SOUTH KOREA: Foreign student ban on 11 institutions

In its latest measure to crack down on sub-standard higher education institutions, South Korea's Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has named 11 institutions that will be banned from admitting foreign students this year.

Another 19 institutions have been ordered to improve policies on and management of international students if they are to retain the right to apply for visas for students from overseas in future.

In total the ministry blacklisted 36 universities and two-year colleges for having inadequate standards in place regarding foreign students.

The ministry said some 83,840 overseas students attended Korean universities in 2010, four times more than in 2006. The number is expected to reach 100,000 this year.

Some 70% of international students are from China. Japan is a distant second, with just under 5% of international students in Korea. There are also large numbers of students from Mongolia and Vietnam.

The latest sanctions come in the wake of the ministry's four-month investigation into 347 institutions, including 200 universities.

The investigation was ordered by a higher education restructuring committee set up in June after a wave of student protests over tuition fees and the government's resolve to restructure the sector in advance of national elections this year.

The committee's remit was to certify institutions and among other things investigate how they manage international students, after widespread reports that foreign students were treated as 'cash cows' purely for the financial benefit of institutions, rather than being provided with a good education and college experience.

Some institutions have accepted an increasing number of international students without following proper admissions procedures, the investigation found. Some students were deemed 'unqualified', which in cases led to a high drop out rate among foreign students.

The government has said that some sub-standard institutions have also been allowing 'students' to bypass immigration rules. "There are students who first come to Korea with a student visa but stay here for work after it expires," said a ministry official on 29 December.

Some 17 out of a total of 35 first year students at one institution, Hanmin College, were allegedly illegal immigrants, according to the investigation.

Universities found to have participated in admissions scams or academic irregularities such as handing out 'undeserved' grades would also face a cut of up to 10% in their freshmen enrolment overall, the education ministry has said.

The government named Hansung University, Soonsil Unviersity, Sungshin Women's University in Seoul and eight institutions in the provinces, as those that will not be able to admit foreign students in 2012.

Of the 19 institutions given warnings, seven were told to improve their current practices and 12 were ordered to bring in government-approved consultants to make improvements.

The ministry also named 10 universities as having the best international programmes. They include the prestigious Seoul National University as well as Hanyang University, Yonsei University, Korea University and Sogang University.

Provincial universities have argued that government restructuring moves disadvantage them as they include so-called 'quality' mechanisms, including the hiring of qualified staff and graduates finding jobs, that are difficult to adhere to outside the big cities. The government included employment rates among its criteria for university performance.

A number of provincial universities have asked for government permission to relocate to cities in the wake of poor ratings under the government's ongoing investigation into university quality and management.

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