Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
28th Feb 2024

South Korea announces results of annual evaluation of universities and colleges’ international programmes

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • The Korean government conducts an annual review of institutions receiving (or planning to receive) international students
  • Institutions that pass the review may be ferried under Korea’s International Education Quality Assurance System – those institutions are eligible for streamlined visa processing and improved work opportunities for students
  • Institutions that do not meet the review standards or that are found to be engaging in inappropriate practices may be banned from recruiting new students for a one-year period
  • The quality assurance process is part of a larger national strategy to significantly expand South Korea’s foreign enrolment to 300,000 students by 2027

On 8 February 2024, the Korean government announced the results of its annual evaluation of colleges and universities' capacity and performance with respect to international students.

A joint release from the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Justice explains that the review process, "[Aims] to address the issue of illegal immigration among international students and further enhance the internationalisation capabilities of Korean higher education institutions." The outcome of the annual process, in part, is that, "Certified universities will enjoy benefits such as relaxed visa screening criteria and an additional five hours of part-time work permit per week. Conversely, uncertified universities will undergo probes and may face enhanced visa screening if they fail to meet certain standards."

Based on the 2023 round of evaluations, the number of certified institutions increased to 134 for degree programmes and 90 for language studies. This compares to the year prior when 120 degree programmes and 75 language programmes were certified.

Eighteen of those universities have been designated as Certified Institutions of Excellence, and will receive additional benefits under the programme. They include: Konkuk University, Kyungpook National University, Keimyung University, Duksung Women's University, Dongguk University, Pusan ​​National University, University of Seoul, Seoul Theological University, Seokyeong University, Sungshin Women's University, Ewha Womans University, Chung-Ang University, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Hanyang University, Hongik University, Union Graduate School of Science and Technology, National Cancer Center International Cancer Graduate School, and Korea Development Institute International Policy Graduate University.

At the same time, another forty institutions will now also be prevented from recruiting international students. The government release explains that, "As a result of the 2023 evaluation, 20 degree programmes and 20 language training programmes will be restricted from issuing visas for one year from the second semester of 2024." The ministry's guidelines add that, "Universities that do not meet the status survey standards are designated as universities with enhanced visa review and are automatically released without separate release review after the sanction period (1 year) is maintained and are subject to the status survey for the following year."

The complete lists of certified universities and language programmes, Certified Institutions of Excellence, and the programmes that will be restricted from recruiting students in 2024, are published on the government's Study in Korea website.

The annual review process takes on a larger significant this year given South Korea's recently announced target of attracting 300,000 foreign students by 2027. The government has already taken steps to expand and re-target the national Global Korea Scholarships programme, smoothing pathways to post-graduate work and residency, and easing Korean language requirements.

From a pre-COVID base of roughly 160,000 international students, South Korea reports growth of just under 9% last year, with foreign student numbers increasing by 15,000, from 167,000 in 2022 to roughly 182,000 in 2023.

For additional background, please see:

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