South Korea to attract 300,000 foreign students, simplify permanent residency, others

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The South Korean government has unveiled changes aimed at attracting 300,000 foreign students by 2027, simplifying permanent residency, and others.

Nairametrics learns that this initiative has been tagged ‘Study Korea 300K Project’ which aligns with Korea’s economic need for high-skilled workers and acknowledges the intensifying global competition for top international students.

To meet this objective, the government is concentrating on expanding the allocation of government scholarships, specifically the Global Korea Scholarships.

This involves prioritizing students applying for STEM fields, with a plan to double scholarships for these students from 1,335 the previous year.

Also, to boost their competitiveness, Korean universities are being encouraged to broaden English-medium instruction.

Academics speaking with University World News noted that Korea is facing stiff competition from Japan and Taiwan.

These countries are also racing to attract international students to STEM programs, using incentives like expanded English programming and streamlining the pathway to permanent residency.

Becoming a top study-abroad destination 

Despite experiencing a 17.6% year-over-year growth, reaching a total enrollment of 207,125 in June 2023, the goal of 300,000 represents a 30% increase over five years.

This mirrors Korea’s ambition to rank among the world’s top 10 study-abroad destinations by 2027.

As Korean universities generally embrace the increase in international students, there is an upcoming plan to introduce more scholarships, provide easier residency permits, reduce language requirements, reduce minimum bank balance, and allocate more work hours for those applying to Korean universities.

Here are some of these new measures being contemplated in detail:

More scholarships

Scholarships will also be targeted to individual countries with increased quotas for students interested in defence and nuclear technology.

The focus on STEM is also intended to correct an overreliance on students coming from China, Vietnam, and Uzbekistan.

According to reports those three countries account for two-thirds of the current quotas for international students, and most students coming from them are enrolled in humanities programmes.

In addition to the scholarships reserved for STEM students, 6,000 will go to students electing to study in non-science programs.

Work opportunities and permanent residency

To increase the desirability of Korean higher education and encourage international graduates to remain in Korea for employment post-graduation, the government intends to expedite permanent residency applications for those with Korean graduate and postgraduate degrees.

Currently a six-year process, this duration will now be reduced to three years.

Reduced language barriers

The government is contemplating adjustments to its International Education Quality Assurance System, potentially easing the proficiency levels required on the Test of Proficiency in Korean (Topik) to include entrants with only Level 3 proficiency.

According to a director of international student affairs at a university in the Gyeongsang region, there is a preference for maintaining a certain language standard, as applicants often lack proficiency in both Korean and English.

A Chinese student studying in Seoul noted that “TOPIK level 3 is just kindergarten-level Korean”.

Reduced minimum bank balance, more work hours

Along with scholarships, reduced language requirements, and an easier pathway to permanent residency, the minimum bank balance students must have to receive a visa will be lowered and students will be allowed to work more hours while studying in Korea.

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