UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS are now more than scholars; they are Chief Executive
Officers (CEO) of their universities. Recently, these presidents have turned
their backs on the classic image of the scholar and evolved into
business-oriented CEOs. They have systemized the operating process of university
administration, set up specific development plans, and, what's more, devised
strategies to improve universites' financial status. As the wave of
globalization and marketization hit Korean universities, the need to restructure
arose and made university presidents roll up their sleeves and execute the
nationwide revolution of universities. "All university presidents should become
CEO presidents," says Euh Yoon-dae, the president of Korea Univ. in an interview
with the Korean Economic Daily. Now, the strength of a university is measured by
the strength of its president.
Memorial Hall, Korea Univ. (Sponsored by Samsung)(Photographed by Chai
The new type of presidents takes over
The previous career of current university presidents prove that
presidents are no longer limited by traditional roles. "Presidents before the
rise of CEO presidents were usually renowned scholars or admired educators with
refined personalities," says Prof., Hwang Kum-joong (Dept., of Education).
However, the new kind of presidents who specialize in administration and
fundraising have rapidly eclipsed the stage. Most majored in either business or
economics (refer to table), and made their careers in the corporate world.
Following this trend, Sogang Univ., which used to restrict the position of
president to priests, abolished its long-time tradition and nominated a
non-priest, Son Byung-doo, the former vice president of the Federation of Korean
Industries, as its new president in June, 2005.
appointed presidents are increasingly applying their tried-and-trust business
strategies to fundraising for schools. Euh Yoon-dae, the President of Korea
Univ., manufactured 20 thousand bottles of Korea University Wine to advertise
the school's 100th anniversary last year. He made a trip around the world to
strike deals with nearly 150 universities abroad. Such effort impressed
prospective donors and pulled in nearly $200 million over the last two years.
Son Byung-doo, the President of Sogang Univ., publicly declared his goal of
collecting $100 million in funds for the school. His daily schedule is full of
meetings with his personal connections including his former CEO associates, and
lunch is often Kimbab on the way to his next appointment. He even donated
congratulatory money from his son's wedding to the school's fund. "Obviously,
presidents have more power than the staff of school to influence prospective
donors. That's why presidents need to take action," says Kim Joo-hyun, a
financer at Yonsei Univ.
Fundraising is merely the icing on a cake
of assignments and tasks for the new generation of university presidents.
Mergers and reforms, familiar business practices are now the main tactics used
to develop schools. Pres. Lee Kyung-suk of Sookmyung Women's Univ. reformed the
school administration with a newly introduced team system. Managing human
resources is another business method used. Presidents refuse to sit still when
scouting for professors. Seo Jeong-don, the president of Sungkyungkwan Univ.,
succeeded in hiring Robert Glamkosky, the world-renowned honorary business
professor of Indiana Univ., as Dean of the Graduate School of Business by
persuading Glamkosky to become the "Hiddink of Korea's Business
Clearly, the borderline between college presidents and
business CEOs is blurring. Lee Kyung-suk, the president of Sukmyung Women's
Univ., was recently the first university president to be awarded the Korea
Why CEOs are needed for fundraising
CEO presidents originated after the wave of Globalization finally hit
the field of education. Now, Korean universities are destined to face the harsh
reality that they must compete with international universities. Survival, which
used to be guaranteed for most, will turn into a hardship unless universities
strive hard to restructure the old education systems. In the process, ample
funding is the key to accomplishing such reconstruction. "Fundraising is
indispensable to the development of schools. Presidents have no choice but to
focus on it," says Yu Jong-sun, director of The Associate of Financial managers
of Private Universities. Nick Rudenstein, the former President of Harvard Univ.,
launched the "Capital Campaign" and increased the school? budget from $6 billion
to $22.6 billion in ten years -a number larger than Korea's annual education
budget in 2004, which was $2.6 billion. The budget of Korea Univ., is only 0.5%
of that of Harvard Univ. "No reform is possible with insufficient funds," says
Euh Yoon-dae, who once famously said, "Fundraising is the reason for my being,"
in an interview with the Korea Economic Daily.
presidents with minds for business are more apt to create effective fundraising
strategies. "In order to cope with the fierce national and international
competition, universities are choosing CEO presidents based on the strategic
decision to aim for further development," says Song In-taek of the University
and College Management and Consulting (UCMC). The majors and previous careers of
current presidents prove that most universities are in desperate search for
CEO-type innovators and leaders.
Despite the dire financial
situation at hand, efforts to revolutionize Korean universities have paid off
for some schools. President Lee of Sookmyung Women's Univ. brought about "the
age of Renaissance" after she initiated intense fundraising and specialization
programs. Ever since, the college has escaped from its long-time deficit, and is
now renowned for its TESOL program and the field of Information Technology.
Another good example of a revolutionized university is Korea Univ., with its
recent move to spend funds to expand its Liberal Arts program and make taking a
double major mandatory for graduation. "CEO presidents are very quick in keeping
up with the rapidly changing trends in education," says Prof. Hwang on the
achievements of new presidents.
The future of CEO presidents
|▲ Sang Nam
Institute of Management, Yonsei Univ, (Sponsered by LG)(Photographed by
Despite these presidents' positive achievements, some critics are
afraid that they are too attached to the neo-liberal mindset. "CEO presidents
have damaged the identity of universities as 'sanctuaries of learning',"
reportedly said professors of Korea Univ. in an interview with the Hankyoreh 21.
Such critics do not want to see revenue overshadowing education. "Universities,
including their presidents, are now going through a transitional period," says
Prof., Hwang. University students also suggest another perspective on CEO
presidents and their fundraising behavior. "I admit that fundraising is very
important for schools. But the problem is that it is based on economic theories
and undemocratic procedures," says Lee Sung-ho, the Pres., of the Student
Association (SA). Another worry is that presidents fail to use the fundraised
money effectively for school development. "I wonder what real 'development'
means when the school still finds no solutions for chronic problems like large
class sizes, course registration and the lack of water fountains even after
earning a reasonable amount of money," continues Lee.
current criticism, CEO presidents should be more than just CEOs. "Presidents
should be democratic enough to reflect various opinions inside the school, and
create systematic institutions composed of students to make them heard,"
continues Lee on future tasks of university presidents. Also, experts point out
that university presidents need to merge the characteristics of both a scholar
and CEO. "College presidents should be future-oriented leaders, who create
specific goals grounded in both firm education and business philosophies," adds
Song, a representative consultant at UCMC.
are not the only ones who are destined for change; in fact, the whole school
needs to change its paradigm. "An increase in the number of Science Citation
Index (SCI) papers cannot simply lead to the overall development of education.
Instead of just competing to grab more donors, Korean universities need to have
a long-term perspective on their developmental plans. Growth cannot be achieved
through mere fundraising but through pursuing the overall advancement of
education," continues Hwang. Society, too, cannot escape from the wave of this
transformation. "The cycle of donation triggering investment and investment
again triggering another donation should emerge as a part of our society's
culture," adds Yu Jong-sun, the director of The Associate of Financial Managers
of Private Universities. Society as a whole should recognize the desperate need
for ample funds and lift some of the burden from university
A "CEO President" is only a temporary label for these
new university presidents. Presidents present and future should take themselves
to a higher level by absorbing the philosophy of true educators. However, no
matter how perfect university presidents become, they cannot change the world
without the help of society itself. Together, we must embark on the long
struggle for survival in this new globalized world.
Pres. of Yonsei
Pres. of Korea
Pres. of Sogang
Prof. of Economics at
Vice-President of National Economic
Vice-President of the Federation of
"Universities need more
than just a CEO"
- Special Interview with Pres.
Annals: What do you think of the "CEO"
presidents recently mentioned in newspapers? Do you agree with the idea of new
type of CEO presidents?
President: I personally pay little
attention to what journalists and other colleges have to say. Corporations and
universities have totally different value systems. Fundraising is a crucial
part, but there is an even more important role that presidents should play. They
should respect the human value, realizing the universal value of all human
beings especially for Yonsei Univ., guiding the future of the nation.
What do you think the ideal role of a president
Presidents of universities should strive to advance
schools' educational standards and produce great students who would not fall
behind anywhere in the world as a result. The tasks that CEOs are supposed to
carry out, which are fundraising and management, constitute only a little part
of the work that university presidents do. In my case, I am trying to aim higher
and focus on more important things like education and development of the
In the recent interview with the president of the SA
(Student Association), he said he hoped that you would play a role as a mediator
between administration and students.
I am very well aware of
the fact that consensus-building is very important in decision-making procedure.
But, I have to say that sometimes, democratic policy-making is impossible. In
the case of the Songdo campus project, I had to keep everything secret because
of the high confidentiality of information related to it. Openly sharing such
information would just benefit other competing universities. It is always
difficult to keep both the development of a school and democracy within the
campus satisfied at the same time.
Yonsei Univ., has just
announced its plan to build a new campus in Songdo. What is the purpose behind
drawing up these rather groundbreaking plans?
I think Korean
schools are falling far behind in satisfying the ideal characteristics of
universities. The purpose of constructing the new campus, which is a critical
long-term masterplan for Yonsei Univ., is to develop into a central hub of
education and research. This is an inevitable, transitional step to go through
to become a globally competitive university. Yonsei Univ.'s competitiors are not
domestic universities but international universities. And this is just the