students of Korean origin are given the opportunity to experience university education in their home country.
Local Korean students are able to learn from prominent professors from abroad. Incrementally, universities may overcome their shortcomings in later years. Improvement of the programs will lead Korean universities to become truly global schools.

* The writer is the editor of The Granite Tower, the English monthly magazine of Korea University.


BY Lee Go-woon