Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

They Can Make Governments Fall, but Not Fees

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

They Can Make Governments Fall, but Not Fees

Article excerpt

Student activism in South Korea has toppled governments and ousted a military dictatorship, but it has been unable to curb the rapid rise in tuition fees, a study says.

Despite the perceived power of students' unions, academics at Seoul National University have concluded that they have been ineffective at halting recent leaps in tuition fees.

In a paper in Studies in Higher Education, Jung Cheol Shin, Hoon-Ho Kim and Hong-Sam Choi, from Seoul's department of education, examined whether having a politically active students' union made any difference to a university's tuition fee levels between 2000 and 2008.

They calculated the levels of activism at 115 Korean universities from evidence of campus demonstrations, boycotts of tuition fee payments and takeovers of university buildings. They found that tuition fees rose just as sharply at institutions where there was widespread activism as at those where none had taken place, concluding that "political orientation has no effect on college fees".

The authors said that they were surprised by the apparent powerlessness of the bodies because students have played a pivotal role in changing Korean society, featuring heavily in almost all moves towards greater democracy and civil freedoms. …

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