Some international students commented that this might be due to the language barrier they experience while living in Korea.
“The biggest difficulty for me in Korea is language,” Linh Dang (Korea University, 1) said. “I do not speak Korean well so I cannot actively talk to Koreans. Sometimes I do not even know what I should talk about with my Korean friends, which makes it hard for me to make new friends.”
The cultural aspects accompanied with the language barriers are also a problem for foreign students.
“Although I am used to it now, in the beginning, the use of honorifics was extremely confusing and difficult,” Shristi Tiwari (Health Education & Management, 4) said. “Due to the language and culture barrier, there were some misunderstandings. I think the period of studying Korean provided to international students should be longer and the number of classes taught in English should increase.”
The Ministry of Education (MOE) approaches the matter a little differently, pointing at the recent change in government policy as the reason for the decrease in the number of international students in Korea.
“There are various causes for the sudden decline in the number of international students, but we believe the recent introduction of the International Education Quality Assurance System (IEQAS) is one of the main causes,” said an official from the MOE who wished to remain anonymous.
IEQAS was first introduced on a trial basis in 2011 and then fully implemented in 2012. The system certifies universities’ capacity to manage international students using standards such as the number and percentage of international students, the percentage of dormitory housing provided to international freshmen students and the language ability of international students.
The purpose of IEQAS is to assure the quality of international education in Korean universities. As of 2012, 30 universities, including Ewha, are certified by the IEQAS.
As some universities were not certified by this new system, it may have affected the number of international students studying in Korea.
“I guess the quality control through the use of IEQAS affected the numbers to decrease this year,” the official said. “However, this decrease is only a temporary change. Therefore, we should look at the situation from a long-term perspective.”
The MOE envisions that the IEQAS will contribute to the improved quality in both universities and international students, resulting as beneficial to the international students’ experience in the long run.
In addition to IEQAS, the MOE is promoting the “Study Korea 2020 Project.” According to the 2020 project, the number of international scholarship students in 2013 will increase from 2,222 to 2,560. It further plans to increase the number to 3,100 in 2014 and 3,650 in 2015.
Moreover, the exchange between universities in Korea, China and Japan and the exchange between universities in Korea and Europe will be expanded through programs such as Campus Asia and EU-ICI-ECP (European Union Industrialised Countries Instrument-Education Cooperation Programme).
“Through these exchanges, Korean universities will be able to recruit more foreign faculty members and increase the number of English classes,” the official said. “The installation of foreign research organizations and international collaborative research projects are expected to increase as well.”
The MOE is continuing its efforts to improve the quality management of international students in Korea.
“We are working on enhancing the management of quality in international students through the IEQAS and the 2020 project,” the official said.