Recently, the Korean government is pushing forward with a new policy—the reconstruction of university—as one way to cope with the reduction in the number of students. Specifically, the ultimate goal of the policy is to decrease a university entrance quota until 2023, with a target total of 1.6 hundred thousand students. In order to achieve the goal, the government regularly evaluates universities on several standards, such as the employment rate of graduates. The result of this assessment determines whether a school needs to cut down the total number of students admitted or not. In addition, according to the results of this assessment, the government offers a different financial assistance to schools.
Due to the government’s financial assistance, universities have no choice but to reduce the number of freshmen to get better scores for the evaluation. Thus, universities are obliged to focus on the employment rate of graduates, which is considered the most important index, to get high score from the government evaluation. Consequently, several schools are considering or already reduced their Colleges of Liberal Arts, which tend to have the highest unemployment rates among graduates, in order to increase the overall employment rate. In other words, there is an undeniable fact: a crisis of humanities. Dongguk University is in the same situation as well.
Nationally, Chung-Ang University is a representative example of harmful consequence from the crisis of humanities. This is because the school has reformed its policy to accept the government's agenda. Its admission policy is changing from a department/major-based system to college-based system. With this change, the university forces students to treat humanities as only liberal arts subjects. As a result, a huge number of professors in the humanities fields argue that this policy eliminates certain academic fields that are vulnerable to the market economy.
Internationally, the United States of America proves that humanities are also in danger with fever of a new education, the STEM education program. STEM is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It can be said that this education program ignores the importance of humanities. Furthermore, because of insufficient support for humanities fields, several universities determined to close departments related to humanities such as German Language and Literature and Philosophy.
Such trend can also easily be found in Dongguk. Dongguk University has also followed the same trend of de-emphasizing humanities. Blaming external index proposed by the government, the university set the College of Liberal Arts as the first target for restructuring because of its employment rate. Thus, both of the Department of German Language and Literature and Department of Ethics were eliminated, and now, the Department of Philosophy is in danger to be closed. Regarding this situation, Professor Yoo Heun-woo from the Department of Philosophy maintained, “I cannot understand why the school has reduced the scale of Liberal Arts College on the basis of rate of employment, and it is really a short‐sighted decision because social awareness about humanities is still changing positively.”
Moreover, humanities themselves are absolutely meaningful for Dongguk University’s identity. This is because traditionally Dongguk University has had a reputation for competitiveness with the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Buddhism. In short, Dongguk University can be assigned its own uniqueness by the humanities. Thus, Professor Yoo emphasized, “I have no doubt that the crisis of humanities can lead to a crisis of Dongguk University and only humanities can allow the school to keep its traditional and future values as an educational institution at the same time.”
As the employment rates of the graduates of humanities are decreasing, it is getting harder for the students and graduates of humanities to guarantee their futures. However, as humanities play a significant role in Dongguk University, it can have a huge impact on the society as well. Despite the fact that humanities have encountered its crisis, its power towards human and social development cannot be ignored. This is because as studies about human beings, humanities help find a fundamental question which humans ask about living. In addition, they affect almost every aspect of society such as a variety of companies. Representatively, a host of companies related to IT such as Apple and Samsung emphasize not only engineering but also humanities when they create new products that people always require. That is, the relation between real life and the humanities is inextricable. Hence, maintaining humanities is worthy to strive for.
Kim Ji-seun email@example.com
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