Established in 1971 by the Korean government as a university granting only graduate degrees, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) was the first Korean research university specializing in science and technology. Over the past 42 years, KAIST has played a critical role in Korea’s rapid development and economic growth, conducting the majority of the nation’s strategic research and development (R&D) projects and training highly skilled researchers and engineers necessary to the expansion of Korean industry. It has broadened its mission to teach undergraduates as well as graduate students and has expanded its programs. Today, KAIST receives international recognition as a global research university, appearing annually since 2008 in the top 100 among world universities as ranked by Times Higher Education (68th in 2012) and Quacquarelli Symonds (63rd in 2012).
The total number of graduates as of March 2013 is 46,117 (B.S., 12,793; M.S., 23,941; and Ph.D., 9,383). KAIST graduates have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the fields of research, academia, business, and public service. Among the holders of KAIST doctoral degrees, 41% are in their 20’s. Nearly 25% of the research and development personnel at Samsung Electronics are KAIST Ph.D. holders. KAIST graduates also hold 20% of all engineering doctorates and 10% of all engineering professorships in Korea.
The university has six colleges (Natural Science, Life Science & Bioengineering, Engineering, Information Science & Technology, Cultural Science, and Business), two schools (Innovation and Mechanical Engineering & Aerospace System), and eleven graduate schools (Nanoscience & Technology, Medical Science & Engineering, EEWS , Green Transportation, Innovation & Technology Management, Science and Technology Policy, Culture Technology, Management, Finance, Information & Media Management, and Information Security).
Headcount enrollment totaled 10,249 students as of March 2013.
Since its inception, the university has always maintained a larger population of graduate students than undergraduates, positioning itself as a research-oriented university. About 60% of admitted undergraduate students are the graduates of science magnet high schools in Korea, and the rest come from Korean general high schools or from abroad.
Currently, 672 international students from 75 different countries are studying at KAIST.
The faculty has 1,140 members teaching and conducting research.
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The total budget for the fiscal year 2013 is USD 765 million; 22.4% of the budget (USD 171 million) is endowed by the Korean government. A large portion of the budget (approximately 60%) is secured through research grants.
All students receive generous scholarships from the Korean government and the university, covering most of their expenses including tuition and fees. A majority of students live on campus, where diverse facilities and amenities, including a hospital, a pharmacy, bakery shops, restaurants, and supermarkets, provide a high level of convenience. The campuses are bilingual, and most courses are offered in English.
KAIST has an autonomous and flexible academic system to support creative and student-led education. For example, the Open Major System allows undergraduate students to take classes that suit their aptitude and interest for three terms without declaring a major. This system allows students to plan their own study and helps them build confidence in their academic capabilities.
One of the long-term goals of KAIST education is to improve the knowledge transfer process from professor to student and the efficacy of science and engineering education through the transformation of classroom-based, analog education into digitalized, customized, and learner-based education. Today’s advancements in information technology demand that KAIST develop a new paradigm of higher education. The university’s I-Four education initiative provides individualized, IT-based, integrated, and internationalized education, with emphasis on dynamic interactions between and among faculty members and students.
In its early years, KAIST concentrated on research in heavy industries and greatly contributed to the development of the manufacturing and production base in Korea. In recent years, however, KAIST has shifted its research focus to the frontiers of science and technology that address important issues facing humanity, such as those associated with EEWS. An exemplary research project in this endeavor is the Online Electric Vehicle. KAIST has also encouraged research in basic science and technological innovation that has high risk but has the greatest impact on industrial society. The High Risk and High Return (HRHR) Initiative enables the university to work on issues at the two ends of the research spectrum-fundamental research and technology innovation in frontier science.
Along with IT Convergence Building constructed in February 2013, the KAIST Institute (KI) is one of the latest additions to the campus. KI has independent research centers at the level of university colleges, conducting convergence research in advanced fields: BioCentury, IT Convergence, Design of Complex Systems, NanoCentury, and Optical Science and Technology. Among principal research facilities within KAIST are NanoFab Center, Satellite Technology Research Center, Humanoid Robot Research Center, Metabolic & Biomolecular Engineering National Research Laboratory, and 59 centers for such research areas as brain science, nuclear engineering, information security, display, robotics, and wireless power transfer technology.
The university operates exchange and cooperation programs with 419 partner universities in 87 countries. A wide range of international conferences, workshops, and symposiums are hosted at KAIST: one of the notable gatherings is the International Presidential Forum on Global Research Universities (IPFGRU). The IPFGRU began in 2008, and each year, the forum attracts a significant number of leaders from research universities around the globe to discuss issues in higher education and explore solutions and development strategies that benefit the world’s university community in general. In 2012, 83 presidents and vice presidents of 60 research universities in 27 nations attended the international forum for presentations and panel discussions on the topic of Effective Education and Innovative Learning.
KAIST has three campuses, one in Seoul and two in Daejeon. The Seoul campus houses the College of Business. The main and information technology campuses in Daejeon are located in the center of the Daedeok Innopolis, the largest scientific and technological R&D cluster in Korea, comprising more than 1,399 government and private research institutes and startups.