Smart Campus
As the era evolves, so do university departments
Value creation through convergence and specialization


According to a survey conducted by the Korean Education Statistics Service, as of 2018, the number of departments operating at four-year universities in Korea was 11,755. Compared to ten years ago, 1,122 more departments have been newly opened. This increase indicates that universities create new majors or subdivide existing majors to reflect new industrial developments and social changes. In recent days, college entrance test takers and their parents have shown their interest in interdisciplinary and specialized departments. While interdisciplinary departments are known for creating a synergistic effect among different majors, specialized departments are famous for their university-industry programs through which students can be nurtured as quasi-professionals who are most needed in society.

26 Interdisciplinary Majors Preparing for the New Era

In the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution when development in technology creates changes in society, Korea University has been proactive in planning and providing interdisciplinary education to its students. Interdisciplinary majors do not push students to focus only on their own majors, but rather provide students with new learning experiences in other majors that are related to theirs. Through converging experiences with completely new areas, students can come up with creative ideas as they are encouraged to try a totally new way of thinking and take different approaches.

As of the first semester in the 2019 academic year, Korea University has a total of 26 interdisciplinary majors. Among them, representative majors include the following: the Interdisciplinary Major in Brain and Cognitive Sciences offers a curriculum composed of courses in psychology, brain cognitive science, mathematics, and artificial intelligence. Students in the Interdisciplinary Major in Software and Venture are required to take major courses in computers, law, and business administration and later work as on-the-job trainees. The Interdisciplinary Major in Fashion Design and Merchandising trains students to become professionals who later can contribute to the development of the fashion industry of Korea.

Students majoring in the Interdisciplinary Major in Financial Engineering are informed with up-to-date financial engineering techniques so that later they can work as professionals in the field. Lastly, the Interdisciplinary Major in Information Security offers students opportunities to learn computer security-related law, consumer sentiment, and intellectual property rights. In 2018, the most popular interdisciplinary major for KU students was Public Governance and Leadership, chosen by 145 students, in which law courses, covering civil law, constitutional law, and criminal law, are offered as compulsory subjects. Financial Engineering was the second most popular major (124 students), followed by Humanities and Creative Industry (100), Humanities and Justice (77), and Brain Cognitive Sciences (64).

The College of Humanities’ Research and Education Project (hereinafter, the CORE Project), that ran from 2016 to 2018, has helped the university in promoting interdisciplinary majors in the humanities. Before, the interdisciplinary majors offered by the College of Liberal Arts were Humanities and Justice, aimed to train professionals in sociological jurisprudence; Science and Technology Studies to train professional in the human sciences; and Emerging Market and Latin America (EML) through which students can become regional experts in Latin America where development potential is infinite. Adding on these three existing majors, the university adopted a new model of interdisciplinary education to achieve further development in its interdisciplinary major system.

Above all, the university conducted a survey with approximately 300 students who were enrolled in the College of Humanities at the time of the survey. From the survey results, the university learned that students wanted their second major to be business administration, media studies, economics, political diplomacy, or psychology. Reflecting the demand from students, the university started to offer new majors in 2016 including Language, Brain, & Computer (LB & C) to train professionals in linguistic science, one of the key elements in developing artificial intelligence technology; Humanities and Creative Industry to nurture professionals in the culture industry; and Global Leader for East Asian Century (GLEAC) to foster experts in the East Asian region. Later, in 2017 and 2018, two more interdisciplinary majors were offered--Medical Humanities to train professionals in medical and public health humanities; and Unification and International Peace to prepare students for the coming era of unification between the two Koreas. Currently, among the many interdisciplinary majors offered by the university, eight majors are based on the humanities.

In particular, Medical Humanities, which focuses on humanistic approaches toward the life and death of human beings in the era of artificial intelligence technology, is all the more meaningful as the interdisciplinary major is founded on the collaboration of five other departments: Medicine, Nursing, Life Sciences, Health Policy and Management, and Health and Environmental Science.

The KU Way of Interdisciplinary Majors
Internship and study-abroad programs to offer practical support

Korea University has also focused on helping interdisciplinary majors build up their skills and experiences needed for securing a job. The Software Technology and Entrepreneurship Program, one of the interdisciplinary majors the university offers, is known as a gateway to developing startups. A female student, who took courses in the program, built a team for one of the courses. Her team participated in a campus startup contest and won first place. She ended up in being nominated as one of the top female owners of promising venture companies. Furthermore, she was one of the finalists at the Start Tel Aviv Competition held in Israel. Joining the competition has led her to receive various prizes and even investments from many other organizations. Those who joined the program were also offered chances to visit Silicon Valley in the U.S. and Shanghai and to carry out short-term projects through which they could develop their potential to become a truly global entrepreneur.

In the second semester of 2019, the university plans to open a new interdisciplinary major, Technology Entrepreneurship. The major will offer a curriculum that consists of various subjects and courses provided by seven departments in the College of Engineering and nine departments from the Business School and Department of Computer Science. To be specific, the courses will teach students how to become a student CEO and how to run startup companies. Establishing startups here means opening a new business based on solid technology foundations such as data analytics and technology commercialization. The major is expected to create jobs for students and foster future leaders in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The CORE Project also provides internship courses as one of its regular degree courses, which indicates the beginning of university-industry cooperation led by a humanities college. To be specific, the university signed an MOU with Netmarble Npark, one of the leading companies in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. KU also signed an MOU with the Korea Hana Foundation from which it received substantial support for establishing its new interdisciplinary major, Unification and International Peace. These MOUs were part of the university’s effort to offer students with a major that reflects current trends and changes in society. In addition, short- and long-term study-abroad programs are also offered to students who may encounter difficulties entering new academic fields. These immersive, overseas programs allow students to naturally interact with students and professionals in the area and learn from field experiences.

A Diversified Education System Including a Student-designed Major and Specialized Department
The “Libertas, Justitia, Veritas” course also has an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies

If you cannot find an interdisciplinary major that may suit your future career needs, you may now turn to the student-designed major system. The system allows students to pick courses offered by two or more departments (or colleges) to design their own major. After planning, a student-designed major should receive a recommendation letter from an adviser, pass the evaluation process by the curriculum council, and finally receive an authorization from the university president.

The establishment of departments specialized in specific areas cannot necessarily be deemed the birth of completely new majors, but can be regarded as an innovative change in the academic system, reflecting the changes and demands of the times. The Department of Cyber Defense is one of those representative, specialized departments at Korea University. The department was established with an aim to train professional officers specialized in cyber defense. Its graduates are to be commissioned to work as officers specializing in cyber defense for seven years. The department has proven its true potential by winning international hacking competitions that take place every year. Training cyber defense professionals has become more important than ever as new technologies developed and used in the Fourth Industrial Revolution are all based on information, data, and computer systems.

Along with interdisciplinary majors, the university has also modified existing courses to converge different academic areas such as the humanities, mathematics, and physics. The “Libertas, Justitia, Veritas” course, a liberal arts courses for undergraduate students, consists of 12 lectures whose diverse subjects range from humanities to mathematics, physics, medical sciences, and even biology. Another liberal arts course, which is under the category of Science and Technology, is designed to teach students how to take a scientific approach, using multimedia tools and encouraging students to participate in debates during the class. Another liberal arts course, which is in the category of Quantitative Thinking, allows humanities students to learn how to take a mathematical and statistical approach with more ease. All of these are cumulative efforts that the university has exerted to add more diversity to its academic system.

It is not a surprise to see universities seek changes to swim with the tide. However, universities so far have been only following the trends of the time without pondering about the future. For example, when the buzzword was “global,” schools established their own “global” departments. When the IT industry was in fashion, they were busy opening IT-related departments. This time, it is different. Korea University, equipped with a systematic education system and solid vision for future, has been preparing for the future by introducing its students to future-oriented courses.

▲Graduation projects submitted by students major in Fashion Design and Merchandising in 2018

The 7 most popular interdisciplinary majors among KU students in 2018 


Interdisciplinary majors at KU

Ecological Landscape, Social Welfare, Science and Technology Studies, Financial Engineering, Fashion Design and Merchandising, Social Norms and Public Administration, Politics, Economics, and Policy (PEP), Humanities and Justice, Medical Sciences, Climate Change, Food Industry Management, Brain Cognitive Science, Public Governance and Leadership, Digital Media Culture, Software Venture, Emerging Market and Latin America (EML), Multicultural Korean Education, Convergence Security, Medical Convergence Engineering, Information Security, Global Korean Studies (GKS), Language, Brain, & Computer (LB & C), Humanities and Creative Industry, Global Leader for East Asian Century (GLEAC), Medical Humanities, Unification and International Peace.
• Only students studying on the Seoul Campus can apply for the Financial Engineering major.
• Social Welfare and Digital Media Culture majors available on the Sejong Campus.
• Only international students can apply for GKS.

Hello, I am Yun-kyeong Ahn, studying Environmental Science and Ecological Engineering at the College of Life Sciences and Biotechnology. (Climate Change)

Which interdisciplinary major did you choose, and what made you make that choice?
I chose Climate Change as my interdisciplinary major. Since I was a middle school student, I have been interested in the environment and entered the Environmental Science and Ecological Engineering Division (my original major) at Korea University three years ago. While doing internships at research labs and studying my major, I realized that learning about the environment requires me to expand my study beyond the scientific area, and what I needed was an interdisciplinary approach. I thought the Climate Change interdisciplinary major was something that would satisfy my interests.

Can you tell us the names of courses you are taking and what you’ve learned from them?
The Climate Change major requires me to take Climate Change Sciences and Climate Change Economics as compulsory subjects. The remaining 30 credits can be earned by freely taking subjects that are categorized as major elective subjects. As the interdisciplinary major itself is something that various departments and divisions collaborate with each other to create, most of those major elective subjects are also made by the departments in collaboration. If I roughly categorize the elective courses, they are composed of courses on scientific knowledge related to climate change, courses on data processing, and courses on the social and economic impacts of climate change.

What are the benefits or difficulties that you’ve experienced from your interdisciplinary major?
The biggest benefit I have had is that I can take major elective courses that are based on various fields and at the same time, are related to each other with the keyword, climate change, at the center. The climate change economics course I took last year was a good opportunity for me to learn more about the economic part of climate change and international conventions on climate change. Those were something I could not have easily accessed if I had only majored in my original major. In addition, the theory of weather management course allowed me to learn about how weather can be utilized in the management area and how weather data are processed. However, the interdisciplinary major courses are not offered every semester. If any of those courses are offered at the same time with my original major courses, I should choose my original major ones, which restricts the courses I can take.

Can you share your goals or dreams after completing your interdisciplinary course?
The environment and climate change have become something that should be considered whenever a government or company launches a project, which I think promises a continuous growth in the related area. It is premature to specifically describe my dream, but what I can tell you at the moment is that I want to find myself in full confidence when I have a chance to talk about the environment and climate change.

Hello, I am Dong-hui Cho majoring in Statistics at Korea University.(Financial Engineering)  

Which interdisciplinary major did you choose, and what made you make that choice?
My application for the Financial Engineering major was accepted in January 2018. Since then, I have been taking courses related to the major. My original major was Statistics, and I was trying to find a way to use my major after I graduate. Also, I found that I have insufficient knowledge in business and economics. So Financial Engineering was a solution to my concerns. As the interdisciplinary major is based on the collaboration among different, somewhat related majors such as Mathematics, Business Administration, Economics, Statistics, and Industrial Management Engineering, it offers a chance to widen the spectrum of learning and studying. My original major, Statistics, is also part of the interdisciplinary major, taking up quite a significant portion in the curriculum. Given the circumstances, Financial Engineering was probably the most suitable choice for me to acquire knowledge in various areas without sacrificing my original major.

Can you tell us the names of courses you are taking and what you’ve learned from them?
Collaborating departments such as Business, Economics, Industrial Management Engineering, Mathematics, and Statistics, offer major courses related to financial engineering. There are no compulsory courses, but you can choose which course you want to take based on your specific interests. So far, I have taken Linear Algebra 1 and Exercises from the Department of Mathematics, Financial Management and Corporate Financing from the Business School, Statistical Calculation Software, Introduction to Probability Theory, and Mathematical Statistics from the Department of Statistics.

What are the benefits or difficulties that you’ve experienced from your interdisciplinary major?
It’s great to choose courses I want to take and acquire knowledge in various fields. After I took courses in business and economics, I found myself more knowledgeable about the social system and its changes. However, I felt a bit lost when I first had to choose courses because there was no guideline provided. The university only set the lower limit of credits I should abide by, which, I thought, was not enough for students to decide which courses they should choose for their new interdisciplinary major.

Can you share your goals or dreams after completing your interdisciplinary course?
At the moment, I find myself very interested in Financial Engineering. If circumstances allow, I want to work in the economics and business field where I can utilize knowledge I have learned from my original major, Statistics, and the interdisciplinary one, Financial Engineering.