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Higher Education System in South Korea

The Ministry of Education is responsible for higher education in South Korea.  The Ministry of Education formulates the policies, oversees and administered the institutions, exercise control over the requirements of teaching staff and academic requirements as well. 

Institutional accreditation in the higher education sector is the responsibility of the Korea Council for University Education (KCUE), while programmatic accreditation is carried by specialist authorities recognized by the ministry. The Universities in South Korea should abide by the guidelines laid down by the Korea Council for University Education-KUCE.

After 12 years of Primary and Secondary education, students can go for Higher education. Higher Education in South Korea is offered by different types of institutions and are divided as per the body that established them such as-
  • National Universities: These are set up and run by the Korean Government
  • Public Universities: These are set up and run by the Local Government
  • Private Universities: Thee are set up and run by the incorporated Educational Institutions.
The different types of Institutions of higher education level according to the establishing body are-
  1. Colleges and Universities: these can be national, public as well as private
  2.  Industrial universities
  3.  Universities of education: These are national universities
  4. Junior colleges: These are national, public as well as private
  5.  Broadcast and Correspondence Universities: These are national Universities
  6. Technical colleges
  7. Other types of institutions: These are private institutions
The top 3 Universities in South Korea are referred to as “SKY”- Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University. 

Main Laws Governing Higher Education

Law: Education Act Year, 1949
Law: Education Reform Year, 1995
Law: Local Autonomy Act Year, 1991

Higher Education: Background

The growth of higher education in South Korea was influenced since ancient times. During the period of King So-Su-Rim in the kingdom of Goguryeo, Tae-Hak, the national university, focused on the study of Confucianism, martial arts and literature. In 551, Silla, one of 3 kingdoms, including Goguryeo established Guk-Hak and cheirospasm was taught. It also initiated vocational education and training that taught astronomy and medicine. 
Presently there are universities and colleges whose programmes last for 4 to 6 years. Also there are many open Universities, industrial Universities, vocational colleges, and universities of technology and education. 

Higher Education Institutions: Snapshot

Following are the Higher Education Institutions in South Korea-

Universities and Colleges: The Universities offers courses that last for 4-6 years. Medicine, dentistry and oriental medicine courses last for 6 years. The Universities and Colleges provide theoretical education that is needed for the development of the nation and mankind. 

Junior Colleges and Industrial Universities: Junior Colleges and Industrial Universities offer 2-3 years post-secondary courses of study. These colleges emphasize on practical education.

Graduate Schools: The graduate schools focus on academic research as well as practical-oriented studies.

Higher Education Qualifications: At a Glance

Following are the higher education qualifications in South Korea-

Undergraduate Studies

The Undergraduate program in South Korea comprises of the Associate degree and the bachelor degree programmes. The Undergraduate degree programs last for4-6 years.

Associate Degree: The Associate degree lasts for 2-3 years. The associate degrees are provided by the Junior Colleges and Industrial Universities in a range of vocational oriented fields.
Bachelor Degree: The bachelor degree generally lasts for 4 years and is offered by the Universities and Colleges. 

Master’s Degree: The Master degree program lasts for 2 years and are offered by the Universities and 4-year colleges.

Doctoral Degree: The doctoral degree programs are overseen by the Ministry of Education. The doctoral program last for 3 years or more and requires a completion of a thesis.

Other Programmes Offered

Regular Semester Programs

Korean and International Students attend courses/programs during the regular semesters. The programs begin in the spring and continue until fall semesters. Language of instruction is either Korean or a foreign language that is generally English. 

Short-Term Exchange Programs

Many universities in Korea have international exchange programs with sister universities worldwide. These programs permit pupils to study at Korean universities for a short time period with also summer or winter breaks in between. Students selected as exchange students are required to possess certain grades and knowledge of a foreign language.

Vacation Period Programs

In South Korea, there are a few schools that provide summer and winter programs/courses for international students. Classes are provided in Korean language and culture, along with the general education courses of study.

Korean Language Courses

In South Korea, there are many Universities and Colleges that offer Korean language courses to international students. These courses are offered at the language schools and aim to improve the oral communication in Korean language of the students. There are short-term courses of 3-4 weeks. Also, there are courses that run for about 10-40 weeks. 

Admission Requirements

To gain admittance into Higher Education Institutions in South Korea, students have to sit for an entrance exam- College Scholastic Ability Tests. Along with the entrance exam scores, student’s grades are also taken into consideration. The admission requirements for each institution vary, so contact the respective institutions to know more about the admission requirements.

Entrance Examination

College Scholastic Ability Tests- CSAT:  CSAT is a standardized test used by the Universities and Colleges in South Korea for admission process.

Korean Language Proficiency Tests

Test of Proficiency in Korea, or TOPIK: TOPIK assess the Korean language skills and is used for admission to Educational Institutions and for job seeking purposes in South Korea. 

English Language Proficiency Tests

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language evaluates the English language skills and knowledge of students in an academic context.

IELTS: International English Language Testing System evaluates the English language competency of the foreigners.

TEPS: Test of English Proficiency is an English language proficiency test created by Seoul National University's Language Education Institute to evaluate South Korean test takers' English language skills.

Academic Year

The academic year commences in March, but many universities accept new students twice a year, in the months of March and September. The academic year is split into 2 semesters, with a summer vacations from July to August, and winter vacations from December to February.

International Students

South Korea welcomes International Students from all over the world. As of April 1, 2010 Statistics on international students in Korea, there were 83,842 foreign students studying at 328 universities. By country of origin, international students were from 171 countries. By area of study, there were 17,064 Korean language students, 43,709 undergraduate students, graduate students 16,291 and 6,778 other students. 

Scholarships

There are many scholarship programs being offered to the Korean as well as International Students. Many of the Korean government Ministries provide different kinds of scholarship programs to students. Also, many universities provide scholarship programs to international students. 

Tuition Fees

The tuition fee varies depending upon the Institution and the course/program

Higher Education Credentials

Following are the higher education credentials in South Korea-
  • General High School Certificate of Education
  • Vocation High School Certificate of Education
  • Diploma/ Associate Certificate of Graduation/ Junior College Diploma
  • Bachelor's Degree
  • Bachelor of Medicine
  • Bachelor of Dentistry
  • Bachelor of Oriental Medicine
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine/ Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
  • Master's Degree
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Doctoral Degree
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