In 1971, when modernization and industrialization were under way in Korea, Korea and France entered into an agreement for the establishment of Korea-France Technology Junior College in order to exchange technology and culture through education. According to the agreement, Ajou Engineering Junior College, the forerunner of Ajou University, was founded in March 1973 by Yusin Institute established by Park, Chagn-won, the chairman of Yusin Express Tourism Co., Ltd.
Starting as Ajou Engineering Junior College, Ajou College recruited 280 students during its first year from four departments, including Electronics, Precision Mechanical Engineering, Fermentation Chemical Engineering, and Industrial Management. The school was promoted to Ajou Engineering College a year later and produced its first graduates in 1997. In 1997, Kim, Woo-jung, the chairman of Daewoo International, contributed his personal wealth to establish Daewoo Institute and took over Ajou University. Mr. Kim established Daewoo Institute to return corporate profit to the society through educational business and to nurture high-quality human resources required by the society. Mr. Kim held on to his principle of support without intervention right from the beginning to guarantee the autonomy of the university. Thanks to the principles of its founder, Ajou University became a model university with its fair and honest management that was uncommon for private schools in Korea.
Ajou set a goal in the late 1970s to become the ‘MIT of Asia’ that would nurture engineers and leaders with language skills. In order to achieve that goal, Ajou newly established humanities and social science departments such as Business Administration, French Language, and English Language on top of the existing engineering departments. In addition, it introduced a ‘special scholarship system’ for the first time in Korea to bring promising youth together and educate them. As a result, the number of Ajou graduates admitted to Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) marked the second largest behind Seoul National University in the year that the scholarship beneficiaries graduated. In 1978, nine scholarship students of Ajou were sent to France as part of the Korea-France Culture Agreement.
In 1981, Ajou Engineering College was raised to university status as Ajou University with three colleges, including Engineering, Business Administration and Humanities, and ten departments. A graduate school was set up during that same year with three Master’s programs in mechanical engineering, electronics, and chemical engineering. Doctoral programs were also created in the same departments a year later.
At the 10th anniversary of the University in 1983, Ajou University established a ‘ten-year development plan’. This was the first general development plan envisaging a future image of Ajou University. According to the plan, the College of Social Sciences was founded in 1985, College of Humanities and Natural Sciences were separated into two independent colleges in 1987, and College of Medicine was founded in 1988. These provided a steppingstone for the harmonious development of fundamental studies and applied sciences, which served as a growth engine for Ajou University. In addition, Sungho Hall, Central Library, Songjae Hall, and the Institute of Industrial Education were also built to complete the appearance of a university. Special graduate schools, such as the Graduate School of Industry and the Graduate School of Business Administration, enlarged the university’s role and commitment to life-long education.
Ajou University opened Ajou University Hospital in 1994. Thanks to the opening of the Graduate School of Education and the Graduate School of International Studies in 1996, and the College of Information and Communication in 1997, today Ajou has seven colleges, one graduate school, one graduate school for professionals, and eight special graduate schools. Additionally, Paldal Hall Academy of University, Dasan Hall, two student dormitories, campus plaza and a gymnasium were constructed.
In 1997, Ajou implemented comprehensive reforms in organization, academic systems, administration and finance. The University also introduced an undeclared major system under which the existing 33 departments were divided into eleven divisions. As Ajou launched these and otehr systems, implemented for the first time in Korea, such as professor achievement evaluation, class evaluation, a one-stop administration system, and campus digitalization, Ajou became a benchmark for many other universities in Korea. At that time, Ajou University emerged as a new leading private university in the 100-year university history of Korea through a variety of evaluations by the government and media corporations. In particular, Ajou’s trust fund for research exceeded 10 billion won for the first time in the school’s history as research activities were activated thanks to large-scale national research assignments and industrial-educational cooperation.
Ajou University set out a new vision of becoming a world-class university in commemoration of its 30th anniversary in 2003.
In order to achieve the new vision, it plans to implement eight specific missions: improving education quality and conditions, providing support for faculty research activities; improving working conditions;. of staff members; expanding support for students' activities and cultural events hosted by the university; promoting the efficient management of each college, medical center, and affiliated institution; upgrading admission requirements and recruiting students with higher academic performance by improving the university's performance in external evaluations; conforming to regulations and establishing order; and establishing a channel with which members can efficiently suggest their opinions to the university.
To this end, Ajou University formulated its innovation strategies which include enhancing decentralization and autonomy, and introducing new evaluation criteria. Firstly, in an effort to enhance the decentralization and autonomy, the university will empower each college, graduate school, research institute and supporting institution to handle its own administrative process ranging from the establishment of strategies and management of human and financial resources to the implementation of evaluations. Secondly, it will fully adopt the new evaluation criteria as a means to facilitate and assess the implementation of decentralization and autonomy.
In conclusion, Ajou University will continue to exert all efforts to create new growth engines while being fully engaged in the main tasks of a university, research and education. In this way, it will nurture talented individuals who can play a leading role in the world and make a contribution to the community, country, and peace and welfare of the humanity in the end.