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[Press Release] Incentives for Advanced Technology Experts to Overcome the “Medical University Blackhole” [Editorial Forum]

February 6, 2024l Hit 32

The number of high school graduate students has decreased from 760 thousand in the year 2000 to 440 thousand in the year 2022, and this decreasing trend is predicted to continue in the future. Assuming the enrollment quota of top universities remain relatively constant, this will lower the average academic level of students enrolling to such schools.  

The government is expected to announce an increase in the medical university enrollment quota sooner or later. This seems to be an adequate policy for the medical health of our citizens, what kind of effect will this have on supplying enough high-quality personnel for cutting-edge fields such as semiconductor technology?

Let’s assume the government increases the medical university quota by 2000, which is similar to the SNU science & engineering quota of 1800. Considering that most Korean high school students prefer medical universities to other options, many students who would have enrolled to SNU may apply to medical universities when medical schools increase their capacity. This could lower the academic level of students enrolling to SNU science & engineering majors, and the effect will sequentially show in other universities, too. In China and India, who are competitors of Korea in the semiconductor industry, many academically excellent students are applying to engineering universities instead of medical schools, and we must remember that they are likely to be competitors of our future engineers.

Recently, the government, universities, and tech-companies have been working together to increase the supply of engineers in the semiconductor industry by creating new college platforms such as the School of Transdisciplinary Innovations, along with departments specialized in semiconductor technology, and schools that guarantee employment to tech-companies. Some tech-companies even go further, creating programs where foreign students receive a scholarship, get educated in Korean universities, and are employed afterwards. However, the quality of supply also has to be considered along with the amount of supply, since cutting-edge fields such as the semiconductor industry require expertise. Therefore, we need students with high academic capacity to continuously apply to such semiconductor-based college programs.

Also, semiconductor technology requires transdisciplinary understanding of a variety of fields, including mathematics, physics, and software. Therefore, educating and training personnel in the semiconductor industry is a time-consuming project, and the importance of engineers with master’s or doctoral degree is significant. In Taiwan’s TSMC, the rival competitor of Samsung Electronics, approximately half of the personnel have a master’s degree, while most of Samsung’s personnel are based on engineers with a bachelor’s degree.

In order to encourage the enrollment of top students in STEM fields, it is necessary to provide more stable benefits than currently offered, so that students do not feel relatively disadvantaged in terms of salary or stability. Recently, the government has decided to expand the Presidential Science Scholarship Program not only to undergraduate students but also to graduate students, aiming to boost the pride of scholarship recipients, which is a very commendable decision. I also recommend that companies introduce significant incentive systems for outstanding candidates, departing from the existing wage structure that pays similar salaries to all new hires.

Companies should instill confidence in their researchers by extending retirement age, allowing them to work for the company for a longer period. Additionally, in order to elevate at least one or two graduate schools in Korea to a world-class level, there should be a significant increase in research funding. It is also important to increase special scholarships for students in advanced fields, and to hire administrative staff so that professors and graduate students can focus solely on research without being burdened by administrative tasks. While expanding the capacity of medical schools is necessary, it is also crucial to have a national discussion about educating and training future experts in advanced fields.

Professor Hyungcheol Shin of SNU ECE Department

 

Source: https://ece.snu.ac.kr/ece/news?md=v&bbsidx=54282

Translated by: Jiyong Yoo, English Editor of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, cyoo7@snu.ac.kr