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.
In 1986, it broadened its mission to offer graduate degree programs as well as graduate programs. Today, KAIST receives international recognition as a global research university, appearing annually since 2008 in the top 100 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 research, academia, business, and public service. Among the holders of KAIST doctoral degrees, 41% are in their 20s. Nearly 25% of the research and development personnel at Samsung Electronics are KAIST Ph.D. holders.
The university has six (6) colleges: Natural Sciences, Life Science & Bioengineering, Engineering, Information Science & Technology, Cultural Science, and Business; two (2) schools for Innovation and Mechanical Engineering & Aerospace System; and eleven (11) graduate schools for Nanoscience & Technology, Medical Science & Engineering, EEWS (energy, environment, water, and sustainability), Green Transportation, Innovation & Technology Management, Science and Technology Policy, Culture Technology, Management, Finance, Information & Media Management, and Information Security.
The headcount enrollment as of March 2013 was 10,249 students.
Since its inception, KAIST has maintained a larger population of graduate students than undergraduates, positioning itself as a research-oriented university. About 60% of admitted undergraduate students are graduates of science magnet high schools in Korea, while the rest comes 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. The majority of students live on campus where diverse and numerous amenity facilities, among other things, hospital, pharmacy, bakery shops, restaurants, and supermarkets, provide the highest level of conveniences to the students. The campuses are bilingual, and most of the 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. Through this system, students can plan their own study to build confidence in their academic capabilities.
One of the long-term goals of KAIST education is to improve the knowledge transfer process of one-way lecture from a professor to students and the efficacy of science and engineering education through the transformation of classroom-based, analog education into “digitalized, customized, and learner-based education.” The advancement in today’s information technology demands that KAIST develop a new paradigm for higher education. Its new education initiative, Education 3.0 Program, provides individualized, IT-based, integrated, and internationalized education to students with emphasis on dynamic interactions between and among faculty members and students.
In early years, KAIST concentrated on research in heavy industries and greatly contributed to the development of 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 EEWS (energy, environment, water, and sustainability). An exemplary research project in this endeavor is the “Online Electric Vehicle,” an electric car that is charged wirelessly right off the road through the power cables buried underground as the vehicle runs or stops.
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 High Return (HRHR) Program” enables the university to work on issues at two ends of the research spectrum—fundamental research and technology innovation in frontier science.
The KAIST Institute (KI) has five independent research centers at the level of a college to conduct convergence research in advanced fields: BioCentury, IT Convergence, Design of Complex Systems, NanoCentury, and Optical Science and Technology. A total of 109 research facilities including NanoFab Center, the Satellite Technology Research Center, the Humanoid Robot Research Center, and the Metabolic & Biomolecular Engineering National Research Laboratory are situated on the KAIST campus.
The university operates exchange and cooperation programs with 419 partner universities from 87 countries. A wide range of international conferences, workshops, and symposia 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. 83 presidents and vice presidents of 60 research universities from 27 nations attended the 2012 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 has the College of Business. The main and information and communications technology (ICT) campuses in Daejeon are located in the center of Daedeok Innopolis, the largest scientific and technological R&D cluster in Korea, comprising more than 1,399 government and private research institutes, startups, and venture companies.