Background and Overview


Support leading postgraduate-level future leaders that will lead Korea’s knowledge economy in order to fulfill the demand for world-class professionals.


  • to meet the needs for creative and high-quality R&D human resources for the 21st century;
  • strengthening R&D role of universities to nurture future leaders in all sectors, including

    Korean society and culture, cultural contents, design, convergence of raditional disciplines such as BIT and NIT new technologies that will shift paradigms from innovation through catch-up model of advanced economies to innovator of leading edge technologies

  • to improve the quality (over quantity) of education and research in universities and increase success in technology transfer through industry-university collaboration
  • to continue improving world-class research output: South Korea’s ranking for SCI-level publications: 18th in 1999, 13th in 2006, to 11th in 2011

    to improve competitiveness in higher education: South Korea’s ranking for IMD’s World Competitiveness for university education: 46th in 2010, 39th in 2011, to 42nd in 2012.


Project duration: September 2013 to August 2020 (7 years)

Project Types

Project Types
Developing Talents with
Global Competitiveness
Expanding global collaboration among postgraduate programs in cutting-edge interdisciplinary fields to foster graduates to be effective in the global context.
Developing Talents in
Specialized Professions
Support for specialized programs that combine depth as well as breadth in discipline-specific programs with real-world relevance.
Investing in Top Talents and Institutions Providing financial support and opportunities for top talents and incentives for outstanding graduate school programs.

Vision and Goals

Elite workforce that will effectively lead Korea’s knowledge base economy

Increasing autonomy in higher education institutions

Increasing emphasis on quality performance and professional achievements

Heightening sense of accountability imperative among universities to secure our future

Infrastructure for research-intensive universities and global competitiveness

  • -Foster innovation and excellence in teaching
  • -Increasing support to create infrastructure appropriate for research-intensive universities

Highly talented professionals as future leaders

  • -Nurturing creative and high-quality human resources that can lead our nation in the 21st century
  • -Creating an environment that supports and encourages quality research and advancement of our next generation of scholars

Support for universities outside of Seoul

  • -Strengthening ties and collaboration with local enterprises in their region
  • -Strategic investments in further specializing the institutions’ strong majors

Objectives of BK21 PLUS project (2013-2020)

Research-intensive universities effective in the global context

  • -QS World University Rankings by Subject: 6 majors within the top 200 in 2012; aiming for 11 by 2019
  • Detailed rankings in 2012: 6 majors within the top 200, 8 within the top 300, and 11 within the top 400

Cultivating outstanding professionals in each discipline

  • -Investing in the distinguished researchers in each discipline. Support for approximately 15,000 graduate students over seven years (2013 to 2020)

Improving overall quality of research as a nation

  • - Aiming to improve citation frequency of SCI-level publications: 30th in 2011 to 20th in 2019
  • - Innovation in curriculum for academic success

Future endeavors

Strengthening infrastructure for quality research through reforming higher education

Encouraging and supporting quality research through a system of selective subsidies based on performance evaluation

Providing research and educational support for universities outside of Seoul

Strengthening ties and collaboration with local enterprises in their region, and making strategic investments in further specializing the institutions’ strong majors

  • Expanding support for universities outside of Seoul (with the exception of KAIST and other universities specializing in science and technology)
  • Reallocating financial support:
  • : Approximately 24% of support for BK21 and World Class University (WCU) project à approximately 35% of support for BK21 PLUS project
  • : Approximately 35% of programs within BK21 and World Class University (WCU) programs à approximately 45% of programs in BK21 PLUS project

Promoting industry-university cooperation

In order to bolster strategic collaboration between industries and universities, performance evaluation criteria will also reflect both process and end results. Successful collaboration is expected to increase technology transfer in addition to professionals with quality education and real world experience.

Supporting specialized programs that combine depth as well as breadth in discipline-specific programs

Support for emerging and evolving sectors such as digital multimedia, cultural contents, industrial and fashion design, tourism, information security, should consequently be flexible to adapt to the trends of our times.

Pursuing excellence in graduate school programs

Institutions and departments with bold and innovative plans for education reform will be selected to possibly secure funding in 2016. They must propose their plans, then report on their progress over two years. The funds will be granted to departments or institutions that prove academic excellence or successfully carry out their initial plans.

Increasing subsidies for graduate students

Funds for research scholarships need to be increased in relation to the inflation rate over the years

Scholarships for master’s level studies: 500,000 à 600,000 won per month

Scholarships for doctorate level studies: 900,000 à 1 million won per month

Scholarships for promising researchers: 2 million à 2.5 million won per month