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Beryl Lieff Benderly

Becoming a Foreign Faculty Member

Faculty positions may be scarce in the United States, but a number of countries with rapidly rising economies and academic aspirations are energetically hiring professors from abroad.  South Korea, for example, has a World Class University Project, funded by the government to the tune of $725 million last year alone, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Chief among the project’s goals is hiring foreign faculty. Last year 59 of foreigners joined the faculty of Seoul National University and thousands now teach in the country.

The salaries for foreign professors newly hired in Korea now match what they would make in similar jobs at home, or about twice what their Korean colleagues earn, the Chronicle reports. Programs, and even whole campuses, that teach in English help the new arrivals to fit in and help their students to prepare to compete in the global economy.  Nevertheless, professors from abroad may “experience deep culture shock as they try to acclimatize to life in a still overwhelmingly homogeneous and hierarchical academic culture,” writes reporter David McNeill.  Korean society, furthermore, has little experience with foreigners.  One university has developed robots to teach English in order to overcome the “problems” involved in using teachers who are native speakers of the language.
Still, says one Korean university president quoted in article, “As long as our professors do good work, there is no discrimination.  We welcome everyone, including foreigners.”  And if the country’s ambitious plans to develop world-class universities do come to pass, Koreans will become accustomed to having many more foreign faculty on their campuses.