Challenges and Opportunities faced by Korean Universities: With References from the Past, Present and Future of Ewha Womans University


Monday, November 2, 2015, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Tsai Auditorium (S010), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Leadership Forum

Kyunghee Choi, President, Ewha Womans University

President Kyunghee Choi became the 15th President of Ewha Womans University in August 2014. Ewha is the most comprehensive women’s university in the world with 25,000 students, 12 colleges and 15 graduate schools, including colleges of law, medicine, pharmacy, business administration, liberal arts, social sciences, art, and music, and the world’s first women’s college of engineering. President Choi joined Ewha Womans University starting her academic career as a professor in the Dept. of Science Education in 1994. Since then, she has served as Dean of the College of Education, Vice President of the Office of Research, Vice President of the Office of Students Affairs, and President of Ewha University-Industry Collaboration Foundation in Ewha Womans University. President Choi was also a member of the Presidential Committee on Education Innovation in 2005, and served as the Secretary for Education and Culture to the President of Korea. With the slogan, ‘Innovation Ewha: Leading Global Excellence,’ President Choi is focusing on the following four areas for innovation: first, university organizations, human resources, and infrastructure; second, Ewha’s alumnae network; third, Ewha’s global brand value; and fourth, social contribution and sharing. To foster talented women leaders in the new era, President Choi is establishing new colleges and programs that are future-oriented with an interdisciplinary approach including the College of Science and Industry Convergence which was established in 2015. Under her leadership, Ewha has received major government grants including K-MOOC, ACE (Advancement of College Education), University Business Incubator Support Project, etc. She has also substantially expanded global partnerships across the globe. Moreover, she has promoted international programs with scholarships and social contribution for students in developing countries in order to reciprocate the support Ewha once received from around the world. President Choi is directing innovation for infrastructure by constructing new student dormitories and a cutting-edge medical hub which is the second Ewha University medical center continuing the legacy of Korea’s first women’s hospital established in 1887. She is initiating innovation in student scholarship programs such as Future Planning Scholarship as well as various from-admission-to-graduation scholarships. In addition, she is promoting university-industry cooperation by collaborating with various world-renowned research institutes including Jackson Lab, a leading institute for genomic research in the US. Under President Choi’s leadership, Ewha has continued its global research excellence by being ranked as the top Korean university for the third consecutive year according to the Leiden Ranking, which evaluates the quality of research power of 750 universities worldwide. 

President Choi received her master’s degree in Physics and an Ed.D. in Science Education at Temple University in the U.S. after graduating from the Department of Science Education and the Graduate School of Education at Ewha Womans University with BS and M.Ed. degrees, respectively. 

Chaired by Carter J. Eckert, Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History, Harvard University

Universities around the world have faced profound changes since the advent of globalization with the end of the Cold War where capitalism and democracy has become the norm of nations, development of internet and IT technology has made access to information equitable around the world and English as the “Lingua Franca,” and ease of travel and communication has increased student mobility to the highest level in world history. Thus, universities around the world have found themselves in global competition: competition for best students who have great mobility vs. competition among universities which do not have high mobility. Advances in Open Courseware (OCW) to students around the world from leading universities, off-shore campuses, and exchange programs for students are some of the ways in which universities have dealt with these global challenges. Korean universities face these global challenges, but on top, they also face domestic challenges. Korea is one of the most rapidly aging societies with decreasing number of college-age students. On the other hand, Korea has a relatively large number of universities that were maintained during the years of baby boomers and Koreans’ high zeal for education. Thus, Korean universities are faced with decreasing number of college-age students in a highly competitive global environment. Korean universities have dealt with these global and domestic challenges by seeking “global excellence” and “specialization.” We will explore Ewha Womans University’s history since 1886 when it created a new demand for education for girls and women through innovation to shed light on how 21st century universities might take lessons for addressing and overcoming global challenges. Programs from leading Korean universities’ that focus on global excellence and specialization will be introduced. Ewha’s future vision for global excellence and contribution to humanity will be presented. In conclusion, deepening global cooperation is sought as the solution for global competition.