September 03, 2016 08:10
The number of foreigners studying in Korea has surpassed 100,000 for the first time. The Education Ministry on Tuesday said there are 104,262 foreign students at universities and colleges here, up 14.2 percent from last year.
The overall number of university students has been falling for two years as the young population dwindles, but foreign students keep increasing.
Some have hailed this development as a sign of Korea's growing global role. But critics say universities and colleges are often in it for the overseas tuition fees, which are much higher than for Koreans, and keep the bar deliberately low. Less than half of the foreign students are thought to be fluent enough in Korean to keep up with lectures.
Information website Higher Education in Korea looked into the language skills of foreign students and found that only 56 out of 236 universities that admitted foreign students have at least 50 percent who meet the minimum language requirements for either Korean or English.
At Seoul National University, supposedly the best in the country, only 39 percent of foreign students meet the requirements. Some 55 universities have no foreign students at all who meet them.
Nor do foreign students represent a truly international mix. Most are from China with 61.7 percent, followed by Vietnamese (5.5 percent), Mongolians (3.6 percent), Americans (2.5 percent) and Japanese (2.5 percent), often with an ethnic Korean background.
Some 62 percent of foreign students study for bachelor's degrees while 27 percent take Master's courses and 11 percent doctoral courses.
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