When Professor Kim Jun-young became the president of Sungkyunkwan University in early 2011, he had an ambitious mission: to build a truly world-leading university in Korea.
In less than two years, the 62-year-old president has already made strides toward that goal. The school was picked as the country's best four-year general university, excluding two science institutes, recently by the JoonAng Ilbo. Its global MBA programme and medical school are among the most successful in the nation.
And despite the shrinking job market, SKKU's graduate employment rate has continued to rise. This year its graduate employment rate stood at 69.3 per cent, the highest among four-year universities across the country.
Founded in 1398, Sungkyunkwan was the place of study and repose for the king's scholars during the Joseon Dynasty. Confucianism is still the guiding principle of the longest-running higher education institute in Korea, which is nestled beside a palace in central Seoul.
Yet, today, its prestige lies not in traditional subjects but in global business, cutting-edge technology and international exchange programs.
SKKU currently runs a highly reputed semiconductor engineering department that has supplied talents to the nation's key growth industry, and also is a leader in research into graphene ― the thinnest, lightest and strongest material known to man.
Notably, researchers from the school hold more than 134 graphene patents as of January 2013, the largest number of any research institute in the world, according to UK-based patent consultancy Cambridge IP.
The increase in the foreign student body also serves as a sign of the accelerated global presence of the school. There are now more than 2,700 international students enrolled at SKKU and each year more than 2,000 students go abroad to study at partner universities, according to Kim.