The Korea Herald


Med school deans urge for freeze of 2025 quota

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : April 21, 2024 - 16:14

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Amid the ongoing dispute over the medical school enrollment quota hike, a patient rests at a general hospital in Seoul. (Yonhap) Amid the ongoing dispute over the medical school enrollment quota hike, a patient rests at a general hospital in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The heads of medical schools nationwide on Sunday urged the government to freeze the medical school enrollment quota for next year and start a new set of negotiations for the class of 2026 by forging a joint consultative body with the medical community.

The Korean Association of Medical Colleges, consisting of 40 medical schools nationwide, released a proposal calling for the government to draw up a "more scientifically based number" for the enrollment quota hike plan.

The proposal comes after the government announced Friday that it would allow 32 medical colleges to slash the number of new student slots they received last month by up to half. Medical schools must readjust their admissions quotas by the end of April.

After an almost two-month standoff between doctors and the Yoon Suk Yeol administration over the increase plan, the government accepted a suggestion made by presidents of six state-run universities to change the number of new medical school students for 2025 only, in an apparent move to break the impasse with medical circles. The universities' presidents, not the medical schools' deans, can fix the number of students within the limit set by the government.

With colleges also permitted to reduce their quota by up to half, technically, the new slots can be halved to reach 1,000.

The medical school deans said it is "not reasonable" for the government to allow university presidents the freedom to readjust the number of students, claiming that such a decision is serious enough to potentially affect the management of medical manpower.

They also mentioned that the resignation of doctors and the suspension of medical students will cause the collapse of the medical workforce training system and an irreparable loss of education.

Meanwhile, the anxiety among students and parents who are preparing for university enrollment next year is also intensifying as the admission process for the 2025 academic year kicks off in less than five months.

Students and parents lambasted the government's recent announcement as "irresponsible and inconsiderate of those preparing to go to universities," as strategies and plans for university enrollment constantly have to change.

As students with the highest grades often apply for medical schools, the enrollment quota of such schools could be a significant variable in Korean university admissions, impacting minimum scores to pass for other prestigious universities and other medical-related institutions such as dental and pharmaceutical schools.

One private academy predicted that if the enrollment is reduced to 1,000, the passing scores of Suneung, or Korean college entrance exam, for medical schools could increase by 1.5 points, compared to the initial plan of 2,000.

One university student who has been preparing to apply for medical school next year wrote in an online post that he felt giving another try this year to be "a waste of time" if the enrollment quota is not increased as much.

The government's plan to add 2,000 seats to the enrollment quota for medical schools has caused significant waves in Korean education circles and society, as doctors are considered here to have a "dream job" that guarantees wealth and status.

The South Korean government has been strongly arguing that boosting the medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 per year is the minimum number to address the nation's shortage of doctors and improve the quality of medical services in rural regions.