A Stony Brook University satellite campus, to be located in South Korea, appears to have been given the final go-ahead by the country’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, despite no apparent disclosure by university officials that any discussions were even ongoing.
In late 2009, reports surfaced of an ambitious plan to construct a campus for foreign universities in South Korea, and Stony Brook was slated as one of the original tenants.
The Songdo Global University Campus, to be located in Songdo, a new, high-tech business district in Incheon, near Seoul, would house academic programs from several prestigious international universities. In addition to Stony Brook, other initial participants were the University of Delaware, George Mason University, North Carolina State University, and the University of Southern California, and developers claimed to be in discussions with other universities from around the world as well.
But continuing budget cuts from Albany and unanswered questions raised by faculty members in the University Senate seemed to put the kibosh on those plans – until today, apparently, when- the South Korean Ministry of Education released a statement that it had granted final approval for Stony Brook to open a campus in Songdo, becoming the first US university to have a campus in Korea. No mention was made of any other universities participating.
The news was a startling and abrupt reemergence of the plan, which had been all but written off after its initial unveiling over a year and a half ago. Even the University Senate, the university’s governing body, was kept completely in the dark about the progression of any plan involving the South Korean campus.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Fred Walter, an astronomy professor and the president of the University Senate, of the plan’s revival.
The Senate had taken up the issue of the Songdo campus in late 2009, but after several meetings and unanswered questions, the issue was tabled and, by all accounts, abandoned by the spring of 2010.
“There were questions a year or so ago about who would staff the teaching positions,” said Walter. “They want us to send professors, but it is not clear that any have signed on, or have even been asked.”
The Korean newspaper JoonAng Daily quoted the Deputy Director of the Ministry’s Global Talent Cooperation Team, Yoon Young-ki, as saying, “SUNY Korea will start off with a graduate school but the president of the university is also considering adding undergraduate courses as well.”
The degree with which Stony Brook President Samuel Stanley was directly involved in these negotiations is unclear, and the university administration and the Provost’s office were not immediately available for comment. It’s also unclear exactly what, if anything, was actually agreed to. It’s hard to imagine any formal deals were made without first alerting the University Senate, to say nothing of the SUNY central administration, the Governor’s office, and—because of the international nature of the issue—possibly even the federal government.
But there appears to have been no open communication at all about the issue, a charge that, if true, raises serious questions about how any deal could have possibly been made.
And yet, the Ministry of Education did not mince words in its promise to deliver a Stony Brook University campus to Incheon.
“Locating a university from a developed country will contribute to the strengthening of the global competitiveness of Korea’s education service,” said a Ministry official in the JoonAng Daily article. And in the Wall Street Journal, Ministry officials unveiled an alarmingly short timeline before the campus is fully operational.
“The school aims to start its first semester next year in March—the month school starts in Korea,” writes Jaeyeon Woo in the Wall Street Journal.
The plan for the campus includes master’s and doctoral programs in computer science and technology and society, according to the release. As many as 400 students could be enrolled as early as March of 2012.