Modes of Higher Ed Capacity Building for South Korea’s South Coast Sun Belt

What to do when development strategies for a city-region change, but there is limited higher education capacity in said region? This issue emerged this summer when, following a work-related visit to Beijing in late July, I spent four fascinating days in Yeosu, a city of approximately 300,000 located near the southeast tip of South Korea.

The purpose of the visit was to participate in a Pacific Rim Council on Urban Development (PRCUD) Roundtable Forum regarding the future of Yeosu’s development strategy in a post-Expo 2012 era. PRCUD roundtables are structured somewhat similarly to the OECD’s missions regarding higher education and city-region development. By this I mean:

  • Local host agencies (government, the private sector, community-based organizations) request an international ‘outside’ assessment of particular development challenges;
  • Background documents are prepared for the visiting team;
  • A visit to the city is held that involves meetings, Q&A sessions, debates, etc.;
  • Preliminary findings are outlined in a wrap-up meeting;
  • A final report is issued to the local host agencies.

While not gratis, this form of service is much more affordable than that provided by private consultants for the visiting team members provide their time for free because they value public service and find the exercise intellectually stimulating.

Like many mega-event host city-regions, Yeosu has benefited from the improvement of its infrastructure, including rail and road systems, on and near the Expo 2012 site. It is also important to note that Expo 2012 is designed to facilitate change beyond the boundaries of the city itself, as highlighted in a part of a speech by former President Moo-hyun Roh during a International Exhibitions Bureau/Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) evaluative site visit to Yeosu in April 2007:

Korea’s message in the proposed Expo 2012 is focused on the ocean and the coast. Yeosu will be the host city of Expo we are preparing and the event’s name will be Yeosu International Exposition, but we are hoping Korea’s south coast as a whole to be the proposed Expo’s main stage. We Koreans want to showcase this beautiful coastal belt to the world through Yeosu Expo… Let me add two more important meanings of our Expo bid. Korea is a country with large inter-city and inter-regional development gaps. Yeosu Expo will contribute to a more balanced territorial development in the country. In addition, the Expo will also able to act as a catalyst for inter-regional collaboration, cooperation and integration between southeast and southwest coastal regions. These two regions have a long history of political conflicts.

The above quote, as well as the following paragraph and map, were included in a briefing document we were provided with:

As such, the national government considered the Expo bid as a central project that could actualize an important regional policy and planning ideal known as ‘balanced national development.’ Since the early 1970s, the goal of balanced territorial development has been pursued in the country in order to spatially redistribute the benefits from industrialization concentrated in the Capital Region. Such exchanges might entail taking from Seoul-Incheon Corridor and surrounding Gyeonggi Province to provide less economically viable regions with varied development opportunities and incentives. In this regional policy context of South Korea, hosting an Expo in Yeosu was hoped to catalyze the development of economically distressed Jeonnam Province and the host city was expected to play a role as the central city in the country’s South Coast Sun Belt.

One of the interesting themes that emerged in the context of the meetings was inadequate higher education capacity in the Yeosu city-region. Yeosu – a city of 300,000 situated on the southern coast of South Korea – only has one small university. This university – known as Chonnam National University – was originally called Yosu University until it was merged with a larger regional university Chonnam University in March 2006. Given the merger, Chonnam National University now has a Yeosu campus (often known as the Doondeokdong Campus). This campus is not large, with 218 faculty serving 5,241 students. While I have not done a systematic comparison with other typical cities, it is worth noting that Chiang Mai University in Thailand serves some 25,000-30,000 students in a city of 160,000 (excluding the Chiang Mai regional population) while my own city (Madison WI) of 236,000 hosts two non-virtual universities serving 45,245 students.

A number of us on the PRCUD visiting team were surprised that the broad regional development agenda for the ‘South Coast Sun Belt,’ which is dependent upon a nurturing a vibrant Yeosu, had little to say about expanding opportunities to acquire a high quality higher education in the Yeosu city-region. The logic for doing so includes:

  • Redress population loss through the influx of more students, staff, faculty, and visitors. For example, Yeosu is a wonderful location for international students (e.g., via study abroad schemes) such that visiting students would acquire a rich sense of Korean society while also enjoying an attractive coastal context.
  • Facilitate structural change in the labour market through the provision of skilled labour, but also the development of the higher education component of the services sector.
  • Facilitate the building of greater linkages with key sectors of the existing city-region economy. For example, there are limited ties and capabilities within Chonnam National University to engage with the Yeosu National Production Complex, as well as the nearby POSCO steel mill (the site of the world’s largest single producer of steel, with some 17-18 million tons rolling out per year, enough for the production of 22 million cars).
  • Facilitate the development of new forms of knowledge (via research), knowledgeable people (via education), jobs, and firms regarding sectors and fields of such as marine science, tourism, renewable energy, gerontology, and so on.
  • Facilitate life-long learning opportunities for an ageing society.

What are the options for developing higher education and research capacity, perhaps located on the waterfront Expo 2012 site (pictured here, courtesy of Courtesy of Organizing Committee for EXPO 2012 Yeosu Korea)? There are many, assuming the Korean state was willing to sanction such a policy shift, and that the City of Yeosu (under the guidance of Mayor Kim Chung-Seog). To assist in some brainstorming, here are some modes of capacity building that are partially based on some case studies of new campuses in cities around the world:

  1. Expansion of Chonnam National University’s Yeosu campus. This could occur on the existing campus site or else via the development of an additional complex on the Expo 2012 site.
  2. Expansion of Chonnam National University’s Yeosu campus, though in partnership with a national or international higher education institution. This could occur on the existing campus site or else via the development of an additional complex on the Expo 2012 site.
  3. Establishment of new national (Korean) university branch campus in Yeosu. This could be done independently or in partnership with other national or international higher education or research institutions. Part of the logic is to generate some competition for Chonnam National University’s Yeosu campus. The Expo 2012 site is an ideal location for such a campus.
  4. Establishment of a new autonomous (Korean) university with the support of 1-2 existing national (Korean) universities, or else a number of international higher education or research institutions. Part of the logic is to generate some competition for Chonnam National University’s Yeosu campus. The Expo 2012 site is an ideal location for such a campus.
  5. Establishment of a new autonomous (Korean) university. Part of the logic is to generate some competition for Chonnam National University’s Yeosu campus. The Expo 2012 site is an ideal location for such a campus.
  6. Establishment of an international branch campus on the Expo 2012 site.

It is important to note that other modes of capacity building exist and that I have not outlined the strengths and weaknesses of each mode. A more thorough contribution would also identify key stages of the planning and implementation process, as well as case studies that have been both successes and disasters. Rather, this brief entry is merely designed to stimulate some further discussions and debates.

The expansion of higher education capacity in Yeosu clearly complements efforts to diversify the city-region economy, support the emergence of new or emerging sectors and related employment opportunities, and alter Yeosu’s reputation as the location of a massive national petrochemical complex. One of the key legacies of Expo 2012 is a large and very attractive waterfront space in the heart of the city, which is about to be vacated. The opportunity to expand higher education capacity one such an appropriate and attractive site is worth deliberating about, and quickly so that the site is not allocated to uses that may play a less relevant developmental role.

Kris Olds

Brazil’s new Latin American and global integration universities launched

As 2009 drew to a close, Brazil’s Senate granted official authorization for the establishment of a new, very different kind of university in Brazil – the Federal University for Latin America Integration, otherwise known as UNILA.

Unanimously passed on December 16th 2009, the Bill now enables UNILA to formally announce itself as a university, instead of a fledging project under the banner of the Institute for Advanced Studies, with oversight by the University of Parana, in the Brazilian state of Parana.

UNILA is one of three regional integration universities launched by Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2006 to advance Brazil’s interests within the region and globally. The other two university projects are UNILAB – the Afro-Brazilian University of Integration, and UNIAM – the University of Amazonian Integration.

These Brazilian initiatives were the latest addition to a rapidly changing higher education landscape around the globe, and one that is set to continue in 2010 (as implied in a recent NY Times report about the implications of the collapse of Dubai’s overheated economy for branch campuses such as Michigan State University and Rochester Institute of Technology).

Dubai’s spectacular meltdown in December was matched by a stunning $61m launch party for Saudi Arabia’s ‘House of Wisdom’ – the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST which Kimberly Coulter covered for GlobalHigherEd.

As Kris Olds wrote in his introduction to Coulter’s entry:

KAUST is a unique experiment in how to organize an institution to facilitate innovation in scientific knowledge production, a secure and efficient compound (hence Saudi Aramco’s involvement), a defacto sovereign wealth fund, a demonstration effect for new approaches to higher education in Saudi Arabia, and many other things (depending on standpoint).

So what do these initiatives have in common? Money aside (KAUST has an endowment of around US$11bn), but like KAUST, Brazil’s three new universities reflect a shared ambition: to use international higher education networks to advance cultural, political and economic projects.

However while KAUST is aimed at developing a world class national university in Saudi Arabia via the recruitment of global talent (academics and students), state of the art buildings and cutting edge development projects, UNILA, UNILAB and UNIAM are aimed at creating a ‘supranational’, ‘global’ and ‘regional’  university respectively, drawing upon staff and students from within the wider region, or from across south-south networks (UNILAB) – though each,  as I will show below, have distinctive visions and territorial reaches with UNILAB the most global.

In August of 2009, I had the privilege of attending the official launch of UNILA.  Close to the fabulous Iguacu Falls,  in Foz, Parana, UNILA is being developed on a 43 hectare site granted by Itaipu Binacional, the bi-national energy company running the huge hydro-electric dam providing energy to Paraguay and the southern cone of Brazil.

The objectives of UNILA are to pursue inter-regional trans-disciplinary research and teaching in areas of joint interest of the MERCOSUL member countries (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay) focusing, for example, upon use of natural resources, trans-border biodiversity, social sciences and linguistic research, international relations as well as relevant disciplines for strategic development.

Unlike KAUST, however, whose model is US-oriented (in becoming the MIT of the East, the ‘Stanford by the Seashore’), UNILA’s mission and approach to knowledge is shaped by a distinctive Latin American commitment. Each course has a Patron and a Founder.

The first Patrons have been chosen for being Latin American names who have left relevant academic-scientific contributions associated to a field of knowledge , while course founders have been appointed for the high academic prestige in their respective fields of knowledge as well as renowned international competence in their specialities.

10 Professorial Chairs have been appointed to UNILA. Each Chair has a mandate to develop courses in ways that are inspired by, and advance, the intellectual legacy of the Patron. For instance, in the area of science, technology and innovation,  founding Chair, Hebe Vessuri, will draw inspiration from the patron Amilcar Herrerra (1920-1995) – an Argentinean geologist who valued inter-disciplinary knowledge and who have argued that the solution to problems lay not with science as progress, but in the interface with policy and politics.

These patrons are clearly not the organic intellectuals of the ruling classes. Many of these patrons, such as the Chilean writer Francisco Bilbao (1823-65), and Paraguay’s Augusto Roa Bastos (1917-2005), have spent years in exile.

The target student population for UNILA is 10,000 students enrolled in undergraduate and post-graduate programmes leading to MA and PhD degrees. Entrants will be required to sit a university entry examination that will be offered in two versions: one with a Portuguese language requirement for Brazilian citizens and a Spanish Language for the foreign candidates of eligible member countries. Lectures will be offered in both Portuguese and Spanish, as it is expected that half of the teaching staff will be from the regional member countries.

By way of contrast with UNILA, UNILAB is the most global in ambition. This unilateral Portuguese-speaking Afro-Brazilian University of Integration will have  campuses in various  Portuguese speaking countries (Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sâo Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor). Expected to open for enrolment in the beginning of   2010, UNILAB is hailed as a political-pedagogic innovation project (see here for information on UNILAB developments).

The principal aim of UNILAB is to encourage and strengthen co-operation, partnerships, and cultural, educational and scientific exchanges between Brazil an member states of   the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries (CPLP) listed above. UNILAB will also focus on collaboration with the African countries of the CPLP,  aiming to contribute to these nations’ socio-economic development, including reducing ‘brain drain’ problems currently experienced by African countries.

UNILAB is intended to become an integrated multi-campus institution with campuses in all the   African member countries of the CPLP. Each of these campuses will also be integrated within the regions where they are located. Its main campus will be established in the city of Redenção in Brazil’s North-Eastern state of Ceará, approximately 60 kilometres from the city of Fortaleza. Redenção has been selected to host the main campus because it was the first municipality that had abolished slavery in Brazil, and because the region currently does not yet host a university. The main campus is also expected to function as an instrument for the strategic social-economic development of the North-East of Brazil.

In a report carried by the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education on these initiatives, Brazil’s Minister of Education, Fernando Haddad, commented:

We will not offer traditional programmes, but instead we will construct a common identity between the countries, that makes it possible to contribute to the social-economic development of each of the countries involved.

The third, more regional, initiative, Universidade Federal da Integração Amazônica, or UNIAM, will be established as a public multi-campus university, with a main campus in the Brazilian city of Santarém, and three satellite campuses in the cities Itaituba, Monte Alegre and Oriximiná, all located in Brazil’s state of Pará.

The main aim of UNIAM will be to encourage social-economic integration of the Amazon region, which includes not only parts of Brazil, but also areas of eight surrounding countries.

UNIAM’s  main campus will be established in the Brazilian city of Santarém, and three satellite campuses in the cities Itaituba, Monte Alegre and Oriximiná, all located in Brazil’s state of Pará. The aim of the new institution will be to encourage social-economic integration of the Amazon region, which includes not only parts of Brazil, but also areas of eight surrounding countries.

While it is unclear at the moment when the new university will open for enrolment, by 2013 UNIAM is expected to offer 41 programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral levels.  The Brazilian government will reportedly cover the US$107 million budget that will be needed to pay for the establishment and personnel costs of the new university until 2012.

Described by the Brazilian Ministry of Education as particular ‘political-pedagogic innovation projects’, these three new universities are intended to enhance national, regional and global integration, and demonstrate to the world that it may be possible to unite different countries through education.

These are fascinating initiatives likely to liven up the global higher education landscape in 2010. They reflect not only emerging regionalisms, but potential shifts in the sites and stakes of global and regional knowledge production and power.

Susan Robertson

Constructing knowledge/spaces in the Middle East: KAUST and beyond

Further to our recent entries on Qatar Education City, NYU Abu Dhabi, and ‘Liberal education venturing abroad: American universities in the Middle East‘, Wednesday’s Financial Times and today’s New York Times both have informative pieces about Saudi Arabia’s attempt to rapidly construct a new “MIT” in the desert. The Institute of the Future’s informative blog, which we happily just discovered, also has an illuminating profile of this development. And also see Beerkens’ Blog for another illuminating analysis.

kaust.jpg

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a US$12.5 billion university, is being built from scratch, with a formal groundbreaking ceremony on 21 October 2007. The development of new universities, and foreign campuses or programs in Saudia Arabia, is clearly an indicator of a desire for significant economic and cultural shifts amongst select elites. This said the development process is an incredibly complicated one, and riddled with a series of tensions, mutually supporting objectives, and some challenging contradictions. It is also a very geographic one, with supporters of such developments seeking to create new and qualitatively different spaces of knowledge consumption, production and circulation. The Financial Times had this to say:

Kaust plans to bring western standards of education to a Saudi institution amid an environment of academic freedom. The university, loosely based on Aramco’s gated community where the kingdom’s social mores are watered down, is set to push the boundaries of gender segregation in an education system where men and women very rarely meet.

The university plans to guarantee academic freedom, bypassing any religious pressure from conservative elements, by forming a board of trustees that will use recently approved bylaws to protect the independence of the university.

“It’s a given that academic freedom will be protected,” says Nadhmi al-Nasr, an Aramco executive who is Kaust’s interim president.

His assertion has yet to be tested but the mix of academic freedom and social liberalism could spark criticism despite the king’s patronage.

Dar al-Hikma, a private women’s college in Jeddah, has faced trouble from those who reject social liberalism. “Many have opposed us but this is different – the king is behind Kaust,” says the Dr Suhair al-Qurashi, the college’s dean.

At a broader scale KAUST is also being designed to generate an interdependent relationship with King Abdullah Economic City, a US$27 billion mixed use development project that is situated near the university. And at an even broader scale KAUST is designed to help transform the structure of the Saudi economy. Nadhmi A. Al-Nasr (KAUST’s interim president) put it this way:

“It is the vision of King Abdullah to have this university as a turning point in higher education,” he said. “Hopefully, it will act as a catalyst in transforming Saudi Arabia into a knowledge economy, by directly integrating research produced at the university into our economy.”

As is the case with other new universities being developed in the 1990s and 2000s (e.g., Singapore Management University‘s development was strongly shaped by Wharton faculty, especially Janice R. Bellace), the Saudis are acquiring intellectual guidance and advice from a variety of non-local academics and administrators, including a veritable Who’s Who of senior university officials from around the world. Link here for further media and blog coverage of KAUST.

The myriad of changes in the Middle Eastern higher ed landscape are ideal research topics, and they are more than deserving of attention given their scale, and potential for impact, success and/or failure. But who is conducting such research? We might be wrong but not a lot of substantial analysis seems to have been written up and published to date. If you are reading this and you are doing such work let us know – we’d be happy to profile your writings here in GlobalHigherEd, and/or engage in some international comparative dialogue.

Kris Olds