KAIST president Robert Laughlin speaks during a news conference
at the Government Complex in Kwachon, south of Seoul, Tuesday.
/ Korea Times 2005-02-01
THE KOREA TIMES
By Kim Tae-gyu
Robert Laughlin, president of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), takes a step backward from his hardline push for KAIST reform in the face of strong opposition.
The 1998 Nobel laureate in physics, who took the helm of the nation’s top technology university last July, made the point Tuesday at a press conference at the Kwachon Government Complex in southern Seoul.
``Privatization of KAIST is not on the table. We are only discussing securing money for the advancement of KAIST as a world-class institution,’’ the 54-year-old president said.
Laughlin also denied the swirling suspicions that he plans to transform KAIST to a general-purpose, undergraduate-focused college from the current research-oriented graduate school.
``The issue we are discussing is moving the business model of KAIST toward the one used by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, not changing KAIST’s structure,’’ he said.
This is a retreat from his original plan to fundamentally overhaul the state-funded KAIST to a market-oriented institute by several aggressive measures.
In a new investment strategy for KAIST in December, roughly five months after his tenure began, Laughlin said KAIST is trapped in a funding squeeze from which there appears to be no exit.
He then suggested revamping its traditional emphasis on graduate education because this type of system has come to be out of tune with the market.
He even proposed expanding the enrollment of KAIST to 20,000 from the current total of 7,500 and charging tuition fees of 3 million won per semester from the current fee of under 850,000 won.
The surprise reform plan created a backlash from KAIST faculty, students and government officials, who regarded the scheme as a privatization attempt.
In the process, professor Park O-ok, dean of the school’s planning office, resigned from his position in early December and asked Laughlin to abandon the reform.
In response, Laughlin said the miscommunication resulted from the secret process of KAIST reform discussion. He expected policy announcement in early March to clear up misconceptions.
Regarding Park’s protests, he said: ``I had a personality problem with him but that has now been fixed.’’
Yesterday, Laughlin appointed Chang Soon-heung, professor in the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering, to fill Park’s position.
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