23 April 2019
South Korean university students enjoy the backing of alumni and other support groups. Photo: HKEJ
South Korean university students enjoy the backing of alumni and other support groups. Photo: HKEJ

Why South Korean students are embracing local colleges again

In recent years, many South Koreans have gone abroad to study.

Now that the cost of an overseas degree has gone up, they’re losing interest in it. The domestic job market is not helping matters.

But an offshoot of this new thinking is that South Korean colleges are attractive again.

In English education, one of the main reasons South Koreans study abroad, local universities have been narrowing the gap with their overseas counterparts.

South Korean schools, for instance, are learning to balance their focus between language proficiency and academic performance.

In addition, local universities offer students an opportunity to build their social and career networks while undertaking further studies.

“Domestic graduates have improved in terms of capability, so companies are no longer chasing people with an overseas education,” Lee Young-mi, a senior executive director of head hunter firm Careercare, said.

South Korean students are the largest ethnic group in the United States after China and India.

But their number has been decreasing for four successive years, according to the Institute of International Education.

Official data shows that the number of South Koreans taking post-graduate courses overseas peaked at 262,000 in 2011, 6.7 percent of the population with higher education degrees.

The number fell to 214,000 in 2014, 5.8 percent of the total.

But the most significant decrease is in primary and middle school students. 

In 2014, about 10,907 schoolchildren were enrolled in primary and middle schools, down about two-thirds from 2006.

Kim Dong-jin, an associate professor in Kookmin University and a former chief recruiter for LG, said South Korean employers still prefer people with MBAs.

However, those who study in local schools have the backing of alumni and other support groups, he said.

Also, families are less keen to send their children abroad to study amid a sluggish domestic economy.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 9.

Translation by Myssie You

[Chinese version中文版]

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