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Scientists and engineers are the main players in the advancement of science and technology. In order to produce scientists nd engineers of top quality, it is critical to develop a system of advanced education that can nurture the creativity of the nation's youth. Therefore, the top policy task in Korea is to transform the current teaching-oriented universities into research-oriented universities. To stimulate such a transformation, the government is providing financial support to those universities with excellent research performance.
Many of the major universities in Korea have responded to the government policy by preparing and launching various reform programs that are anticipated to bring about drastic changes in university education in Korea. Those changes include changes in admission processes, undergraduate curricula, graduate programs, and so on.
The Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) serves as a good example of a model for the research-oriented university that Korea pursues. KAIST was established by the Korean Government in 1971 for producing world-top, quality engineers. Since its inception, KAIST has been receiving preferential funding from the government, and on that basis, it has been able to recruit the nation's best students. No less important, however, is its research performance record, which attracts abundant industrial research funds. Good students and good research programs have made KAIST what it is today. Thus far, KAIST has produced 26,707 graduates, of whom 5,380 received Ph.D degrees. KAIST also established "the Graduate School of Management, "which Its Roles and Activities brings up technology executive officers. Modeled after KAIST, the government founded the Kwangju Institute of Science and Technology (KJIST) in 1995, which currently has an enrollment of 800 students. KJIST has produced 1,130 graduates, of whom 121 received Ph.D degrees. Likewise, the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) was founded with similar aims by the Pohang Steel Corporation in 1986. POSTECH represents the first private sector initiative of its kind in Korea.
In short, in the early stage of industrialization when increasing demands for engineers outpaced the expansion of university capacities, the focus of S&T education was more on "quantity," but policy priority is now fast moving toward "quality" in response to the emergence of the information-based economy.