|On Feb. 28, Konkuk University's president Min Sang-gi had an opening speech at PRIME Konkuk 2020 Vision Seminar. The seminar focused on Konkuk's institutional changes that will prepare students for the fourth industrial revolution. Photo provided by Konkuk University.
Universities are making changes to prepare for the anticipated fourth industrial revolution. The fourth industrial revolution refers to the technological revolution based on Artificial Intelligence, robot technology, and life science taking place in our current society. It is a digital revolution that will affect every industry where automatic system will expand in production and management. Workers in factories will be replaced with industrial robots and only a smartphone will be required to operate these machines.
As the present world rolls into this next revolution, the demand for experts in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) has increased in many areas, such as architecture, engineering, and computers.
With the enlarged quota for STEM professionals, universities recognize the importance of the fourth revolution and the need to educate students in accordance with the upcoming new society. Accordingly, in the 2017 Asia Universities Summit, faculty of 65 universities from 23 countries, government officials, and economic consultants came together to discuss ways to build a stronger alliance between universities and the technology industry, and improve university education in preparation for the fourth industrial revolution.
In a survey conducted by Times Higher Education aimed at university presidents and officials who participated in the summit, 96 percent responded that the fourth industrial revolution would significantly change education. This result shows that the importance of the fourth industrial revolution is widely recognized by key players around the world from future professionals and elites at leading universities to world leaders.
Along with the prospect of the fourth industrial revolution, many Korean universities have established new programs or reformed their curriculum to train their students for the imminent arrival of the new world. One such university is Kwangwoon University. All Kwangwoon students must take a set of computer programming courses to get accustomed to modern technologies.
Also, the university launched a school-work linked medical program. Associated with Germany’s Leibniz Institute for Plasma Research and Technology (LNP), Kwangwoon opened its Applied Plasma Medicine Center (APMC) on Feb. 6. The main goal of APMC is to develop medical technology for incurable skin diseases by using one of the main technologies of the fourth industrial revolution: plasma, a hot ionized gas that is easily influenced by electric and magnetic fields unlike neutral gases.
Another university taking action is Konkuk University, which held a seminar, “Prime Konkuk 2020 Vision,” on Feb. 28. In this seminar, Konkuk introduced a vision that aims to foster students as crossover individuals with the ability to learn and use updated technologies regardless of one’s major. In order to achieve this, Konkuk is planning to eliminate or loosen the requirement of credit-basis courses and expand more general education courses to tear down the walls between majors. Konkuk further plans on attracting more international students to diversify in Biology, IT, and Engineering, the fields Konkuk specializes in.
Kim Na-hyeon, a junior in Sookmyung Women’s University, was surprised to discover how fast the fourth industrial revolution is coming through a dramatic social change, as she only learned about the third industrial revolution when she was in high school.
“Regarding the reorganization of university education, I think that adequate evaluation of the changing curriculum may be difficult due to the constant reform,” she said. “I have doubts about the effect of the reformation as it causes confusion among students.”