MU considering to start degree programs in South Korea

Friday, November 13, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 9:59 a.m. CST, Friday, November 13, 2009

COLUMBIA – MU is in talks with South Korean government agencies to offer at least one degree program through a new university in their country .

The South Korean government is planning an English-intensive university in Songdo International City, which is part of South Korea's Incheon Free Economic Zone, and officials from South Korea have been in touch with MU to design at least one degree program, MU Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton said.


Part of a $1 million planning grant to create a degree program in South Korea was used to hire a consultant to develop human resources policies for State University of New York at Stony Brook employees working abroad. An earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated the scope of the policies.

Several English-speaking universities would offer degree programs at the Songdo Global University Campus, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported in June, and students would be granted degrees from the original institution. A student enrolled in a MU program in South Korea, for example, would receive a degree from MU.

MU is completing a proposal for a planning grant from South Korea. If approved, the university would receive about $1 million to design a program for the new South Korean campus, Middleton said.

Middleton and several deans are negotiating the details, but he said he is fairly certain the proposal will be successful when submitted. They have not yet decided which academic programs MU would offer, but departments at MU would have a say about whether to participate.

"No one is going to make anyone do anything," Middleton said.

MU would join the State University of New York at Stony Brook and North Carolina State University, which have already received planning grants.

MU has met twice with these universities and three others – George Mason University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Delaware – to discuss their potential involvement in the Songdo Global University Campus, said Brent Lindquist, deputy provost at Stony Brook.

A third meeting is scheduled for early December.

Stony Brook was the first university to complete its grant proposal and received $1 million in planning funds in December 2008.

Expenses thus far include:

  • Hiring a consulting company to determine Stony Brook human resources' policies for employees working abroad
  • Legal fees for local representation in Korea
  • The hiring of a full-time liaison for talks with officials in South Korea

It plans to offer four undergraduate engineering programs, along with graduate business and technology management programs. Additionally, Lindquist said it would need to offer the same English language support programs it now offers many foreign students on the Stony Brook campus.

Lindquist said these programs would ultimately accommodate 1,500 to 2,000 students, which would require between 80 and 100 faculty members.

Middleton said MU faculty in the affiliated departments could be asked to teach in Songdo for a semester or two.

Stony Brook's experience at its branch campus in Southampton, N.Y., has convinced Lindquist of the importance of a committed, full-time faculty.

"To make a branch campus successful, you have to have a cadre of faculty who are loyal to the branch campus," he said.

He hopes that some of Stony Brook's current faculty will be attracted by research possibilities in South Korea and consider moving to Songdo.

Individual departments will be responsible for "quality control" to ensure that academic offerings in Songdo are the equal of American equivalents, Lindquist said.

Middleton said assuring the quality of MU's potential offerings is essential.

"We won't do this if there is any compromise in the product," he said.

Middleton said MU will also try to negotiate opportunities for interested MU students to study abroad in South Korea.

But the most important factor determining MU and Stony Brook's ultimate involvement in the Songdo Global University Campus is economic.

Lindquist said the South Korean government will need to increase its proposed financial commitment to the project for Stony Brook to go forward with its degree programs.

"We cannot put a dollar of New York state money into this," Lindquist said.

MU, Stony Brook and other potential institutions reserve the right to decline participation in the project, even if their grant and degree proposals are approved by South Korea.

"If the bottom line is not positive for us, we won't do it," Middleton said.

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