Amidst the confusion of several key imminent issues (see page 1 and 3 of this volume for more), President Shin announced the ongoing four-month work of the Vision 2031 Committee (VC) for the first time on November 9 at the Creative Learning Building (E11).
The committee, consisting of 127 members, directly operates under the president, and is separated into four sections. A professor spearheads each sector: Professor Dong Soo Kwon for Education Innovation, Professor Soon Hyung Hong for Research Innovation, Professor Sun Chang Kim for Globalization Innovation, and Professor Jong Tae Bae for Business-Technology Innovation. The public hearing began with a brief introduction by President Shin of his vision of the project as a major transformative step for KAIST as a global leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The speech was soon followed by presentations given by each sub-committee head.
Professor Kwon shared the view of the Education Innovation committee in fostering “creative leaders that contribute to the societal value of science and technology”. The committee detailed the necessity of selecting students with creative potential, and amplifying such talent via refined education curricula, policies, and methods. To be more specific, the committee proposed several significant changes to the curriculum: strengthening of freshmen courses, flexible grading/credit policies, establishment of the Education 4.0 infrastructure, a bilingual campus, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), and the ever-controversial issue of transdisciplinary pursuits.
For the research sector, Professor Hong stated the need to revamp the infrastructure of research labs, with stronger collaborations between different fields and promotions of more creative and challenging research topics. He also stated that the committee hoped to improve the relationships within labs themselves, such as the currently unbalanced power structure between professors and student researchers.
Thirdly, the desperate need to globalize KAIST and how to address such a requirement was explained by Professor Kim. He explained, “Despite its prestigious status, KAIST often falls behind in rankings due to low scores in its internationally-friendly environment factor.” In order to tackle such a task that so far has had little success, the school hoped to first create a International Relations Team (IRT) that collaborates with foreign universities and sends KAIST students abroad to experience international research. Meanwhile, it will aid in transforming KAIST into a “global campus” that promotes both languages and in which all community members — students, professors, and staff — participate in the globalization of the school.
However, several criticisms immediately followed the presentations. One major concern raised was the lack of student participation and input in the process of creating “Vision 2031” plans — out of the 127 members, only three had been undergraduate or graduate scholars. Another point was raised that despite the fact that the plans provided a long-term look into the future, they offered very few specifics regarding the governance and the budget of the project. For example, aspects of the plan that directly go against the Ministry of Education mandates, which KAIST must follow, gave the report little feasibility.
Self-dubbed to be the “Second Terman Report”, the full report detailing the layout of each part is to be released in the upcoming months; plans for the proclamation ceremony in March and a book to be published sometime early next year will also shed more light on the currently nebulous plan for KAIST entering the subsequent decades and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.