Established in 1995, the U.S.-Korea International Education Administrators Award is also known as the American International Education Administrators (AIEA) Award. Open to individuals involved directly with students in the promotion of international education, either through higher education institutions or non-profit exchange organizations in the U.S., the program offers two weeks of guided exposure to the Korean higher education system. AIEA participants visit colleges and universities, as well as government and private sector agencies, and meet with relevant personnel in order to become acquainted with the philosophy, organization, and management of Korean higher and international education programs. Cultural excursions supplement professional and academic visits.
Often referred to as an “educational powerhouse,” Korea places a distinct value on education linked to early recognition of its importance in economic mobility and development throughout Korea’s history, and particularly its history since the Korean War in the early 1950s. As with the rest of the country, Korea’s higher education system has seen rapid growth since the end of the Korean War. Today, Korea boasts over 400 higher education institutions, primarily categorized as junior/community colleges (2-3 years), universities (4 years), and graduate schools.
With the spread in popularity of Korean culture, language, and arts worldwide, popularly known as the “Hallyu Wave,” Korean higher education institutions have seen an increase in the number of international students choosing to pursue advanced study in Korea. According to the 2020 Open Doors report, published by the Institute for International Education (IIE), during the 2018-2019 academic year, South Korea ranked 16th among the top 25 destinations of U.S. study abroad students. This represents a significant increase in ranking as, according to the 2019 Open Doors Report, during the previous academic year in 2017-2018, Korea ranked only 20th. The ranking increase reflects a 16% increase in the number of U.S. students studying abroad in Korea between the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years.
The U.S. also remains a popular study abroad destination for Korean students, with Korea consistently ranking as the third-largest origin of international students after China and India (a fact particularly significant considering the difference in population size between Korea and these two countries). Thus, the Korean higher education system is uniquely placed to influence the future of international education, while fostering educational and cultural exchange between the United States and Korea.