Taejae University does not follow any of the old rules


Yeom Jae-ho, president of Taejae University, opened the door to the Taejae Foundation headquarters in Jongno District, central Seoul last month. [KIM SEONG-RYONG]

Taejae University, which will open next March with everything online Minerva program, is already inundated with inquiries.

Taejae University will be the first university in Korea to implement Minerva University’s educational model, a unique system in which all classes are conducted as online seminars. Stephen Kosslyn, a professor at Harvard University, who was in charge of the design of the Minerva School, also participated in the design of Taejae University.

Established by Cho Chang-geol, founder of Korea’s largest furniture maker, Hanssem, Taejae University will hold a briefing to recruit students this month. If the Ministry of Education issues final approval in October, the university can appoint a president, faculty and staff. We discussed Taejae University’s plans with Yeom Jae-ho, former president of Korea University, who is expected to be appointed as Taejae’s first president.

Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

Q. Many parents inquire about Taejae University.
A. Yes, parents come to us and ask us what they can do to enroll their children in our university. I tell them, “Don’t do anything. Parents can’t help.

How will you admit students? Will the college scholastic aptitude test (suneung) count?

We select 100 students in a diverse way, so if a student has an outstanding CSAT score, we might consider them. But we won’t select students based on grades alone. The lesson plans of future students will be the most important. Lesson plans, personal statements and academic records will serve as our basis for selecting students. Students will go through three rounds of interviews before being selected.

How will the three interviews take place?

The first interview will be an in-depth interview to test the student’s academic abilities. The second will be personality reviews by teachers. The final interview will be conducted by members of the foundation’s board of directors and will check whether the students have strong leadership skills.

What will you look for in lesson plans and personal statements?

We will look for potential and whether students look at the world through the eyes of a leader. Qualifications that were made just to enter universities will not be considered. Some time ago, I was involved as a judge in something involving high school students, and the students had written a book in English to get into universities in the United States. When I looked at it carefully, I discovered that the parents had written the book for their children. This sort of thing will not work when entering Taejae. Instead, students should think about why our university would regret it if we didn’t select them, and work on that. We will not be admitting many students, so it will be possible to determine which students are the best through interviews.

Will students be able to apply to Taejae while applying to other universities at the same time?

Our university will be a digital university and digital universities can start the selection process in December. We therefore plan to negotiate with the Ministry of Education to make simultaneous applications possible.

What would the curriculum be?

Taejae University will consist of four departments: Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Natural Sciences, Department of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, and Department of Business Innovation. From the first semester to the second year, the emphasis will be on intensive language teaching and undergraduate studies. After taking online classes at a metaverse campus resembling Changdeok Palace and space stations, students will go overseas beginning in the summer of their sophomore year and take project classes in major cities around the world. United States, China, Russia and Japan. In the second semester of their fourth year, students will return to Seoul to study.

What is a project class?

Project classes are places where students form groups and directly carry out projects related to associations or companies. For example, in Japan, it could mean proposing an alternative housing strategy to counter the effects of an aging society. The aim is to allow students to directly apply what they have learned to real life.

The role of faculty must be very important at Taejae University. Have you selected your teachers?

The deans of the four departments have been selected. We are not yet at the stage of announcing the names, but they are all very qualified teachers. Taejae teachers will not have to do any research and will only focus on educating students. We plan to hire 60 to 70 teachers in total, and all teachers will be subject to review every two or three years, instead of being permanent. If the teachers get a good evaluation, they will be treated and paid even better, which will guarantee the quality of teaching.

What would Taejae University graduates do career-wise?

We expect Taejae University graduates to go into about five different fields. Global companies, start-ups, graduate schools, international organizations and think tanks or NGOs. We will also assign career specialists to each student.

Will there be restrictions on who can apply?

There are no restrictions, anyone can apply to Taejae University. But it will be difficult to get accepted, and it will be even more difficult to graduate. We plan to select 100 Korean students, but if applicants do not meet our expectations, we may not meet this quota. Complaining about bad grades to teachers will also be impossible at Taejae University. I implore those who are brave to rise to the challenge.

BY LEE HOO-YEON [kjdnational@joongang.co.kr]


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