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ECPR Rising Star Award

Cooperation by Coercion: Institutionalizing the 'Third Mission' of Universities in the South Korean Higher Education System

Higher Education
Joonha Jeon
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
Joonha Jeon
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
So Young Kim
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

With the rise of the knowledged-based economy, higher education has taken on greater significance for the creation and utilization of knowledge, leading to a global trend pushing universities to be competent not only in education and research but in the so-called “third mission.” Driven by managerialism, especially, the New Public Management (NPM) approach, recent higher education reforms in several countries have placed universities under intensive pressure to introduce and utilize quantitative performance indicators for university governance. Yet there is relatively scant interest in how the NPM approach has influenced the ways in which the third mission is institutionalized in higher education. This paper tries to fill this gap with a case study of South Korean government’s higher education funding framework, focusing on the LINC (Leaders in INdustry-University Cooperation) Program introduced in 2012 to promote university-industry cooperation. Examining the origin and operation of the program through various documents accumulated during its five years of implementation as well as in-depth interviews with key actors involved in the program, we track how NPM-driven performance evaluation has become the cornerstone of the education-research-third mission nexus in South Korean university reform. Our study reveals that contrary to the purpose and intention of the program, the NPM approach has led to fragmentation and disintegration of the education-research-third mission nexus, often resulting in coerced rather than voluntary cooperation between universities and industries. This study not only contributes to a better understanding of the impacts of NPM-driven higher education reforms but also generates related important policy implications.
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