While the international student body shows signs of growth, the international faculty has barely changed. The faculty in KAIST remains incredibly homogenous, with foreign professors barely making up 10% of the faculty despite claims by several presidents that they will strive to increase that number substantially. It’s not hard to see why: KAIST is directly funded by the South Korean government, meaning that the country’s people, needs, and future are of utmost importance.
The needs of the nation are definitely something that cannot be ignored and should remain the institution’s top priority, but it shouldn’t be its only priority. KAIST should try to build stronger relations with other countries and be more active in trying to cement Korea’s place on the global stage. It has the tools and people needed to bring in one of the best resources: brilliant minds. As a reputable university quickly gaining ranks, KAIST will be one of the best assets Korea has to bring in the smartest and most innovative people into the country and show the world the potential the country and the university has to offer. As more international professors become interested and invested in Korea’s future, they may be more willing to share what they have back at home, and begin a consistent exchange of ideas and technology. New technology could help with the needs of the nation and a willingness to trade could give Korea more and more allies.
But these professors will not bring just praise and technology. As foreigners, they will be completely new to the Korean mindset and society, and they will have their observations and comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the country’s systems, including the university system established in KAIST. New technology alone can’t solve problems if the problems aren’t identified to begin with, and having an outsider free of the bias of being born in Korean society can offer refreshing perspectives, insight, and suggestions to change Korea and its people for the better. Once the professors provide their opinions, future generations can base research on solutions and innovations, continually driving the machine of progress that KAIST is building for itself.
Finally, it’s not just the university’s existing faculty that will get a breath of fresh air. The student body under the wing of international professors will be able to study a variety of different fields, research, and methods to help them choose and enhance their future careers. One of the greatest things you can provide for a student is a wide range of learning resources to draw from, and keeping a homogenous faculty can only provide so much. Giving students options allows them to liberate some of their stress and perhaps awaken passions they would otherwise have never known about. Also, it ensures that the future of the university continues to thrive with new brilliant minds taking over for an eventually worn out generation of academics.
That is not to say that all these benefits will come right away nor that hiring foreign professors is easy. KAIST still has to compete with other universities in getting good professors and even if it succeeds, the new faculty will have other issues to deal with, such as the language barrier and cultural differences. However, it would be foolish to completely disregard the potential benefits of having a diverse faculty, and I can see KAIST — with its push for innovation and stronger international presence — becoming more and more willing to acommodate qualified professors from all around the world.