As the fourth industrial revolution continues, the boundaries between fields are collapsing. This shift can also be seen in psychology. Originally, psychology was considered to be a branch of liberal arts, whereas brain and cognitive sciences were classified under natural sciences. However, these are now about to be merged into one. Following the current trend of disciplinary convergence, Korea University (KU) is facing a new challenge ahead: turning the Department of Psychology into an independent college.
Psychology is a field that scientifically studies what it means to be human, which is one of the greatest mysteries of all time. When psychologists try to seek the answers, they do not do so out of intuition or general knowledge but utilize scientific tools and observations. The most discriminative feature of psychology is that it does not stand on its own; instead, it is interrelated with all other fields including liberal arts, arts, engineering, natural science and medical science. Therefore, in order to follow the trend and broaden the field of psychology, KU is determined to proceed with its changes.
According to an interview with Professor Kwon Jung-hye (Department of Psychology), the reason why this change was pushed forward was due to the thought that psychology should not be limited to the College of Liberal Arts. "Unlike the formal scope of this study, current psychology deals with various aspects of human behaviors as it reaches out to new fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) and other evolutionary technical developments," said Professor Kwon. Social and cultural psychology can be related to liberal arts, and biopsychology can also be associated to natural sciences. In fact, according to her explanation, the current College of Liberal Arts could not embrace this massive growth of the psychology field, so KU decided to separate it into a college of its own.
▲ Professor Kwon Jung-hye (Department of Psychology)
Although the official change from a department into a college will be settled by 2021, the change in the curriculum is noticeable even now. From this year, freshment must register for the Psychology Statistics and Practice course rather than the Psychology Statistics course. Moreover, KU is planning to develop a diverse range of education modules by dividing the original curricula into more detailed units and blending them into another new field of studies. Graduates of this college are given the opportunity to earn bachelor's degrees in liberal arts and natural sciences; this means that the major will no longer be limited to any particular field.
Professor Kwon mentioned that the college aims to act as a hub, researching the problems of human beings scientifically, synthetically, and systemically. Society will experience a paradigm shift by creating values and human relationships with a number of innovative enhancements in technology. Therefore, the college wants to encourage and directly help students to become more creative people who can cope with such changes, and the curriculum of the new independent college can play a positive role in an ever-changing society.
This is the first time such a drastic modification has been tested. Therefore, if KU successfully implements the change, many other universities could follow this innovative footprint. Therefore, this is an important process given that the eyes of others are fixed on KU’s project. Although they may face some unexpected difficulties after becoming an independent college, their new challenge will help strengthen the ability to deal with problems that the psychology field could face in the future.