Under the previous relative evaluation system, the MEST had originally evaluated all the universities in Korea and come up with those in the top 10 percent, and those in the bottom 15 percent. The former was automatically identified as the candidate universities to receive a certificate and the latter was categorized as those that would see restrictions in visa issuing.
This year, however, the addition of an absolute evaluation system will make it easier for universities to obtain the certificate of excellence. Accordingly, all universities are legible to apply for a certificate unless they are designated as those receiving limited financial support from MEST, have a 20 percent or higher rate of foreign students’ dropout, or have too few foreign students for the certificate to hold any significance. Those that meet the MEST’s requirements will receive a certificate for having excellent maintenance of foreign students.
The requirement of English proficiency certificate will be evaluated under each school’s foreign students’ language ability. In 2011, MEST required only the foreign students’ Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) scores. However, many universities requested MEST to require foreign students to submit their English proficiency certificates when the foreign students apply for Korean universities as well, and the MEST complied with this request by adding a new criterion.
“The changes in the IEQAS are due to the increasing number of English lectures provided at Korean universities in the process of internationalization,” said Kim Min-sun, the MEST official in charge of the IEQAS.
With the two changes, the entire evaluation process takes the shape of a preliminary evaluation, final evaluation, and an actual visit to the universities from MEST officials for those that have made it to the final round of evaluations.
The preliminary round will use a relative evaluation system to do a qualitative research on universities under eight different categories: The number and ratio of foreign professors, foreign exchange students, and foreign students; the ratio of foreign students who drop out during the school year; the diversity of foreign students’ nationalities; universities’ financial stability; and the ratio of foreign students that are allotted to universities’ dormitories. The eight criteria are the same as those used last year, and universities in the top 70 percent will be identified as certificate candidates, and the bottom 30 percent will receive disadvantages in visa issues.
The final round, which uses the absolute evaluation system, will evaluate the percentage of various requirements that universities meet, such as their financial stability and the ratio of students that are medically insured. Foreign students’ English proficiency will be assessed in this round, with the students’ TOPIK levels.
Following the absolute evaluation system, universities only need to reach the standard pecentages provided by MEST to pass each requirement.
Currently, MEST requires four-year universities to satisfy five of the six given categories, and two-year-colleges may satisfy only four of them.
“The absolute evaluation system will be used to assess only the top 70 percent of universities that passed the preliminary round,” Kim said.
The last round of evaluations requires MEST officials to visit and investigate the universities based on the self-evaluation reports that universities have submitted to the MEST.