UNIVERSITIES IN JAPAN: RANKING,STUDENT LIFE AND PROBLEMS

UNIVERSITIES IN JAPAN

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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 *+*]

In 2003, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of high school graduates went on to higher education, including colleges (44.6 percent; 42.7 percent for boys and 46.6 percent for girls) and specialized training colleges (18.9 percent; 16.1 percent for boys and 21.7 percent for girls). On the other hand, 16.6 percent went to work, while 10.3 percent entered neither colleges, specialized training colleges nor the workforce (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). The enrollment rate of colleges has increased among students from non-metropolitan areas since 1975, when the government began to establish new colleges all over Japan (Aramaki 2000:30-31). However, though decreasing, regional discrepancies are still striking. Only one-third of high school graduates in the northern and southern prefectures attended college. In contrast, half of all high school graduates in the urban prefectures and the western prefectures attended (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). Since almost half of all high school graduates enter college, admission into colleges, with the exception of the most competitive colleges, is possible. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

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

Higher Education and Universities in Japan

Almost two-thirds of Japanese high school students attend college or specialized training colleges after graduation. The competition to enter prestigious colleges remains intense. But a college education has become much more accessible. In fact, the falling birthrate has forced many private colleges to find creative ways to meet their quotas. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Each academic year begins in April and comprises of two semesters. Basic general degrees are four-year degrees, a feature adapted from the American system. Undergraduate students receive instruction via the lecture and seminar group method. The general degree may be followed by two-year Master's degrees (generally a combination of lectures and guided research) and then a three year Doctorate (largely based on research) where these are offered.[Source: Education in Japan website educationinjapan.wordpress.com **]

Graduate education in Japan is underdeveloped compared to European countries and the United States with only slightly more than 7 percent of Japanese undergraduates going on to graduate school as compared to 13 percent of American undergraduates. Postgraduate educational offerings are weak and the number of universities offering postgraduate programmes or a wide variety of programmes, is small, compared to that in other industrialized western countries. **

Japan has about three million students enrolled in 1,200 universities and junior colleges and consequently the second largest higher educational system in the developed world. Japan also has one of the largest systems of private higher education in the world. The 710 odd universities in Japan can be separated into 3 categories: highly competitive, mildly competitive and non-competitive (the schools that are first-tier being the infamously difficult to enter ones). Public universities are generally more prestigious than their private ones with only 25 percent of all university-bound students being admitted to public universities. **

More than 65 percent of high school graduates continue their studies; of these, over 70 percent are enrolled in private colleges and universities. Only about 10 percent of private institutions receive their financial resources from public funding, with most public funds on higher education being spent on the national and local public universities. Despite the impressive statistics, Japanese universities are considered to be the weakest link in the country's educational system. **

Japanese students are also widely known to traditionally consider their university days to be a social playground, a reward for the hard work and having made it there, and, as many critics have recently pointed, professors demand relatively little from their students. Brian McVeigh in his book Japanese Higher Education as Myth indicts the local university system as a de facto system of employment agencies or at best a waiting room before students hit the assembly line working world. **

For information and research on individual institutions, please refer to the lists of universities and colleges that are maintained by: 1) The Science University of Tokyo; 2) Colleges.com website; 3) Yamasa.org website (in English or Japanese) has a useful search function (by location/name) by which information about the entrance requirements of a particular university or graduate school may be obtained.

College Education in Japan

In 2004, all national universities and their affiliated institutions, as well as prefectural and municipal universities became independent educational foundations (gyo-sei ho-jin), in a series of deregulatory reforms. Then, a university president has more authority to administer the university, such as determining tuition, and funds. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

In 1987, the College Council, composed of college educators and business leaders, was created to reform college education, as proposed by the National Council on Educational Reform (Rinkyo-shin). In its 1991 report, the College Council recommended the introduction of an independent evaluation system, and the expansion of graduate schools. Since 1991, each college has had the right to design its own curriculum without the requirement of liberal-arts general courses. By 1997, about 97 percent of colleges had reformed their curricula in order to attract more students and survive (Kuroki 1999:38). ~

Like colleges in the United States, many colleges have begun to use syllabi, evaluation sheets, teaching assistants and research assistants, as well as accepting more adult students and transfer students. More than three-fourths of colleges use student evaluations, and 60 percent enforce the “faculty development” by having professors observe each other in the classroom (AS September 19, 2003). The transfer system from junior colleges, five-year colleges of technology, and specialized training colleges to four-year colleges has been promoted. Since 1999, graduates from specialized training colleges can transfer to four-year colleges. For the promotion of lifelong education, more colleges have introduced a special quota for non-traditional students. Since 1990, students have been able to receive credit from courses that they have audited. Night graduate schools and correspondence graduate schools have been open since 1989 and 1998, respectively. ~

Since 2000, three-year undergraduate courses, and one-year master’s courses were introduced in the name of deregulation. Since lifting the age requirements for college entrants in 1997, students who excel in mathematics and physics can skip a grade, and attend college at the age of 17. In 1999, six 17-year-olds enrolled in college. ~

Issues Facing Higher Education in Japan

Japan has already begun to experience a population decline, with the result that many universities are already having difficulty maintaining their student populations, although entry into top ranks of the universities remains hugely competitive. The emerging and foreseeable trend is that many universities will have to try to attract large numbers of foreigners or diversify or face closure. It is also now said that a university education in Japan is within easier reach of students today, but that the quality of that higher education is now in question despite the many educational reforms that have been set in motion. [Source: Education in Japan website educationinjapan.wordpress.com **]

In his book Challenges to Higher Education: University in Crisis Professor Ikuo Amano noted that the critical public is far from being satisfied with these series of reforms. The reason is that the selection process of old for entry to the so-called 'first-tier universities' remains fundamentally unchanged. That is, there has been nothing done to ameliorate the entrance war for entry into these most notoriously difficult to enter institutions that are at the nucleus of an examination based on numerous subjects. **

Furthermore, in a society that places more importance on 'credentialization' or labelization or branding (gakkooreki) of the name of the school from which one graduates, than on simply possessing a university education, no matter how much the selection process of the university applicants is reformed, students will continue to strive to enter a small number of 'top-tier' or 'brand-name' universities (gakureki) and the severe examination war will not disappear. In this sense, the university entrance reform is a permanent issue for Japanese universities. **

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]

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.

University Costs in Japan

In 2004, the government set a standard tuition of national universities for the 2005-6 school year, 535,800 yen, but each national university can set its own tuition (AS December 15, 2004). In 2001, the average tuition of private colleges amounted to 800,000 yen, 1.6 times more than the tuition of national colleges, 497,000 yen (Chu-o- Kyo-iku 2001). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

College costs, especially for private institutions, are quite high, as are living expenses for out-of-town students. Although there are some scholarships and student loans, most parents pay their children’s college expenses. Living expenses are much cheaper if college students remain at home. In the 2002-3 school year, students who attended private colleges and rented an apartment spent an average of 2.61 million yen (Monbukagakusho- 2004d). In the United States, annual prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board for the 2002-03 academic year were estimated at $8,556 at public colleges and $23,503 at private colleges (NCES 2004a). ~

Many parents work hard to send their children to college. Many mothers say that one of main reasons they returned to work after child rearing is to finance their children’s college education. Tax exemption for college tuitions would help parents send their children to college in an era of recession. Need-based scholarships and student loans are available. In 2000, approximately 437,000 college students were receiving loans from the Japanese Scholarship Society. Students in public colleges received 41,000 to 47,000 yen a month in no-interest loans, while those in private colleges received 50,000 yen to 60,000 yen (AS June 8, 2000). ~

According to one calculation, the costs of college education (4 million yen) and four years outside of the work force (11 million yen) amount to 15 million yen. The lifetime income difference between high school graduates and college graduates is estimated at 75 million yen. If high school graduates saved 15 million yen at a six percent interest rate, they would make 75 million in their lifetime. Therefore, college education does not make much of a difference in lifetime earnings (Yano 1998:112-113). ~

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

University Professors in Japan

College professors are among the most respected people in Japan, though their salaries are modest. In 1997, the MOE implemented a system of contract appointments for college instructors, in addition to the current tenure system. Since 1999, each college has been required to engage in faculty development. The gender gap between male and female college professors is striking, although the number of female professors has been increasing. As of 2003, only 15.3 percent of professors in four-year colleges are female. In addition, in junior colleges where 88.0 percent of students are female, 46.1 percent of the professors are female (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

The Association of National Universities plans to see the percentage of the ratio of female professors rise from 6.6 percent in 1998 to 20 percent by 2010. The Association uses “positive action,” and requests universities to operate nursery schools. In the United States, 39.6 percent of college professors are female; the number is 13.8 percent in France, 8.5 percent in England, and 5.9 percent in Germany (AS June 6, 2000; Nikkei Shinbun Evening July 2 2001). ~

In 1987, the College Council, composed of college educators and business leaders, was created to reform college education, as proposed by the National Council on Educational Reform (Rinkyo-shin). In its 1991 report, the College Council recommended the introduction of an independent evaluation system, and the expansion of graduate schools. Since 1991, each college has had the right to design its own curriculum without the requirement of liberal-arts general courses. By 1997, about 97 percent of colleges had reformed their curricula in order to attract more students and survive (Kuroki 1999:38). ~

Universities in Japan

There are 710 universities (not counting junior colleges). Almost three-fourths of university students are enrolled at private universities. The rate of students who went on to universities and junior colleges was 44.8 percent. [Source: Education in Japan website educationinjapan.wordpress.com ]

Neither public nor private colleges generate much income apart from government subsidies and tuition. The government promotes cooperation between research universities and high technology companies’ Research and Development (R&D) departments. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to create three educational facilities for entrepreneurs in the vicinity of the University of Tokyo, the University of Kyoto, and Ritsumeikan University. These measures are intended to raise the number of university-affiliated business ventures from 240 to 1,000 within three years (AS August 21 2002). The MOE endorsed a world-class research plan through the “Center of Excellence (COE) Program for the 21st Century” in 2002, and 133 research plans from 56 colleges were selected in 2003. Furthermore, the MOE started the program to support college education with distinguished programs in 2003 and selected 80 programs to improve college education (Monbukagakusho- 2004b:55-58). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

The University of Tokyo established a fund-raising company for business ventures that was based upon student and faculty research. As of 2004, 36 Technology License Organizations (TLOs) have been founded to apply technology that academic researchers have developed to businesses. The TLOs identifies worthwhile academic projects, licenses them for business use, and collects users’ fees from business for academic researchers. The TLOs submitted 1,619 patent applications in FY 2002. Furthermore, there are increasing venture businesses starting from colleges from 128 in 2000 to 614 enterprises in 2003 (AS February 8, 2004). ~

Four-Year Universities and Colleges in Japan

All colleges are academically ranked. Preparatory cram schools for college examinations (yobiko-) publish rankings every year, according to entrants’ standard deviations on mock exams. Public universities include selective universities like the University of Tokyo, local national universities, prefectural and municipal universities, and junior colleges. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

The number of transfer students to four-year colleges had increased after the launching of the transfer system, peaked in 2000, and then decreased slightly. The transfer system is similar to the agreements between community colleges and four-year universities in the United States. In 2003, about 10,000 transfer students have come from junior colleges; 2,500 from five-year colleges of technology; and 1,800 from specialized training colleges (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). Under the transfer system, students who did not do well in high school or on their college entrance examinations can still enter a competitive college. The transfer system needs to be more widely publicized and promoted.

More students than ever are now enrolled in correspondence courses. In 2003, the number of students in correspondence courses from thirty-five colleges amounted to 235,000 undergraduates and 14,000 graduate students, in addition to 25,000 students enrolled in correspondence courses from ten junior colleges (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). The University of the Air, a public correspondence university established in 1983, broadcast its classes to 89,000 students through TV, radio, and other media in the second semester of 2002 (Naikakufu 2003a:115).

Private Colleges in Japan

Three-fourths of four-year colleges are private institutions. The government subsidizes about 10 percent of their administrative budgets. Other budgetary costs are financed by tuitions. Therefore, many private colleges offer affordable education through part-time courses, correspondence courses, and humanities and social science courses taught by part-time instructors. Almost all students in private colleges major in humanities or social science because those majors are the least costly. The drawbacks of the private college system include higher costs and higher student-instructor ratios. This ratio is 24.8:1 in private universities and colleges, and 9.8:1 in national universities (Amano 1996:71-77). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

In 2003, 73.5 percent of college students attended private colleges (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). Many less selective private colleges have a difficult time drawing sufficient revenue to operate, due to the drastic decrease of applicants caused by the decreasing number of children. Almost one-fourth of four-year private colleges and almost half of private junior colleges ran deficits in 2001-2002, because of the decreasing number of students. Student fees of private colleges can account for almost 60 percent of an institution’s income. The average income per private college decreased by 845 million yen, 7 percent of total income for the previous five years (AS January 3, 2003). The Japanese Federation of Private Colleges advised financially troubled private colleges to merge with other colleges or to shut down (AS June 10, 2001). ~

In 2004, 29.1 percent of private colleges and 41.0 percent of private junior colleges fell short of their quotas of new students (AS August 4, 2004). Private colleges need to have at least 50 percent of the full quota to receive government subsidies, though exemptions are granted to original or unique private colleges (AS June 28, 2000). Since 2003, the government has limited the duration of exemptions to three years. Since 1970, the government has subsidized private colleges, though these subsidies have been cut from 30 percent of revenues in the early 1980s to 12.2 percent in 2002 (Monbukagakusho- 2004b:66). In the 2001-2 school year, private colleges received an average subsidy of 166,000 yen per student (AS September 26, 2003). ~

Most of the famous private universities have attached high schools including Keio, Waseda, and Hosei.

Prestigious Japanese Universities

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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.

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Tokyo University

Rankings of Japanese universities and colleges in 2010 according to 4ICU: 1) Keio University; 2) The University of Tokyo; 3) Waseda University; 4) Osaka University; 5) Hokkaido University; 6) Tokyo Institute of Technology; 7) Hiroshima University; 8) Kobe University; 9) Kyoto University; 10) Nihon University; 11) Meiji University; 12) University of Tsukuba; 13) Doshisha University; 14) Hosei University; 15) Tohoku University; 16) Kyushu University; 17) Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; 18) Nagoya University; 19) Tokai University; 20) Chuo University.

2006 Kawaijuku Ranking of National Universities: 1) Tokyo; 2) Kyoto; 3) Osaka; 4) Tokyo Institute of Technology; 5) Tohoku; 6) Keio; 7) Kyushu; 8) Nagoya; 9) Hokkaido; 10) Tsukuba; 11) Kobe; 12) Chiba; 13) Waseda; 14) Hiroshima; 15) Kanazawa; 16) Okayama; 17) Tokyo University of Science; 18) Tokyo Metropolitan University; 19) Tokyo Medical and Dental University; 20) Osaka City University; 21) Niigata; 22) Kumamoto; 23) Tokushima; 24) Osaka Prefecture University; 25) Gifu; 26) Tokyo) University of Agriculture and Technology; 27) Yokohama National University; 28) Yamaguchi; 29) Nagoya City University; 30) Kagoshima. Based on Subject and Average Admissions Score on National University Examinations (based on four factors: research funding (Kaken only), citations of research publications, entrance exam difficulty, and a reputation survey.

In 2001 the Ministry of Education sought to strengthen the “Top 30" universities by changing the funding model. Various “Top 30" lists that were floated at the time, but Kawaijuku prep school’s is probably by the most well known one in terms of the overall general public standing and reputation of universities.

Ranking of Japanese Universities and Colleges by Department

Yoyogi University Prep School rankings of Universities: A) Law & Economics: 1) Tokyo 1/93 percent; 2) Kyoto 2/91 percent; 3) Osaka 3/90 percent; 4) Nagoya 4/89 percent; 5) Hitotsubashi 4/89 percent; 6) Kobe 5/87 percent; 7) Kyushu 8/86 percent; 8) Tohoku 8/86; 9) Yokohama National 11/84 percent; 10) Hokkaido 13/83 percent; 11) Nagoya City 13/83 percent; 12) Osaka City 15/80 percent; 13) Kanazawa 15/80 percent.

Schools are ranked by department in the Yoyogi ranking. The ranking is an average of each university’s department rank (in three departments). Yoyogi college preparation (or cram) school — possibly the nation’s most famous and relied upon by academics — produces a series of annual rankings of public and private university departments based on the average score that students must earn on the national university admissions examination for entry.

B) Art & Literature: 1) Tokyo 1/91-93 percent; 2) Kyoto 1 91-93 percent; 3) Ochanomizu 2/89 percent; 4) Osaka 4/88 percent; 5) Hitotsubashi 5/88 percent; 6) Kanazawa & Nagoya & Kobe 10/86 percent; 9) Osaka City, Yokohama National 14 / 85 percent. C) Science & Engineering: 1) Tokyo 1/92-94 percent; 2) Kyoto 3/91 percent; 3) Osaka 5/89 percent; 4) Kyushu 6/88 percent; 5) Ochanomizu 6/88 percent; 6) Nagoya & Osaka City & Nagoya City 9/86 percent; 9) Tohoku & Kobe & Hokkaido 11/85 percent; 12) Yokohama National & Kanazawa 14/84 percent. D) Medicine: Tokyo 1/95 percent; 2) Nagoya 2/94 percent; 3) Hokkaido & Kyushu 3/94 percent; 5) Kyoto & Osaka 3/93 percent; 7) Kobe & Osaka City & Nagoya City 8/92 percent. (Schools are ranked and beside the ranking is the average of each university’s department rank. Only the top 16 universities for each departmental league table were considered.)

Yoyogi University Prep School 2006 rankings of for private universities: A) Law & Economics: 1) Keio & Waseda & 1/69; 3) Jochi (Sophia) 3/65; 4) Doshisha & Chuo 4/64 percent; 5) Ritsumeikan & Rikkyo 7/63 percent; 6) Tsudajuku 9/62 percent; 7) Meiji & Aoyamagakuin 10/61 percent; 8) Gakushuin 12/59 percent.

B) Art & Literature: 1) Waseda 1/69 percent; 2) Keio 2/69 percent; 3) Int Christian U & Jochi (Sophia) 3/63 percent; 5) Tsudajuku 6/62 percent; 6) Rikkyo 7/61 percent; 7) Doshisha & Chuo & Nanzan 8/60 percent; 10) Meiji & Kansai Gakuin & Aoyamgakuin & Gakushuin 11/59 percent. C) Science & Engineering Keio: 1) 1/64 percent; 2) Waseda 2/63 percent; 3) Doshisha & Tokyo U of Science and ICU 3/60 percent; 6) Jochi & Meiji 6/59 percent; 8) Ritsumeikan 8/58 percent; 9) Rikkyo & Kansai Gakuin 9/57 percent; 11) Tsudajuku 11/56 percent; 12) Aoyamagakuin & Nanzan 15/55 percent. D) Medical, dental, pharmacy, agriculture: 1) Keio 70 percent; 2) Jikei University and Osaka Medical College, 67 percent ; 4) Nippon Medical School 66 percent; 5) Juntendo. Kansai Medical University, Kurume, 65 percent; 8) Iwate Medical University, Jichi Medical University, Kyorin, Showa, Tokyo Medical University, Tokyo University of Science, Aichi Medical University and Kinki, 64 percent.

Other rankings maintained by Asahi Shimbun and Recruit Ltd that indicate the quality of institutions are not displayed here. There are also other lists of top Japanese Universities, some broken down by field of study, and which are provided by World Education Services on their Japan page.

Ranking of Japanese Universities and Colleges Within Asia

Regional and international standing of Japanese universities vary considerably.

Webometrics Top Asia Universities are ranked as follows: 1) University of Tokyo 54; 2) National Taiwan University 70; 3) Kyoto University 89; 4) National University of Singapore 111; 5) Beijing University 112; 6) Chinese University of Hong Kong 123; 7) University of Hong Kong 148; 8) Hebrew University of Jerusalem 153; 9) Keio University 165; 10) Tel Aviv University 202; 11) Weizmann Institute of Science 225; 12) University of Tsukuba 234; 13) Technion Israel Institute of Technology 236; 14) Tsinghua University China 238; 15) National Chiao Tung University 239; 16) National Sun Yat-Sen University 242; 17) Nagoya University 256; 18) Osaka University 266; 19) Tohoku University 284; 20) Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

According to 4ICU’s rankings Keio University ranks 6th on the Asian universities ranking page after 5 Chinese universities, while University of Tokyo only comes in 18th followed by Waseda University in 28th place.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s list of the Top 100 Asia Pacific Universities gives the rankings as follows ( world ranking at end): 1) Tokyo Univ Japan 14; 2) Kyoto Univ Japan 21; 3) Australian Natl Univ Australia 53; 4) Osaka Univ Japan 54; 5) Tohoku Univ Japan 69; 6) Univ Melbourne Australia 82; 7) Hebrew Univ Jerusalem Israel 90; 8) Nagoya Univ Japan 97; 9-17) Hokkaido Univ Japan 101-152; 9-17 Kyushu Univ Japan 101-152; 9-17 Natl Univ Singapore Singapore 101-152; 9-17 Tel Aviv Univ Israel 101-152; 9-17 Tokyo Inst Tech Japan 101-152; 9-17 Tsukuba Univ Japan 101-152; 9-17 Univ Queensland Australia 101-152; 9-17 Univ Sydney Australia 101-152; 9-17 Weizmann Inst Sci Israel 101-152; 18-21) Natl Taiwan Univ China-tw 153-201; 18-21 Seoul Natl Univ South Korea 153-201; 18-21 Univ New South Wales Australia 153-201; 18-21 Univ Western Australia Australia 153-201; 22-37) Chinese Univ Hong Kong China-hk 202-301; 22-37 Hiroshima Univ Japan 202-301; 22-37 Hong Kong Univ Sci & Tech China-hk 202-301; 22-37 Indian Inst Sci India 202-301; 22-37 Keio Univ Japan 202-301; 22-37 Kobe Univ Japan.

Too Many Universities in Japan?

In November 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “ The number of universities, excluding open universities, in the nation reached 783 this year, 1.5 times what it was 20 years ago. The increase is partly due to the government's relaxation of the regulations on establishing such institutions. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 4, 2012 /=/]

“In 1991, the then Education Ministry eased university establishment standards, opening the door for further diversification of educational content in college faculties. Since fiscal 2003, under the administration of then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the government has taken the stance of checking universities after they have been established rather than controlling them in advance, making it easier for more entities to set up universities.Based on this policy, the government introduced a new system in which a third-party body regularly evaluates universities after they have opened. It is believed that this new system eventually led to the establishment of a surplus of universities across the nation. /=/

“From educational corporations to local governments, organizations that hope to create universities are required to apply to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry by the end of March each year. The ministry's advisory council that oversees the process screens applicants based on such criteria as a financial plan, sufficient teachers, school sites and buildings. It submits a final report to the minister in October. Since 1964, only 11 applications to set up new universities, including a two-year college and a graduate school, had been rejected for such reasons as not having enough lecturers to teach university-level classes or inadequate curriculum. /=/

Graduate Schools in Japan

Graduate schools were traditionally open only to college graduates who sought careers in higher education and research. The College Council recommended in 1988 that graduate programs accept a wider variety of applicants. Many graduate schools have tried to emulate graduate schools in the United States. Collaborate research between universities and businesses has become more widespread. Graduate schools have become more open to working adults and homemakers, and offer night classes. Since 1999, graduate schools accept students without a bachelor’s degree, if they are 22 years old or older. Starting in 1999, one-year master’s courses and long-term master’s courses have been set up to make it easier for working adults complete a degree. Many graduate schools have more teaching assistants and research assistants than ever before. In addition, the system of professional graduate schools has been recognized since April 2003. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

When graduate schools with master’s and doctoral programs began in 1950, there were 189 master’s degree students. By 1955, there were more than 10,000 students. All of the national universities and two-thirds of private colleges have graduate programs. The majority of graduate school students attend national universities. In 1998, 60 percent of graduate students in MA programs and 70 percent of them in Ph.D. programs were enrolled at national universities (Amano 2003:220). The number of graduate students continued to rise from 122,360 in 1993 to 231,489 in 2003 (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). Nevertheless, graduate students are still much fewer in Japan than in the United States. In 1999, the ratio of graduate students to the overall population was 1.4 per 1000 in Japan while in the United States it was 7.7 graduate students per 1,000 in 1997 (Monbusho- 1999b). In the United States, by 1997, 30 percent of those who received a bachelor’s degree in 1992-93 were registered in graduate schools. There are many part-time graduate students in the United States (NCES 2000). ~

Graduate schools have become very popular because many college graduates opt to attend graduate schools to pursue better jobs with a higher degree, after failing to find jobs because of the decade-long recession. Many highly educated homemakers and retirees are taking graduate classes because they see a graduate degree as a status symbol. Moreover, many private colleges have been aggressively recruiting graduate students in order to remain financially solvent. ~

Among 76,000 students (29 percent female students) who entered a master’s program in 2003, 78.5 percent were their early 20s, 10.8 percent were (working) adults, and 7.2 percent were foreign students. Among 159,000 people in the master’s program, 39.6 percent majored in engineering, 14.3 percent in social science, 8.7 percent in science, 8.1 percent in the humanities, 7.3 percent in education, and 5.2 percent in agriculture. Among 67,000 recipients of master’s degrees in March 2003, 14.3 percent pursued a doctoral degree and 64.5 percent entered the work force. Among those who went to work, 59.5 percent became technical workers, 8.8 percent became teachers, and 4.7 percent became science researchers (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). ~

In 2003, 18,000 people (28 percent female students) entered Ph.D. courses. Among 71,000 Ph.D. students, 27.9 percent majored in medicine and dentistry, 18.5 percent in engineering, 10.4 percent in the humanities, 10.4 percent in social science, 8.7 percent in science, and 6.1 percent in agriculture, and 21.1 percent were (working) adults. Among 15,000 Ph.D. recipients, 54.4 percent of them went to work as teachers (28.8 percent); health and medical workers (27.5 percent); science researchers (20.7 percent); and technical workers (14.1 percent) (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). ~

Majors of M.A., and Ph.D. Students: 1) M.A. students (percent): A) Humanities: 8.1 percent; B) Social Science: 14.2 percent; C) Science: 8.7 percent; D) Engineering: 39.6 percent; E) Agriculture: 5.2 percent; F) Medicine and Dentistry: 0.7 percent; G) Pharmacy: 3.0 percent; H) Home economics: 7.3 percent; I) Education: 7.3 percent; J) Others: 13.1 percent. 2) Ph.D. students ( percent): A) Humanities: 10.4 percent; B) Social Science: 10.4 percent; C) Science: 8,7 percent; D) Engineering: 18.5 percent; E) Agriculture: 6.1 percent; F) Medicine and Dentistry: 27.9 percent; G) Pharmacy: 1.7 percent; H) Home economics: 2.4 percent; I) Education: 2.4 percent; J) Others: 13.9 percent. Note: Home economics majors in Masters courses and PhD courses are included in “Others.” [Source: Monbukagakusho- 2004a; Monbusho- 2000b ~]

Law Schools and Accounting Schools in Japan

In April 2004, 68 law schools with 5,590 students started. Twenty of these institutions were national, two were prefectural or municipal and 46 were private. The three-year law schools are designed and modeled on the U.S. law schools. Two-year courses are also open to those who have already acquired a legal background. The success rate of a bar examination of graduates of the law schools will be expected to be 34 percent. The success rate of the current bar examinations open to the public was around 3 percent in 2003 (AS May 13, 2004; AS October 17, 2004; Murakami 2003). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

See Law Schools Under Justice System

Furthermore, several private colleges are interested in establishing two-year accounting schools. The government plans to increase the number of certified public accountants from 14,000 to 50,000 by 2018 (AS June 28, 2003). The MOE and the Department of Health, Labor and Welfare have also decided to require pharmacy students to study for six rather than four years. ~

Junior Colleges in Japan

Under the transformation of higher education in 1949, the prewar specialized training colleges that did not become four-year universities became junior colleges. In 1950, more than 15,000 students were attending 149 junior colleges. By 1964, the government recognized the junior college system. By 1965, the number of junior colleges had doubled and the number of junior college students was ten times greater than in 1950 (Ban 1998:242). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Junior colleges have taught so-called “women’s subjects” such as home economics, humanities, and education to an overwhelming number of women, 90 percent of the student body. Therefore, junior colleges are frequently called “schools for brides” where young women hope to improve their marriage prospects. In 2003, 525 junior colleges (88.2 percent of which were private) provided instruction in education (25.6 percent); home economics (22.5 percent); humanities (15.1 percent); social science (13.4 percent); and public health (9.7 percent) for 250,000 students (88.0 percent female) mostly between the ages of 18 to 20 (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). The popularity of public health programs is growing, in response to the aging of Japanese society. ~

Among 119,000 junior college graduates in March 2003, 59.7 percent obtained a full-time job, 11.1 percent transferred to four-year colleges, 8.4 percent found temporary jobs, and 19.4 percent neither obtained a job or returned to school. The employment rate was 59.7 percent in 2003 because of the recession. Many junior college graduates work as Office Ladies (“OL”) in private companies before marrying or bearing children. They obtained a job in fields such as clerical (26.7 percent), sales (10.5 percent), and professional and technical (51.2 percent), including jobs in health care/medical (16.9 percent) and education (mainly at preschool/kindergarten) (10.5 percent)(Monbukagakusho- 2004a). ~

The number of junior college students fell from 525,000 in 1992 to 250,062 in 2002 (Monbukagakusho- 2002a, Monbukagakusho- 2004a). The decrease has caused great concern among private junior colleges that rely upon tuition fees. Junior colleges have lost popularity to four-year colleges and specialized training colleges. Admission into four-year colleges has become more accessible as the number of 18-year-olds decline. Specialized training colleges that teach marketable technical skills provide better employment opportunities than do junior colleges. ~

In the 1980s, far more female high school students entered junior colleges than four-year colleges. Since 1995, female students have shown a preference for four-year colleges (Chu-nichi Shinbun May 15, 1999, evening edition). In 1990, only 18.7 percent of female students applied to a four-year college, while in 1997, 30.1 percent of them did (Okushima 1998:110-111). ~

Several prestigious junior women’s colleges have been integrated into four-year colleges. In 2001, 54.8 percent of private junior colleges could not meet their admissions quotas. Fifty junior colleges did not even meet half of their quotas (AS July 6, 2001). Since 1991, junior colleges have begun to accept part-time students, recognize units from other institutions, expand the transfer system, and establish an associate’s degree for junior college graduates (Ban 1998:242) Five-Year Colleges of Technology (Ko-to- Senmon Gakko-). ~

In 1962, five-year colleges of technology (ko-to- senmon gakko-) were established to produce technicians. In 2003, 63 five-year colleges of technology, including 55 national ones, had 58,000 students enrolled after middle schools. More than 80 percent of the student population is male (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). Entrance into a five-year college of technology has been competitive because many graduates obtain jobs in large companies. Many incoming students are high-achievers who prefer five-year colleges of technology to second best academic high schools. The best students usually attend elite academic high schools rather than five-year colleges of technology. ~

Among 10,000 graduates in 2003, 39.2 percent (cf., 14.7 percent in 1992) transferred to four-year colleges. Graduates of five-year colleges of technology also worked in manufacturing (48.5 percent), service (18.8 percent), telecommunication (8.6 percent), construction (8.0 percent), and public service (4.7 percent). Nearly all graduates (87.2 percent) obtained technical positions (Monbukagakusho- 2002a, Monbukagakusho- 2004a). ~

Recurrent Education in Higher Education in Japan

As the government has promoted recurrent education, the number of non-traditional students has been increasing. Many adult workers feel it necessary for their career advancement to keep up with the rapid changes in high technology. Also, the recession has sent many unemployed people back to school to obtain technical skills and certificates. Furthermore, the increasing number of retirees that have the time and money to attend colleges for their pleasure adds to the population of non-traditional students. Many colleges have been aggressively recruiting these non-traditional students for their own survival because the drastically decreasing numbers of young people in Japan has caused many private colleges to fall into debt or be on the verge of bankruptcy. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Since the 1990s, many colleges have provided more night courses, correspondence courses, public lecture courses, part-time courses, and an audit system for non-traditional students. In 2003, 143 colleges provided night courses for 110,000 students, and 21 colleges had night graduate schools. In 2003, 235,000 students, including 14,000 graduate students, enrolled in correspondence courses at thirty-five colleges. One-third (32.6 percent) of 191,000 undergraduates majored in social science, and 15.8 percent in education. Two-thirds (65.8 percent) of 25,000 students in correspondence courses at junior colleges majored in education and 26.0 percent in social science (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). ~

Since April 1985, the University of the Air, a public correspondence university, began to take students through open admission, and since 1998 the classes have been broadcasted nationwide via satellite. Starting in April 2002, the university provides the courses for master’s degrees. The 89,000 number student body (38 percent part-time students) in the second semester of 2002 consisted of 21.3 percent in their 20s, 27.7 percent in their 30s, and 19.8 percent in their 40s. The students included company employees, homemakers, the unemployed, civil servants, the self-employed, teachers, and farmers (Naikakufu 2003a:115). ~

In 2003, 12.4 percent of students studying for their master’s degree (20,000) and 21.1 percent of Ph.D. students (15,000) were (working) adults who returned to school (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). A night graduate school system was established in 1990, and 21 night graduate schools operate in metropolitan areas. In addition, graduate schools started to offer correspondence courses in 1998. In 2003, 14,000 graduate students studied education, humanities and other subjects from 15 graduate schools (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). ~

Adult students are more likely to come from more privileged backgrounds. Career development through job training in corporations is usually open to male workers. Only large established companies send their employees to graduate schools for off-the-job training. This creates insufficient opportunities for the career development of women, and for workers in medium and small-sized companies (Yano 1990:149-150). According to a 1994 survey, the respondents hoped for expanded subsidies and tax deductions for recurrent education (39.9 percent), classes on Saturdays and Sundays (30.4 percent), longer part-time courses (16.7 percent), night classes (16.4 percent) and satellite classes (10.9 percent) to make it easier for working adults to participate (Monbusho- 1996:110). ~

Since December 1998, the government has subsidized workers who take employment-related classes. More than 400,000 workers have used the system. The budget for 2001 was 35 billion yen. Since December 1998, the system of “Tuition Scholarships for Middle-aged Workers” has covered half of tuition expenses (up to 100,000 yen) for people 40 years of age or older. Since April 2000, the government has subsidized 80 percent of tuition for workers who return to school or take correspondence courses. It raised the maximum scholarship to 300,000 yen, not only for classes that are useful for re-employment, but also for classes in cultural enrichment. It also stated that “introductory and basic level lectures are not eligible, but elementary English conversation is eligible.” Workers who have contributed to the Employment Insurance Pension for five years or more are eligible for these scholarships. Even if they lose their jobs, but have begun the courses within one year of losing their jobs, they can still receive subsidies. Afterwards, they must look for employment at the Public Employment Placement Center (“Hello Work”) within a month after completion. Those who just started working, part-time workers, and contract workers are ineligible. Critics points out that the effectiveness of these classes is unproven (AS April 16, 2000; AS June 23, 2001). ~

In the United States, part-time students represented 42.5 percent of 14,300,000 postsecondary enrollments in 1996 (NCES 2000). Community colleges play an important role in recurrent education. Community colleges provide instruction in general education and vocational training through an open admission system, affordable tuition, and a transfer system to four-year colleges. They also offer classes on evenings and weekends. In 1996-97, 9.3 million students took classes for credit, and about 5 million people took non-credit classes. In 1997, 46 percent of students were 25 years old or older, and 63.3 percent were part-time students (Phillippe 2000). ~

Problems at Japanese Universities

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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]

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 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

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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: Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~; Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated December 2013

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