Korean universities request 3,401 additional med school slots, overshooting gov’t plans

Posted on : 2024-03-06 17:33 KST Modified on : 2024-03-06 17:33 KST
All 40 universities in Korea that operate medical colleges requested an increase in placements for the 2025 academic year
People walk past the sign for a medical school in Seoul on March 6, 2024. (Yonhap)
People walk past the sign for a medical school in Seoul on March 6, 2024. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s 40 universities with medical schools have requested the Ministry of Education to allow them to admit 3,401 more medical students altogether. Since that’s considerably higher than the amount indicated in a survey in November 2023 (up to 2,847 new placements), the government responded that this “reconfirmed that the immediate capacity for increasing admissions is above 2,000.”

However, the leaders of the Medical Professors Association of Korea (MPAK), representing professors at medical schools around the country, have filed a lawsuit asking the government to cancel the 2,000 new placements at medical schools and other related measures.

“After reviewing applications for expanded admissions at medical schools for the 2025 academic school year, we found that 40 universities want to admit 3,401 new medical students,” said Park Min-soo, the second vice minister of health and welfare.

The eight schools located in Seoul proper applied for 365 more slots, while the five schools in the Gyeonggi/Incheon area applied for 565, bringing the total for the greater Seoul area to 930. 

The 27 universities with medical colleges that lie outside the greater capital area applied for a combined 2,471 additional slots to be opened.

No medical college in Korea did not apply for additional slots. 

Some interpret this as a competitive strategy by colleges to increase the size of their medical schools, where high achievers tend to flock. It appears likely that private schools outside the greater Seoul area that have seen poor incoming student recruitment rates were aggressive with their applications for more slots as a means to not only pull in more freshmen, but also increase the overall number of medical students at colleges in their respective regions. 

The government will form an apportionment panel made up of representatives from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Welfare and medical professionals this month to assess the situation at each college. Allocations are slated to be finalized sometime in March or April. 

Second Vice Minister of Health Park Min-soo delivers a briefing from the government complex in Sejong about the results of a survey of demand for increases in medical school enrollment slots at the nation’s 40 medical schools. (courtesy of the Ministry of Health and Welfare)
Second Vice Minister of Health Park Min-soo delivers a briefing from the government complex in Sejong about the results of a survey of demand for increases in medical school enrollment slots at the nation’s 40 medical schools. (courtesy of the Ministry of Health and Welfare)

“If schools don’t recruit more professors, as is laid out in their plans submitted to the government, the increase in slots could be withdrawn starting next year,” an official at the Health Ministry told the Hankyoreh. If things go according to schedule, each school will publish the revised plans for the 2025 academic year admissions on their respective official websites in May. 

Representatives of faculty associations at 33 medical schools filed a suit to annul the 2,000-student increase for the 2025 academic year, and its related follow-up measures, naming the health minister and education minister in their suit. They also applied for an injunction to stop the plan from going forward. 

Faculty at Kangwon National University College of Medicine shaved their heads to protest the university’s request for additional enrollment slots for medical students.

By Cheon Ho-sung, staff reporter; Kim Min-je, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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