, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 501–521 | Cite as

The Rationalization of Korean Universities

  • Bo Kyoung Kim
  • Hokyu Hwang
  • Hee Jin Cho
  • Yong Suk JangEmail author


The expansion of the higher education system and the rationalization of universities in South Korea, while broadly following the global patterns, reflect the characteristics of the national political system. We show the rapid growth of universities and document core organizational changes among universities: the elaboration of faculty performance evaluation rules, the expansion and differentiation of central administrations, and the emergence of engagement in vision statements. These changes, constructing universities as organizational actors, parallel the changes in higher education systems elsewhere. However, the uniqueness of the Korean experience lies with the role of the state as a catalyst guiding the overall direction and the structure and strategy of universities. We discuss the implications of our research for the rationalization of universities in a highly centralized system.


Universities Higher education governance Globalization Liberalization State policy Institutional theory 



This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2018S1A5A2A03030694). We would like to thank Gili Drori, Georg Krücken, John Meyer, Chiqui Ramirez, and the participants at the Internationalization, Globalization and the Governance of Academia Workshop held at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in May 2016 for their comments. We are also grateful for the helpful guidance of Professor Peter Weingart throughout the review process and the insightful and probing questions from the two anonymous reviewers.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SeoulSeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.UNSW SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Center for Social Entrepreneurship StudiesSeoulRepublic of Korea
  4. 4.Yonsei UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea

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