Higher Education in Korea
Higher education includes undergraduate, graduate (master’s degrees) and PhDs. Higher education institutions include universities, graduate schools, and a wide variety of specialized universities and othe institutions including junior colleges. Universities can be national (run by the Korean government), public (run by local entities) or private.
Why Study in Korea?
Graduate education in Korea is well-respected throughout the world, particularly in technical areas such as engineering and information technology. Many master’s programs are taught in English. Korean schools have notable research programs, distinguished faculty and state-of-the-art research facilities. Six Korean universities were rated in the top 400 world universities, according to the 2012-2013 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
Korea charges all students, whether Korean nationals or international students, the same tuition. In addition to offering master’s degrees that are more affordable than those in English-speaking countries, the Korean government, Korean universities, and several private foundations provide many scholarship programs specifically designated for international students. Many Korean universities also provide assistance with employment for international students.
Universities in Korea
Korea has about 250 national, public and private universities that welcome both Korean and international students. Recent government reforms have made it much easier for international students to afford living and working in Korea while attending programs at institutes of higher education.
Universities include 179 traditional universities, 40 graduate schools, 20 cyber universities, 11 industrial universities and 10 universities of education. The 40 graduate schools include some schools that focus on academic research and other schools that have a specialized focus and are more practically-oriented.
Tuition and Program Duration
Annual tuition varies by program and university, but generally averages about $4,000 (US) to $8,000 (US); the tuition at national and public schools is about half that at private schools. However, private schools vastly outnumber national and public schools.
Master’s courses generally require two or more years to complete. Most master’s degrees require coursework, an exam, and a thesis.
The academic year in Korea begins with spring semester in late February to early March. Each semester is 16 weeks long. Spring semester runs through June and is followed by a break. Fall semester begins in early August and runs through the end of January.
Graduates of master’s programs in Korea will find that their diplomas are recognized world-wide for their high quality and Korean students will be highly sought after by Korean businesses. Korea also recently passed legislation called “Gold Card” that allows international students who have graduated from a Korean university in certain programs to remain in Korea for employment. These majors include information technology, e-business, new materials, transportation equipment, digital electronics, environmental studies and energy studies.
However, most international students who want to remain in Korea and seek full-time employment must have specific skills to work in the country. These specific skills include college and foreign language teaching, research, technology assistance, certain professional skills, and arts and entertainment.
All international students require a D-2 Visa, which is issued to students in regular or research programs at colleges, universities, graduate schools, or research institutes. Once a student has been admitted to a qualified Korean school, they can apply for a visa from the Korean Embassy or Consulate in their home country. The application requires the student’s passport, a letter from the student’s school confirming admission, a certificate from the student’s most recent school of graduation or enrollment, and verification that the student has the equivalent of $10,000 (US) or more in an account. Chinese students must also submit a family registry.
International students are required to have health insurance purchased in person from the National Health Insurance Corporation. The insurance costs about $40 (US) per month and is effective from the date on the student’s alien registration certificate.
Some scholarships require Korean language proficiency to be eligible, where other scholarships provide Korean language training (about one year) as part of the scholarship. Scholarships are also available for English-taught programs.
The Korean written language uses the Han-guel alphabet, which is phonetic in nature and very easy to learn. The Korean language also incorporates most foreign words directly into the language, so it is not uncommon to see a Chinese character or an English word embedded in the middle of a paragraph of Han-guel symbols.