UNIVERSITIES IN JAPAN
There are more than 725 universities, including 565 private universities, in Japan. The graduation rate at Japanese universities fell to 84.6 percent in 2008, seen as sign that graduation standards were getting tougher,
The percentage of Japanese high school graduates going to either a two-year junior college or four-year university passed 41 percent in 1993 and stood at 54.3 percent in 2010. The figure for four-year colleges and universities alone was about 47 percent. The great majority of junior college students are women. 77.0 percent of all universities and 93.1 percent of all junior colleges are private. In 2010, 13.4 percent of four-year university graduates went on to graduate school. [Source: Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan]
“An extensive series of reforms was recently implemented in the Japanese university system, with the changes to the national university system being particularly drastic. In 2004, the 99 national universities were reorganized into 87 institutions. In addition, the national universities—which had been internal organs of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology—were transformed into independent administrative institutions with the objective of creating a more competitive and independent environment in which the universities can introduce private sector management techniques and develop their own special strengths with respect to both education and research. In order to nurture people with the wide range of expertise needed by society, many universities have also established new specialized graduate school programs in both business and law.
Science degrees as a percentage of all college degrees: 29.3 percent, compared to 18.4 percent in the United States and 41.8 percent in South Korea. [Source: OECD]
The annual tuition at Japan’s national universities has risen from ¥36,000 in 1975 to about ¥535,800, plus a first time enrollment fee of ¥282,000, in 2005. The annual tuition at Japan’s private universities has risen from ¥182,677 in 1975 to about ¥799,973 in 2005. Average monthly expenses are around ¥56,540 for students living at home and ¥124,960 for students living away from home.
The seven former Imperial universities were established between 1886 and 1939.National universities became independently administered institutions in 2004, with some flexibility in setting their fees. National universities are now viewed as corporations and are expected to make profits through commercialization of their research.
Good Websites and Sources: Paper on Higher Education in Japan tr.emb-japan.go.jp ; Wikipedia article on Higher Education in Japan Wikipedia ; Future of Japanese Higher Education pdf unu.edu/nagai ; Japan Student Services Organization jasso.go.jp ; Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges shidairen.or.jp ;
MEXT, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology mext.go.jp/english ; University Life Good Photos at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de ; University Life in Japan bestkungfu.com ; More on Japan University Life uec.ac.jp/eng/life ; Student Guide to Japan www2.jasso.go.jp/study
Top Universities University of Tokyo u-tokyo.ac.jp ; Kyoto University kyoto-u.ac.jp ; Keio University keio.ac.jp ; Waseda University waseda.jp ; Resources and Links
General Education Online List and Links for Japanese Universities findaschool.org ; Braintrack College and University Directory braintrack.com ;
ACCESS , Database of Japanese Universities yamasa.org/access ; Humanities Websites in Japan sal.tohoku.ac.jp ; Linguistic and Language-Related Websites in Japan sal.tohoku.ac.jp
Links in this Website: EDUCATION SYSTEM IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SCHOOLS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TEACHERS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SCHOOL LIFE IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; BULLYING AND SCHOOL PROBLEMS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; UNIVERSITIES IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE CHILDREN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE TEENAGERS AND YOUNG ADULTS Factsanddetails.com/Japan
Japanese Government Spending on Higher Education
Japan spends the equivalent of 0.6 percent of its gross domestic product on higher education, the least among the member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Japan's annual public spending on higher education falls about 3 trillion yen short of the OECD average of 1.2 percent of GDP.
In an "Education at a Glance" report, the OECD reported that Japan's budget for higher education stood at the equivalent of 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product—about half that of other industrialized countries. The situation has been worsening due to government cut backs caused by the slumping economy. The government has been curtailing grants to national universities by 1 percent to 2 percent annually in recent years. [Source: Masakazu Yamazaki, Yomiuri Shimbun]
More than half of the annual budgets of Japan’s seven main public universities are financed by tuition and revenues at their affiliated hospitals as well as what is called "competitive funds" that the government grants for promising projects and the fruit of university-industry collaboration.
Getting Into University in Japan
Students take the exam in January, find out the results a few weeks later and enter university in March or April.
Only 29 percent of Japanese high school graduates go on to college (compared to 58 percent of American graduates). Once a student gets into a good university he or she has traditionally got it made. But that is not necessarily the case today.
In the old days getting into university was quite an achievement. In 1908, there were 5.4 million children enrolled in primary schools but only 7,500 university students. This ratio held through the 1920s.
An increasing number of universities are recruiting students ahead of the traditional entrance exam season, with some receiving acceptances. Using the so call ed AO (admission office) exams, students are selected with interviews ands essays rather that written exams with students chosen for the program based on recommendations from principals. In 2006, 45 national and other public universities and 380 private universities (70 percent of all private universities) held such screenings.
Top universities are opening up affiliated middle schools and high schools in different parts of the country as a way of attracting the brightest students.
University Exams, See Separate Article
Prestigious Japanese Universities
Keio University Tokyo University, known as Todai, is Japan's most prestigious university. Originally called Tokyo Imperial University, it was Japan's first modern university. Like the highly-regarded Kyoto and Osaka Universities, Tokyo University is a national or public university and has produced many top-level bureaucrats, businessmen, scientists and engineers. Generally about 30 percent of the cabinet members and 60 percent of the elite in the powerful Finance and Trade ministries are Todai graduates.
Tokyo University was founded in 1877 after Tokyo Medical School merged with Tokyo Kasei School, which was founded by the Tokugawa shogunate. A national university with a reputation for being serious and stuffy, it has about 14,000 students at two campuses: one in Hyogo, Bunyo Ward, and the other Komaba, Meguro Ward. Tokyo University has 10 departments: law, economics, literatures, education, arts and sciences, engineering, science, agriculture, pharmacology and medicine.
Waseda University and Keio University are Japan’s best private universities. Sometimes regarded as the Harvard and Yale of Japan, they have produced many political, business and academic leaders. Sophia University and the International Christian School are two other highly regarded private universities.
Emphasis is often place in the name of the school that a student has attended rather the merits or accomplishments. As is true with the old boy's network in the United States, one's prospects for getting into a good company and advancing to a high position are often based on the friends one makes at college.
Todai is regarded is the most famous name. Keio is known for producing independent, creative, and innovative thinkers while Waseda is regarded as a producer of talented but obedient corporate types. Six Nobel laureates have studied at Kyoto University and five have studied at Tokyo University. Tokyo University’s engineering department is currently running a “Nobel Prize” program in which promising researchers are given ¥10 million a year in research money and access to expensive equipment such laser generators in hopes that they will come up with some Nobel-prize winning discoveries.
Rankings of Japanese Universities
In March 2012, Kyodo reported: “The University of Tokyo maintained its crown as Asia's most prestigious higher education institution while Japan placed third behind the United States and Britain in overall university rankings, according to a global survey of academic opinion released. This year's Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings placed the University of Tokyo in eighth position, the same as in the 2011 rankings, among the world's top 100. Harvard University in the United States was No. 1. [Source: Kyodo, March 16, 2012]
Among other Japanese universities in the top 100, Kyoto University ranked 20th, down from 18th in 2011, while Osaka University, Tohoku University and Tokyo Institute of Technology all came in between 50th and 60th. By country, Japan was in joint third place with the Netherlands. The United States had 44 universities in the top 100 and Britain had 10. [Ibid]
“Japan has maintained an outstanding showing in the global top 100 reputation rankings," said Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings. "But there is also a very exciting group of East Asian countries or regions enjoying significant increases in the prestige of their universities, with China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore all seeing their top universities rising up the reputation table.” [Ibid]
“The rankings are based on a survey of 17,554 scholars across the world and in a range of disciplines. They are asked to nominate no more than 15 of the "best" institutions in their narrow field of expertise. This is the second year of rankings based on academic reputation. The Times Higher Education magazine decided to publish the table because, while data based on objective performance indicators are important, subjective views are also critical in terms of attracting money and students, Baty said. In last year's World University Rankings, also produced by the magazine, which rely on 13 mostly objective performance indicators, the University of Tokyo came in 30th but was still the highest ranked institution in Asia. [Ibid]
In the 2010 ranking of universities by the Times Higher Education Magazine Japan had only six universities in the top 200 (compared to 11 a few years before). By contrast China had six. Tokyo University was the only Japanese university to make the top 50 (it was 26th) . The other four were Kyoto University (57th), Tokyo Institute of Technology (112th), Osaka University (130th) and Tohuko University (132nd ). In 2011, Tokyo University was ranked 30th in the world according to the Times Higher Education magazine, down from 26th in 2010 but was rated the top university in Asia ahead of Hong Kong University which was No. 1 in Asia in 2010
In the 2007 Times Higher Education Quancquarelli Symonds World University Rankings Tokyo University and Kyoto University finished 17th and 25 the respectively. The top four were Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and Yale. In the survey Tokyo University ranked high in “peer review” and “employer review” but scored low in international staff and students.
Tokyo University, Kyoto University and Osaka University were the rates as the 1st, 2nd and 7th best universities in Asia and the Middle East by U.S. News and World Report The same universities were the rated as the 3rd , 5th and 6th best universities in Asia by the London-based Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd.
Japanese University School Year Begins in April
Japan begins its university school year in April. Colleges and universities in most nations, including the United States, China and Europe, start their academic year in autumn. Only seven countries begin the school year in April, including Japan and India. This means if Japanese students want to study abroad, they have to give themselves at least six months before they can start studying overseas, due to the admission "time gap" between Japan and other countries. The gap can also inconvenience foreign students who want to study in Japan. Japanese universities' failure to attract foreign students has often been pointed at as a major reason for their dwindling global status.
“Japanese universities used to follow the autumn enrollment system, but the change to the current system occurred in the Taisho era (1912-1926) to better synchronize with primary, middle and high school academic years.
“Kyodo reported: “University presidents have been given the freedom to decide when to admit students since the government-set rule of April enrollment was abolished in December 2007. In a fiscal 2009 survey by the education ministry, as many as 245 universities have undergraduate admission programs for non-April enrollment. But in reality, only 115 of them were recruiting under such arrangements and only 2,226 students were enrolled. [Source: Kyodo, January 19, 2012]
University of Tokyo Begins Starting the School Year in Autumn
The University of Tokyo has said it wants to shift from spring to autumn enrollment in about 2017. The university has also urged 11 other universities, including Kyoto University and Waseda University, to participate in talks regarding the change, in hopes that other universities will also adopt autumn enrollments. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]
In January 2012, Kyodo reported: “A University of Tokyo panel has proposed that the leading institution shift undergraduate enrollment from April to the fall in line with the international norm. Fall enrollment would help facilitate acceptance of foreign students, as well as study abroad programs for the university's own students. The report recommends introducing the change in five years. [Source: Kyodo, January 19, 2012]
“If realized, however, the change from April would also have a significant impact on the nation's current college admission and job recruitment practices, as the school and fiscal year begin in April. Many universities have programs to admit students in other months as well as April. Many business leaders are also hoping an increase in foreign students studying at Japanese universities will broaden recruitment opportunities. [Ibid]
“The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “A shift in the University of Tokyo's admission period, however, does not mean its entrance exam period will change. The university plans to continue administering entrance exams in the spring. The University of Tokyo hopes that students will use the gap between spring acceptance and the start of classes to engage in volunteer and other extracurricular activities. According to Kyodo the panel recommended that the university's entrance examinations be held in February to March as usual, and that accepted students be encouraged to make use of the six months or so between their high school graduation in March and college enrollment in the fall to pursue hands-on experiences, such as volunteer activities, internships and international exchanges. [Ibid]
“Considering that students may also take time off to study abroad while enrolled, it is expected to take 4½ to five years on average to graduate, longer than the normal four-year curriculum. The panel suggested that flexibility be given to outstanding students should they seek early graduation or to enter graduate school. [Ibid]
“Still, the report said, many university and societal issues need to be sorted out before any shift is made. For example, students could face difficulties finding jobs since the timing of their graduation under the proposed plan would not match the current recruitment process. Corporate employment exams and the national examination for medical practitioners are currently scheduled to accommodate spring graduations. With this in mind, the University of Tokyo has said it will hold talks with various organizations, asking them to shift their exam schedules. [Ibid]
“Will the idea also lead to a change in primary school enrollment? So far, no one has proposed a autumn enrollment for primary, middle and high schools. [Ibid]
The University of Tokyo’s move, according to an Yomiuri Shimbun article, seems to reflect the top-notch university's desire to attract more foreign students while also encouraging the Japanese students on its roll book to study overseas.
Japanese Gap Term?
If the University of Tokyo and other universities to shift a school year that begins in the autumn students will have a six month gap term between the time they finish high school and the time they start university. Even if universities change its enrollment period from spring to autumn, it will maintain the current timing of its entrance exams and announcement of successful applicants in the spring. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]
The gap term is meant to be a hiatus between the time when applicants pass their entrance exams and when they enroll. During the gap term, they are expected to engage in such activities as volunteer programs and studies abroad, in preparation for studying at the university fruitfully, the school says. [Ibid]
“The term "gap year" was first used in Britain, where young people are allowed to put off their university enrollment one year to do such things as volunteer work or travel. Young Britons who take a gap year, however, account for less than 10 percent of prospective enrollees, as the gap-year program, unlike the University of Tokyo's gap term, is not designed to be uniformly applied. [Ibid]
“There are many doubts about the system in Japan. Some teachers at the University of Tokyo worry that students' academic abilities will deteriorate during the gap term, while others are afraid students of economically disadvantaged families will not be able to afford to study abroad. [Ibid]
University Life in Japan
In Japan, the university years are often regarded as a four-year-long vacation between the grind of high school and a working career. Japanese students compare their university days with living at a country club. There are few tests or term papers. For many young people it is the first time in their lives they have time and the freedom to date and party.
Students often spend more time partying than studying. One survey found that on week days university students spend an average of 90.9 minutes studying, 98.9 minutes watching television, 77.1 minutes playing sports, 76 minutes paying with a computer, 129.5 minutes doing a club activity and 224.2 minutes working at a part time job.
Students often devote a lot their attention to extracurricular activities such as such art, music or martial arts clubs. Engineering students often get absorbed in doing projects for their professors or competitions like making battery-powered cars, fighting robots or human-powered flying machines.
The main objective for students is take the required courses to do well enough in them to to pass them. There is no great need to get straight As. Many students write senior theses or do a senior projects and put a lot of energy into that. Students seem pretty passive and laid back about their classes and don’t really seem take much initiative. Many devote much of their time to a club or sport or “job-hunting activities.” Many students say they join clubs at school because they have difficulty making friends otherwise.
An important consideration is forming a relationship with a professor that can help you find a job. Students are organized into groups known as kozas. These are led by a full professor and a few assistants. They students are like glorified technicians. They are told what to study and their work is often published under the koza leaders name.
Some university require their students take etiquette classes in which they are told things like refrain from using a cell phone while riding a bike and don’t eat noodles while walking down the street. At one university in Akita Prefecture students are prohibited from dying their hair and piercing their bodies. Monitors regularly walk around the school to make sure the rules are followed.
Money and University Students in Japan
According to a February 2011 Kyodo news report: “Spending by university students living away from their families has fallen to the same level as 1980, due partly to the prolonged economic downturn, according to an annual survey by the National Federation of University Cooperative Associations. Average monthly expenditure by such students, excluding rent, came to 63,130 yen compared with 62,100 yen in 1980, while the average monthly allowance they receive from their families was 71,310 yen.”
In April 2011, Jiji Press reported: “Monthly allowances given by parents to students who entered private colleges in the Tokyo metropolitan area last spring fell for the 11th consecutive year, a survey has shown. The average monthly allowance for freshmen attending school away from home was 91,300 yen, down 300 yen from the previous year, according to the survey released by the tokyo Federation of private University Faculty and Staff Unions. The amount dropped 26.9 percent from the peak level of 124,900 yen in fiscal 1994, while the average rent grew to account for a record 66.8 percent of the allowance. Living expenses, excluding rent, averaged 1,010 yen per day. Both the allowance and living expenses were the lowest since fiscal 1986. [Source: Jiji Press, April 11, 2012]
In October 2010, the education ministry announced it would make volunteer activity a requirement for university loans. The move is intended to give students a sense of giving something back to society.
Math Skills of University Students Low Says Math Society of Japan
In February 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “University students today lack sufficient mathematical and logical thinking skills, with 24 percent of them unable to grasp the concept of an average, according to a survey by the Mathematical Society of Japan. The academic society attributes the university students' poor academic performance not only to decades-long lax educational policies, but also to lowered entrance exam standards aimed at attracting students because of the low birthrate. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, February 26, 2012]
The society conducted the basic math survey--the first of its kind--from April to July last year, covering 5,934 students--mainly freshmen who had just enrolled in spring--from 48 national, public and private universities.It featured a set of five problems, most of them at primary and middle school level, aimed at examining their skills in comprehending mathematical statements, providing written explanations and drawing figures. [Ibid]
“The survey found only 1.2 percent of the students were able to answer all five questions correctly. Only 19 percent of the students correctly answered a question in which they were asked to provide a logical explanation as to why the addition of an even and an odd number always results in an odd number--a question considered suitable for third-year middle school students. In response to a problem on the arithmetic concept of an average--first learned in the sixth grade of primary school--many respondents mistakenly believed that if the average height of 100 students is 163.5 centimeters, half of them are taller than that and half of them are shorter. [Ibid]
“Among respondents from middle-ranking private universities, nearly half of them answered incorrectly. The survey found that many respondents who gave wrong answers in the survey tended to belong to either of two groups: non-science majors at private universities whose entrance exams do not include math tests, or those from colleges whose entrance exams include multiple-choice-only math questions. [Ibid]
Problems at Japanese Universities
In an Asiaweek survey in the late 1990s, Japan had five universities in the top 40 of Asia, compared to nine in South Korea, which has about a third of the population of Japan.
Ranking of university education in 60 nations in terms of whether they were meeting the needs of a competitive workplace: : the lowest in 2004: 1) Indonesia; 2) South Korea; 3) Japan; 4) Slovenia; 5) Luxembourg; 6) Argentina; 7) Italy; 8) Romania; 9) Greece; 10) Brazil. [Source: International Institute for Management Development (IMD)]
Most educators believe that American universities are superior to those in Japan. Many Japanese universities have crowded labs, out-of-date facilities and a lack of funding. Even Tokyo University has been accused of having rundown equipment and out of date curriculums. In the many universities it is not uncommon for students to skip all their classes and get a friend to take the final exam for them.
In an effort to revitalize Japan's scientific research community, the government is allocated more funds to improve labs, do basic research and create more advanced degree programs. Top universities are trying to reduce class size, boost special skills and attract more young and dynamic lecturers and researchers.
The lack of English in Japanese universities has made it difficult to attract international talent. For the same reason Japanese diplomas mean little outside of Japan. Companies such as IBM complain they have to spend more time training Japanese graduates than they do with their South Korean or Chinese counterparts.
Ryoji Noyori, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2001, wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Japanese universities are handicapped by bureaucratic walls erected by faculty councils and exclusive academic cliques, as well as totally inadequate laboratories that are far from encouraging to young researchers. Indeed, keeping intact outdated values and vested interests within the universities only hinders their human resources—the most important element in higher education and academic research—from becoming more diverse and mobile.” [Source: Ryoji Noyori, Yomiuri Shimbun, January 24, 2011]
“Graduate school reform in particular is essential,” Nyori wrote. “The purpose of graduate school is not to benefit teaching staff and students as individuals, but to nurture society's intellectual wealth for the good of national and international communities. Graduate schools should be separated from undergraduate schools. Also, the traditional tendency to enroll as many students from the same university and undergraduate department as possible should be done away with. Instead, graduate schools should aim to limit internal intake quotas to about 30 percent of total enrollment, and to increase the proportion of foreign students to more than 20 percent. At the same time, financial support for graduate school students should be strengthened both qualitatively and quantitatively, so they can concentrate on their studies and research activities.” [Ibid]
Problems with Professors at Japanese Universities
Non-Japanese account for only 3.6 percent of all teachers at Japanese universities and other higher academic institutions. At the University of Tokyo, regarded as the country's iconic higher education institution, only 4.1 percent of the teaching staff and 9.8 percent of the students are from abroad.
Only 7,700 people earned Ph.D.’s in science and engineering in 2005, compared to 28,000 in the United States and 14,900 in China in 2004. Japan’s relatively small number is viewed as a signed it has weakened as technology leader and innovator.
Researchers lack the ability to pitch their research goals well to the market and secure corporate funding. Private universities and regional institutions often lack stable financial backing.
In recent years there have been a number of scandals at some of Japan’s top universities, including Tokyo University and Osaka University, involving professors that falsified data. There have been some bribery and cheating scandals too. In 2008, 19 professors at Yokohama City University admitted receiving about ¥5.7 million cash gifts from students in return for granting theme doctorates. The same years a Tokyo University associate professor was dismissed leaking questions on the university’s entrance examination.
Women and Higher Education in Japan
the prefered female ideal
for many Japanese men Japanese women are among the best educated in the world. In 2005, 42.5 percent of them had at least some post-secondary education. Still top universities continue to be dominated by males and are regarded as entry points to the old boys network. Many young women go to two-year junior colleges.
For Japanese men the idea is to attend a good university to get a good job. For some women the idea still is to go to a good school to find a good husband. Women constitute 90 percent of Japan's junior college enrollment, majoring in things like food and nutrition or home management, but less than one-forth of its university enrollment. Only 10 percent of the students at Tokyo University are women.
Women make up only 20 percent of the students at Tokyo University, and only 9 percent of the engineering students, and female teachers and professors there. One female engineer who went Tokyo University in the 1980s, said, “I used to be the only female student specializing in nuclear engineering. I was catching a lot of wandering eyes. However, when I’d go to matchmaking parties, the guys would scared off when I told them where I went to school.”
Tokyo University is currently trying to increase its enrollment of women to 30 percent and raise the number of full-time female researchers to more than 25 percent by 2010. It has made some progress already. In the 1990s only 3.75 percent of the professors at Tokyo University were women.
Declining Enrollment in Japanese Universities
As a result of a declining birth rate, Japanese universities are receiving less applicants. The number of 18-year-olds peaked in 1992 and now is steadily declining. In 2007, the number of applicants roughly equaled the number of positions, which makes it difficult for low-ranking schools to find students.
These days there are too many universities and too few students. One survey found that 47.1 percent of private four-year universities were under-enrolled in 2008. Population decline is not on the only reason fo the problems. Poor planning is another. Although the population of 18-year-olds has shrunk by 400,000 from about 1.6 million in the 1990s the number of universities increased from 600 to 750 in the same period.
As the number of students decline because of a population declines, competition is heating up between universities to attract students, As a consequence universities are becoming more image-savvy and employing marketing strategies to attract students. Among the methods that have been employed are developing cute mascots and running television commercials.
As a result Japanese universities are now competing for students and accepting them on criteria other than their performance on the entrance exam. Some students have even been accepted for their rugby playing ability.
Some private universities are having such a difficult attracting students they face bankruptcy. The problem is so acute that the Education Ministry is discussing offering “bankruptcy insurance” to keep troubled universities until their students can graduate.
Studies have shown that the number of talented Japanese high school students skipping out of Japanese university altogether and heading to American universities has increased dramatically.
Lack of Interest in Japan’s New Graduate Schools
Miki Tanikawa wrote in the New York Times, “In a country with a shrinking population, the latest trend in Japan’s higher education is something of a mystery: the number of universities and academic programs is rising. The growth is sharpest for professional graduate schools, where the number has soared from practically zero in 2003, when accreditation began, to 130 now, in fields ranging from law and business to clinical counseling and education. But there is one obvious problem: not enough students are signing up. The Japanese government says that nearly half of professionally oriented programs, aside from law schools, have yet to fill their stated student capacity. And the problem has been especially acute in graduate programs in education.[Source: Miki Tanikawa, New York Times, September 26, 2010]
In Japan, the need for graduate programs seems undeniable: lifetime employment is crumbling, employers are committing less time and money to training young workers, and social problems are becoming more complex, increasing the need for experts. Yet Interest in many professional schools has been less than overwhelming, said Kenichi Yoshida, an executive senior consultant at the Japan Research Institute in Tokyo, which is affiliated with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. “Japanese universities tend to roll out programs without having a good grasp of the needs in the marketplace,” said Mr. Yoshida, who watches Japan’s higher education. “When they start a program, they assume there will be students.”
Setting up graduate programs in education was the universities’ answer to a growing dissatisfaction with the primary and secondary school system. “We are faced with a number of gripping issues in schools like bullying, truancy, and falling grades,” said Tetsuya Kajisa, the president of Hyogo University of Teacher Education near Osaka. “As society and community change, issues facing schools have become more complicated and the solutions require higher expertise.”
In 2008, with the blessing and the accreditation of the Ministry of Education, 19 universities launched professionally oriented graduate programs in teacher education, seeking approximately 700 students in total. Seven more schools introduced similar programs a year later. During the first year, 8 of the 19 original institutions fell short of the target enrollment — some by far: two schools managed to recruit only half of the target numbers of students. A ministry assessment completed shortly afterward said the schools lacked proper marketing methods and had failed to clearly state the practical benefits of receiving graduate diplomas.
Demanding Parents Give Universities Headache
Kimiyasu Ishizuka wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “In recent years “many parents have become overprotective of their children, taking an extraordinary interest in their campus lives.One day, the staff of Dokkyo University in Saitama Prefecture received a phone call from the mother of a freshman. Asking about a specific lecture, the woman asked, "I'd like to know which classroom my son is supposed to take his class." Kosei Suzuki, of the section that manages lecture schedules, told her: "It's written on the timetable [your son is supposed to have]."Suzuki then heard the woman telling her son on the other end of the phone, "Hey, he says it's on your timetable." Recalling this case, Suzuki sighed and said, "She should have got her son to call us himself as he was there." [Source: Kimiyasu Ishizuka, Yomiuri Shimbun, November 3, 2011]
“Waseda and Hosei universities have both received phone inquiries from overprotective parents. In one case, a mother called to ask: "My son is so late coming home and he says it's because of club activities. Does he really stay there that late?"In another case, a mother asked a university staff member to visit the apartment where her son lived alone, to check if he was all right because she hadn't been able to contact him. A father even asked university staff to help his daughter as she was caught in a love triangle. [Ibid]
“Some parents assume universities are to blame for problems their children have on campus--as one did with a private university in the Kansai region. One day, the driver of a school bus operated by the university told a student to be careful as his student commuter pass had expired. Later, the university received a phone call from the student's father, who was upset about the bus incident."The driver's attitude is unforgivable. You should fire him!" the father said angrily. [Ibid]
“A university in the Kanto region received a complaint from a student's father. "My daughter won't be able to graduate as she couldn't earn sufficient credits. You should've let me know about this beforehand!" the man said. In another case, a mother called a college to complain: "A cult induced my son to become a member. Why didn't you try to prevent such thing from happening?" Graduate schools also are targeted by demanding parents. A father protested to Kyoto University Graduate School after his son's thesis was not accepted because he failed to meet the deadline. "Why couldn't you accept it?" the angry father said. [Ibid]
“In analyzing these cases, Waseda University Prof. Kazuyuki Sasakura, who serves as the director of the university's administrative section in charge of student affairs, said, "I think [problems arise] because an increasing number of students attending [universities] live with their parents." Universities and graduate colleges are baffled over how to handle demanding parents. "But we can't afford to ignore their requests and complaints as they have chosen us as the university for their children," Sasakura said. [Ibid]
Image Sources: 1) 6) Jun from Goods from Japan 2) 3) Wikipedia 4) Tokyo Pictures 5) Guven Peter Witteveen 7) Ray Kinnane
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated October 2012