Generally, students register for the Exchange Student Program (ESP), dreaming of a paradise in which he or she can broaden their perspectives and cultural insights and simultaneously relax by visiting various beautiful sites. The overall procedure seems perfect. However, one thing students notice after they come back from the foreign country is that their course credits are often times not recognized in Korea University (KU). Once offered to relieve students’ stress and offer a diverse experience, this has turned into convoluted matters that further enlarge the amount of stress.
▲ The gateway of Korea University Office of International Affairs Photographed by Song You Jin
As many students are aware, KU’s current exchange student program looks flawless at first sight. Many celebrated universities, including the University of Pennsylvania and the University of London, have already signed a convention to send off each other’s intelligent and competent students abroad. The whole process, from the very beginning stage of registration to returning back to Korea, is the responsibility of the KU’s Office of International Affairs (KOIA).
“I am overall very satisfied with the status quo of our exchange student program, since many of my seniors told me that KU’s program is one of the best in the country,” said Kim Beon Jum (’13, Business). In similar fashion, many students are regarding ESP in a positive light because many of the seniors spoke about it in good ways, as they have never experienced any difficulty in converting their credits. However, now the situation is completely reversed. Unlike the past, where the demand for ESP was relatively low, KOIA is inundated with piles of application forms every month, inducing to managerial problems, including the credit recognition issue.
Apart from the Business School and the Department of Foreign Language and Literature that have their own evaluation committee and outbound division for ESP, students from more than 50 other departments are suffering from the issue of not being able to get approval of the courses they took abroad. “When I first returned back to Korea and visited KOIA to convert my credits, I was very confused and perplexed at the attitude of the assistant instructor. She said the courses I took were unable to get recognition since the contents of the lecture did not fit with the characteristics of mandatory courses in KU,” said Kim Kwan Mok (’10, Mechanical Engineering).
▲ A student’s report card. Provided by blog.strikeiron.com
In the case of most departments, credits received from foreign universities are accepted under the rather subjective discretion of the Dean of the Departments. Even though there is a common standard set by the school that is applicable to every department, this does not consider the specific situations and characteristics of each department. Therefore, many students are requiring the school to create bylaws regarding this matter for all departments to avoid confusion and inconvenience. “Due to the fact that Department of Radiologic Science is a newly established one, most of the foreign universities’ curriculums and operation methods are incompatible with those of our school. It is very difficult to judge whether the classes students took are eligible to gain credit,” said Dean Lee Sung Taek (Department of Radiologic Science).
In the case of the Department of French Language and Literature, since many students are applying for ESP, Dean Ji Young Lae decided to construct his department’s own regulation regarding transferring credits. Hence, there are not many complaints about the procedure of conversion. Albeit that KU recognizes the strong desire of the students, it cannot easily accept their proposals because there are some conflicting views among professors about this agenda.
Some professors maintain that it is most reasonable for them to have the full authority to decide upon which classes are allowed to gain credit because they are the one who comprehend the characteristics of the respective departments. The Head of KOIA, Choi Won-Suk, insisted that “making guidelines that specify the credit appraisal implies that the authorities of professors are infringed. Thus, in order to keep up the reputation of professors, the school should maintain the status quo.”
On the other hand, other professors accentuate the necessity of customary rules for each department. As Professor Cho Sung-Taek (Department of Philosophy) puts it, it is very perilous to only “rely upon the discretion of professors when it comes to credit approval.” Since professors have their subjective standards, it can restrict students from taking diverse lectures of their interests. According to Professor Cho, “The university must promise students freedom and respect their decisions of registration.”
Knowing this controversy about ESP, the Korea University Student Association (KUSA) is planning to have a discussion with the school to relieve students’ stress. “We are well aware about the complaints regarding credit acquisition. Since we want to guarantee the freedom and the rights of students, we will do whatever we can to resolve the issue,” said Lee Na Young (’11, International Studies), the vice president of KUSA.
Going abroad to study is one of the most privileged merits university students can have to broaden knowledge and experience. If this issue is not solved right away, students’ objection will get higher and higher. Although we cannot determine which solution—to give the authority to professors or to make a bylaws—is preferable and beneficial, one thing for sure is that school must show a sign of change to allow people to have credibility toward it.
▲ Student looking carefully at the booklet related to Exchange Student Program. Photographed by Song You Jin