In the late 1960s, as Korea shifted its focus from light industry to heavy industry, the lack of highly-educated scientists and engineers emerged as a serious problem. Korea, then heavily dependent on foreign products and technologies, had difficulty conducting its own research and development (R&D).
The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) was established in 1971 as the nation’s first research-oriented graduate school in science and technology. In 1986, KAIST started offering undergraduate degree programs as well. In 1989, the university’s campus moved out of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, to Daejeon, about 50 minutes away by high-speed train from Seoul. In 2009, KAIST merged with the Information and Communications University, a public university established in Daejeon in 1997 with a primary focus on information and technology research.
KAIST was initially staffed with a number of Korean engineering and science faculty members educated in the United States. Over the past 45 years, KAIST has recruited distinguished professors; built state-of-the-art research facilities; and provided excellent education and diverse benefits to its students, including scholarships, research grants, living expenses and exemptions from mandatory military service.
KAIST has set itself a new model for research universities in Korea and established its reputation for pioneering research throughout the world. Despite its relatively short history, KAIST ranked 41st in the 2019 World University Rankings and earned 1st place in Asia's Most Innovative University Rankings for 2016-2019.