The effectiveness of the World Class University (WCU) project was questioned during the National Assembly’s annual inspection on October 6. The inspection was concerned with issues of unsatisfactory performance and an immoderate preferential treatment given to foreign scholars.
The WCU project, which runs from 2008 until 2012, is a mega-size government project aimed at fostering world-class universities in Korea with a budget of 825 billion won worth in government funding. Currently, 52 research teams from 18 universities were selected as beneficiaries of the project, and Ewha constitutes nine teams
Kim Se-yeon, a member of the Grand National Party of the National Assembly criticized the unsatisfactory performance of the project by showing examples where the plans were not fully carried out. According to Kim, Professor A from University H who contracted to conduct a course for a semester this year under the project, did not have any plans as of yet to do so. When Kim checked with the university, the professor had not given any lectures during the spring semester and had no plans to give one during the fall semester.
Lee Sang-min, a member of the Liberty Forward Party, has pointed out the immoderate preferential treatment given to foreign scholars, some of whom were found to have failed to fulfill their assignments. According to a survey conducted by Lee, 70 percent of the foreign scholars were found incompetent for this program and had conducted less research than the top 10 percent of local scholars.
“It is crucial that foreign scholars, who are recruited to help raise the quality and the excellence in research, have distinguishing achievements. Yet, 70.7 percent have been proven to be unfulfilling,” said Lee. “I believe it would be more efficient if we recruit more prominent Korean scholars to this project.”
Professor Cho Ji-hyung (History), the dean of the Ewha Industry Collaboration Foundation, who is currently conductin a research on world history and earth history under the WCU project, pointed out that it is reasonable for a new project like WCU to raise questions and doubts. However he emphasized that “WCU should not be simply understood as a project recruiting renowned foreign scholars. But rather see it as a great opportunity for Korean universities to emerge as a world-class university through conducting several researches in collaboration with international scholars.”
So far, Ewha has been working on nine research projects. Dr. George F. Smoot (Berkeley University), a 2006 Nobel laureate, taught two courses during the spring semester and three departments have been enlarged or newly established as part of the WCU project.