In 2015, the Ministry of Education announced the launch of a plan of “Projects for Cultivating Talents Customized to Social Demand.” The purpose of this plan is to encourage universities’ voluntary reformation in response to changes in the current society, and to promote humanities to contribute to the nation’s development. The PRIME and CORE Projects, which are both included under the Ministry of Education’s plan, are getting a lot of attention from college campuses.
These two projects have generated heated debate and controversy because they have tended to result in the restruction of departments while being implemented. Dongguk University applied to the CORE Projects last February, and the General Student Council opened a debate regarding this situation. As other universities also carry forward department restruction to meet the requirements of these projects, conflicts and concerns members within the school community have come to the fore.
|▲ The Ministry of Employment and Labor predicted the gap of the supply and demand in the labor market will be generated. The Ministry of Education announced that PRIME and CORE will solve the problem.|
/Information sources by The Ministry of Employment and Labor
What are PRIME and CORE?
PRIME and CORE is the sub-projects included in “Projects for Cultivating Talents Customized to Social Demand by the Ministry of Education.”
PRIME (Program for Industrial needs-matched Education) is focused to solve the mismatch between human resources produced by universities and needed by society. According to the report published by the Ministry of Employment and Labor called “Prospects of Manpower Conditions Classified by Majors from 2014 to 2024,” it is expected that in the domain of humanities and social sciences, the supply of graduates will exceed demand by about 318 thousand, and the field of engineering and medical science will need more manpower, with a predicted shortfall of about 219 thousand over the same period. Therefore, based on these predictions, universities ought to increase the number of students graduating in engineering and medical sciences. According to the result, PRIME encourages universities to increase the number of students who major in engineering and medical science. Hence, universities have to submit plans to expand the capacity of engineering and medical science majors by at least from 50 to 200 in order to apply PRIME project. The Ministry of Education will choose 19 universities to participate in the program, and offer a total of about 200 billion won in funding.
CORE (Initiative for College of Humanities’ Research and Education) project is focused on supporting each university’s plan to develop their programs in the humanities. The government has specified that this project’s purpose is to reinforce humanities as a fundamental field of study, and promote areas of the humanities which correspond with the social need. There are four development models that universities can refer: Global Regional Studies, Convergence based on Humanities, Advanced Fundamental Studies, and Basic Liberal Arts Education. Alternatively, each university can devise its own plan. About 20 to 25 universities will be chosen and offered funding ranging from 500 million to four billion won, with a total of 60 billion won designated as funding for this project. The results of the selection are going to be released in March.
A number of universities participate in PRIME and CORE
Many other universities are participating in the PRIME and CORE projects as well. Chung-Ang University has plans to participate in the PRIME project. The administration of CAU decides to transfer about 150 spots in the entrance quotas for the Seoul campus College of Liberal Arts, College of Social Sciences, College of Business and Economics, and College of Education to Colleges related to natural sciences and engineering. In the case of the College of Liberal Arts, from 20 to 30 spots in the entrance quota are planned to be reduced. Kim Seon-jeong (Sophomore, Philosophy) from CAU, commented, “Most students in the College of Liberal Arts are against the program since it is nonsense to change universities based on the demands of society. Although the school is saying they will listen to our opinion, we have already lost trust towards them.”
Besides CAU, Kyung Hee University, Ehwa Womans University, Inha University and many others are going through similar situation. To express their opposition to the PRIME and CORE projects, the GSC of eight different universities and 17 student organizations held a joint press conference, with the main message that PRIME and CORE projects are distorting the essence of university education.
Distortion of university education
The issues raised by the student governments are shared by many people who doubt the objectives of the PRIME and CORE projects. Distortion of university education is one commonly mentioned concern, and there are fears that the proposed changes will have side effects that could influence education in the humanities negatively.
University is a place for studying and researching to gain deeper understanding of the subject one is majoring in. Considering the purpose of the PRIME and CORE projects, which is cultivating human assets based on the social demand, specialists are worried that PRIME and CORE projects could alter the meaning of university, essentially turning universities into training centers for future employees, losing their academic focus, and no longer contributing to the development of different fields of study.
You Heun-woo, a professor in Philosophy and one of the members who wrote the application for the CORE project in Dongguk, said, “Universities need to change along society. However, changes in Korean universities are focused on employment excessively. Employment is not the problem of universities, but the problem of the government. Countries like France demand the government to get them a job, not universities.”
Faded true meaning of Humanities
Additionally, even though on the surface the purpose of the CORE project is to develop foundation studies in the humanities based on the autonomy of each university, more and more people are expressing concerns how it could adversely affect the humanities as fields of study. Among the four suggested development models of the CORE Project, two models such as Global Regional Studies and Convergence based on Humanities concentrate on fusing majors and different fields of studies, which is intended to change the way how the humanities are taught to meet the demands of society. It cannot be the way of developing humanities because it undermines the real humanities as pure fields of study. The proposed changes could have the effect of reducing the humanities to a minor role in education in the name of meeting society’s need for skilled graduates.
Professor You also mentioned, “Global Regional Studies are not even humanities, they are social science. Humanities could be a part of it, but it is just a small portion. Also for Convergence based on Humanities, I cannot understand how it could develop humanities. In order to meet the standards of Convergence based on Humanities, we need to combine a major in humanities and a major that is not in Humanities. I cannot distinguish this from restructuring of majors or interdisciplinary program. Additionally, combining majors could hinder studying humanities since humanities could be developed when it is specialized.
In the case of philosophy, we could gain deeper understandings of philosophy when we study Confucianism and Dekarte, not eastern philosophy or western philosophy generally.”
The Ministry of Education introduced PRIME and CORE projects to change higher education so that universities can voluntarily adapt to social changes and social demand. In this situation the school is unable to deny the proposal of the government since financial support is dependent on meeting government-set criteria. However, considering the true meaning of university, many people worry about side effects of these programs and express doubts about whether the program could accomplish the intended goal and not degenerate humanities into a training tool for future employees or lose academic focus. Also the sacrifice of students is unavoidable through this radical change. The program needs to take into account the various opinions of government, administration, faculty, and students, and implementing changes at a moderate pace is essential.
|▲ GSC is holding a debate forum at a classroom in Manhae Hall regarding the issue of PRIIME and CORE project.|
/Photograph by You Eun-sun
Dongguk Applied for CORE
On February 4th, 2016, Dongguk University submitted its plan for CORE project only.The final version of the proposal was submitted after undergoing a preparatory period of about two months. Dongguk’s application for CORE was mainly in conjunction with the College of Liberal Arts.
Kim Jin-hwan, the general manager in the Office of Planning, said, “Dongguk applied for CORE because there was a guideline from the President that prohibits the forceful restructuring of departments.” He explained that the CORE project is intended to prevent humanities from being in poor surroundings. He added, “There will be no abolishment or combination of departments and majors enforced by school administration. Interdisciplinary study courses are going to be offered without combining majors, and only if each college expresses its intention to merge majors autonomously, then the school will consider the measure.”
In light of this, the GSC held an open forum about the government’s education policy and department restructuring on February 2nd. The debate was about the entire education policy and the CORE project in particular. The GSC took the opposite stance to the restructuring and expressed concern about the CORE project in the forum. An Dre, the chairperson of the GSC, said, “Rearrangement of departments forced by the government, under the name of CORE in Korean society, is shifting its responsibility of the failure of education policy onto students and universities.” Lee Jae-min, the chairperson of the College of the Social Science, mentioned, “Education policies of the government are getting subtler rather than obvious, and there is no definite answer on applying for CORE project. Hence, students cannot stay naive under these circumstances.” The chairperson An, expressed, “We need to look into the intrinsic point of the policy, which hinders the essentials of university.”
Furthermore, questions are being asked regarding the purpose of the CORE project among students. Lee Jin-hee, the chairperson of the College of Liberal Arts Student Council, said, “The intention of CORE project to adjust universities to the needs of society means that the real meaning of universities is degenerated into the logic of capitalism. After all interdisciplinary study courses based on liberal arts are not the genuine way of existence of liberal arts.” She also mentioned the way to enforce the application. “The school wrote the application for CORE without keeping students informed of the project. I would contend that students have the right to reflect their opinions about what they learn.”
Professors of the College of Liberal Arts seem to have several concerns about the CORE project. Choi In-sook, the professor of the Department of Philosophy, said, “Professors of the College of Liberal Arts were aware that school administration really wanted the College of Liberal Arts to apply for the CORE project, and professors wrote applications for CORE passively but cooperatively, under the condition of not breaking up the majors.” Professor Choi also added, “If the application from Dongguk is accepted, and the project requires demolishing the boundaries among majors, professors should be more active in raising objections to the project.”
You Eun-sun, Khang Seok-jun firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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