The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced Tuesday that it will cut student quotas at universities nationwide by 160,000 over the next nine years as part of a drastic restructuring program.
The decision came several weeks after the government pledged to lower student quotas at universities across the country in line with the falling number of students by evaluating universities within a five-tier ranking order and forcibly cutting quotas at those rated in the second level and below.
The process is divided into three phases and will be completed by 2022.
The ministry will evaluate universities nationwide as: "very excellent," "excellent," "average," "insufficient" and "grossly insufficient," from 2014 to 2016. Based on the results of that evaluation, in the first phase of evaluation between 2014 and 2016, around 40,000 students will be cut from 2015 to 2017.
In the second phase between 2018 and 2020, another 50,000 will go. In the final phase from 2021 to 2023, the ministry will reduce student numbers by an additional 70,000 based on an evaluation conducted from 2020 to 2022.
The ministry will then allow the top-rated universities to reduce their student quotas voluntarily, while forcing the rest to reduce their quotas.
"Establishing a five-tier ranking system is part of the ministry's efforts to improve the quality of education at the universities," said Seo Nam-soo, the education minister, during a briefing.
The number reduced during the first phase will be 25,300 at universities with four-year courses and 14,700 students from vocational colleges.
Assessment will be conducted on two fronts: general and specific issues.
General issues include long- and short-term development programs, management and operation of the schools, employee conditions, selection of students and school facilities. Specific issues include educational approach, research outcomes, voluntary work, lifelong education, industrial cooperation and internationalization.
The MOE will decide the details of the appraisal index, taking into account the types and regions of each school.