The number of foreign students at Korean universities has increased sharply since the Millennium, but mostly at undergraduate level. Only now are postgraduate numbers also rising.
Attempts to woo Chinese students in particular resulted in the number of foreign students in Korean universities jumping fivefold from 16,832 in 2004 to 89,537 in 2011. But recently the influx of undergraduates has slowed but more postgraduates are studying in Korea.
According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the number of foreign undergraduates, which had been rising by 6,000 to 8,000 each year, increased by just 932 in 2010 and 2011 with the total now at 44,641. But the number of foreign postgraduate students went up by 2,721 during the same period.
Experts say this shows that the research capacity of Korean universities is getting due recognition.
While Chinese students account for 82 percent of foreigners in undergraduate programs, students on master's and doctorate programs come from much more diverse backgrounds. Half of postgraduates are still Chinese students with 9,599, but there are also 1,409 Vietnamese, 1,512 Mongolians, 591 Americans, 536 Indians, and 384 Bangladeshis.
The ministry said Indian graduate students used to go mostly to the U.K. or the U.S. in the past, but with the rising profile of Korean companies like Samsung, LG and Hyundai Motor in India, recognition on the Korean technological prowess there has improved, so now more Indians want to study here.
Sixty-five percent of foreign students in doctorate programs, or 2,934 people, are studying science and technology. Experts also believe that active recruitment of talented foreign students by Korean professors amid shrinking interest in those subjects by Korean students played a part.