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The challenges of upheaval in japanese higher education crisis or opportunity ace2011


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David L. Brooks
Associate Professor, Kitasato University
Sagamihara, Kanagawa, Japan

A presentation at Asian Conference on Education ACE 2011, Osaka, Japan on Oct 28, 2011

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  • 1. The Challenges of Upheaval in JapaneseHigher Education: Crisis or Opportunity? By David L. Brooks Associate Professor, Kitasato University Sagamihara, Kanagawa, JapanA presentation at Asian Conference on Education ACE 2011, Osaka, Japan on Oct 28, 2011
  • 2. ACE 2011 Asian Conference on Education Ramada Hotel, Osaka, Japan October 27-30, 2011 David Brooks m CoveritLive Live Blogging of ACE 2011 at:
  • 3. Upheaval in Society• Massive changes in Japanese society are currently having an enormous impact on many aspects of how the nation operates, and in its global interrelationships.• The last of Japans infrastructure to be bombarded by this tidal wave of change is the educational system.• HE seems to be the last bulwark against change. Alas, change in inevitable.• What will the effects of such change entail for higher education in Japan?
  • 4. This cross-cultural perspective on thesituation facing Japanese higher education is based on: • This presenter’s first-hand qualitative observations and participation in schooling in Japan, and elsewhere. • His personal journey as an educational participant teacher, scholarly observer, fellow faculty member, teacher trainer, student adviser, researcher, educational technology consultant • Active critic of higher education systems over the past nearly 40 years. • Experience in 3 nations’ higher education as student, faculty, parent
  • 5. HE Experience• Thirty-two years working in education in Japan• As an international school teacher for 16 years (grades K-9)• Then 3 years as an adjunct instructor (part-time) at eight different Japanese institutions of higher learning• Now a full-time nearly 12 years as an associate professor of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at a well regarded medical, health and life sciences university with five campus across the country and three major research hospitals, located near Tokyo.• Attended 5 universities for undergraduate and graduate coursework in the US• Took courses as universities in 4 countries (US, France, Australia, Japan)• Visited dozens of universities in a nearly 20 other countries, many in Asia.
  • 6. A Typhoon of Change• Diminishing population of student „eligible‟ for HE• Escalating intra-university competition for students, faculty, research funding, and sponsorship have already led to the demise of a number of small private universities.• There is a strong view that others may suffer a similar fate or that mergers might occur.• There is a palpable sense of change blowing across Japanese universities.• Lack of clarity and sense of resolve from MEXT• Their new autonomy is greeted with a mixture of apprehension and opportunity.
  • 7. Why is Japan’s HE in flux?• Demographic changes - decrease of 18-24 year olds – This „deficit‟ of students is on-going and increasing.• Financial imperative – Japan is the world‟s largest debtor nation - Budgetary constraints arise from drives for greater accountability, increased competition, and dwindling tax revenues. – Because of its effect on competitiveness, schools are reluctant to raise tuition. – More than half of „so-called‟ private universities receive at least 50% of the operating income from MEXT (tax monies). This fact is one of the many absurd paradoxes that Japanese seem eagerly accept.
  • 8. Tough Times• Japan, like other OECD countries, is facing a demographic transformation – declining numbers of prospective HE students and increasing numbers of older people – a financial crunch at a time when global competition is demanding greater investment in higher education, especially in RDI.
  • 9. Lack of students• 46 percent of the nations roughly 550 private universities are missing their recruitment targets, the highest level ever.• More than 40 percent are reportedly in debt.• Many are a bank loan away from the fate of St. Thomas (Example case later) and the four other colleges that stopped accepting students this year.
  • 10. Lack of Educational Funding• According OECD 2011 Yearbook on Education statistics:• Japan ranked 30th out of 33 OECD nations in the amount of per capital funding for education.• Yet, it also ranked 3rd in the amount that private individuals had to pay themselves to receive an education.• Japan is one of the few OECD nations to financially support high school education. Mandatory education (and consequent public funding) ends at age 15 (or final year of middle school).
  • 11. More important than Lack of Educational FundingWhile nearly 90% (or more) actually graduate from high schools (mostly private ones), the emphasis on college prep for the rigorous university entrance exams (typically only 3 subjects: English vocabulary and grammar, math, science) has meant that widespread academic achievement and broad critical thinking and life skills for the 13-18 year olds have been largely ignored or left to „juku‟ - cram schools.In 2007, a scandalous report by MEXT team revealed that as many as 1 out of 8 high school students had not actually taken courses (or enough classes in them) for one or more the subjects they had been credited with for HS graduation. It seems that many high schools simply skipped history, home economics or civics courses, in lieu of extra classes in the college-prep subjects since HE institutional placement rates for high schools is so important.
  • 12. (according to MEXT)
  • 13. Demographic Trend’s Full Impact is On-going• The demographic impact has rippled through each layer of the education system, shutting elementary, junior high and high schools and now finally reaching colleges.• Since peaking in 1992 at 2.1 million, the number of 18-year-olds has plummeted by more than 720,000.
  • 14. Forecast• Worse-case scenarios forecast that one-third of all private universities could go bankrupt or merge in the next decade unless help is forthcoming.• But the government has so far taken a laissez-faire approach, refusing to either rescue or pull the plug on failing colleges.
  • 15. No Government Intervention• In the absence of government intervention, universities across Japan, especially outside the major urban areas, are struggling.• Faculty pay has been frozen or cut, bonuses have been suspended and resources trimmed to the bone.• Short-term contracts for professors are increasing. (My own university repealed tenure in 2010).• Thousands of students from China and other Asian countries are being recruited to pay fees and fill empty classroom seats.
  • 16. Impetus for reform• Previously protected by geography from the full effect of competition, Japan‟s 700+ universities are facing considerable pressure and urgency to reform and modernize.
  • 17. Over Competition• The government encouraged overcapacity in the belief that competition would winnow out the weak.• “The result is over competition. And they have ruled out a rescue scheme or a bailout. A shakeout is inevitable.” so says Hiromitsu Takizawa, senior analyst, Research Institute for Independent Higher Education
  • 18. Aid from having foreign students? • Just 2.6 percent of Japan‟s undergraduate and masters students come from overseas, compared with the OECD average of 7.3 percent. • 92% of foreign students come from Asia • 60% of foreign students in Japan are from China, 15% from Korea, • Far less from ASEAN or South Asian. • In Oct 2011, a new cohort of several hundred Afghan graduate students arrived to begin government-funded study in Japan
  • 19. Aid from having foreign students 2 • Most universities, who enrolling foreign students, are focusing on post-graduate activities, initially in specific fields - usually in science and technology. • Japan‟s sole advantage is low tuition, due to government subsidies • Barriers to success: restrictions on student visas, the cost of living is high, and there are few preparatory programs, social-cultural barriers • Also, problems with many foreign student working instead of attending classes are being reported.
  • 20. Aid from Foreign Students 3• No doubt, Japanese colleges would benefit greatly from more mature Japanese and international students, but there are too many structural barriers to allow them to make much of an impact. – Immigration policy – Housing issues and cost of living deficits – Accountability and management issues – Cross-cultural issues – Insularity of Japanese culture
  • 21. Mature Students age 25-above• Boosting the mature student enrollment, for example, would require something akin to a revolution in corporate Japan.• University was considered a filter.Its purpose was for selecting candidates of a particular caliber: elite colleges• The „real‟ education was presumed to begin once graduated entered the company.
  • 22. Boosting Older Students Enrollment• The current system of career education, job-seeking and job placement is outdated and cumbersome.• Students begin their job search activity (virtually a full-time endeavor) as early as their junior year• Many 4th-year students take few or even no classes, instead work on their graduation thesis (with little guidance) and ultimately spend an enormous amount of time attending possible employer seminars, job fairs and pre-employment examinations and interviews.• Often there is NO place for older students who are returning for a second degree in this process.
  • 23. Let’s look at a specific case• St. Thomas University• NOTE: --> Skip ahead to Slide 31 If .... – There is little time .... Or – Attendees are familiar with the case (story) – You want to get to the recommendations for a SOLUTION
  • 24. St. Thomas University 1. Example Case• This small private college near Osaka was struggling long before announcing last summer it was no longer accepting freshmen.• Established in 1962, it carved out a niche among its bigger, more prestigious local rivals by focusing on literature and foreign-language studies.
  • 25. St. Thomas University 2. Example Case• As the number of high school graduates began to fall, the bigger, more prestigious colleges such as Osaka University began lowering their admissions standards.
  • 26. St. Thomas University 3. Example Case• St. Thomas is among the first wave of private colleges to feel the impact.• Its enrollment of freshmen plummeted from more than 400 a decade ago to 110 this year.• The school currently has 542 undergraduate students, roughly half its government-set quota.* *MEXT subsidy amounts are tied to meeting strict quota, and other targets. * The majority of private universities in Japan receive 50% or more of their annual funding from MEXT (the government).
  • 27. St. Thomas University 4. Example Case• “Students who once couldnt get into those [more prestigious] universities suddenly could, so they went there instead. We were left behind."Teiji Kariya, Director, Office of the President, St. Thomas University
  • 28. St. Thomas University 5. Example Case• Management battled to keep St. Thomas afloat: – freezing staff pay – reducing bonuses* – transforming its curriculum, – bringing in consultants and starting an entirely new department of human development – Changing the name of the university *traditionally, employers have paid large, semi-annual 3-5 month pay bonuses (not based on merit but seniority)
  • 29. St. Thomas University 6. Example Case• These measures failed to halt the decline and led to accusations of mismanagement.• Main problem could not be overcome: There just arent enough students to go around.• In response, St. Thomas began recruiting undergraduates heavily from abroad.• Today, 195 foreigners, most of them Chinese, make up a third of the student body, a vast increase from the 10 a decade ago.
  • 30. Dealing with the Crisis• What is being done to try to cope with or prevent (probably unavoidable) this crisis in Japanese higher education?
  • 31. National plan to recruit foreign students• Three years ago, the Japanese government unveiled a plan to nearly triple the number of new foreign students to 300,000 by the end of the next decade (2020).• Privately, many higher education specialists call the pledge unworkable, saying Japan is simply not equipped, structurally or psychologically, to deal with such an influx without major government help.
  • 32. Rankings for HE institutions• Reform of Japanese higher education has coincided with the emergence of global rankings.• Using 2007 Times Higher Education QS World University Ranking, Japan has 11 in the top 200 universities. (even less today).• Japan ranks 5th in the world - although only its top-ranked Tokyo University, makes it into the top 50.• But, if the data is recalibrated according to population size or GDP, Japan falls to 18th.
  • 33. Outside Evaluation - Outside PressureNot surprisingly, many universities are trying to improve their position and visibility: - adopting strategies similar to colleges elsewhere: - becoming more strategic, identifying research strengths and niche competences- reviewing resource allocation, and recruiting international scholars- and adapting curriculum accordingly (within very tight program restraints).
  • 34. Under FundingFrance German Japan Korea UK USA As a percentage of total public expenditure___________ As a percentage of GDP
  • 35. Challenges to reformSince 2000, the government has introduced a series of legislative and policy initiatives aimed at:• increasing institutional autonomy and management capabilities,• enhancing evaluation and emphasizing quality, and• developing internationally-competitive research via centers of excellence and graduate schools• Improving teaching pedagogy and developing the faculty‟s instructional competencies
  • 36. Results?• Most of these initiatives follow a similar pattern adopted by other governments, and generally imitate the attempts made at similar universities, but there are specific challenges for Japan‟s universities to achieve results.• What are the barriers to success?
  • 37. Barriers to a quick solution• An under-funded educational system• Confused Mission: elitist institutional mentality for university education vs liberal education or life-long learning / professional development• Cross-purposes between the public and corporate aims• Privately managed by the fiscally inexperienced• Heavy state-control of fiscal and program policy• Lack of internal structures to cope with change
  • 38. Potential Measures1• Gradually raise tuition to a more realistic levelWhile also improving the quality & value of a HE degree• Re-configure the mission of the university – Include a multi-tiered approach to achieve multiple purpose: liberal arts, academic and professional specialties, personal and professional development for adult, working and mature students – Internationalize with realistic,achievable measures• Restructure in order to achieve this „new‟ mission
  • 39. Potential Measures2• Work with MEXT to set new policy guidelines so universities can survive• Re-education ,re-tooling of the faculty for 21st century teaching and learning• Merge and combine or cooperate with other colleges and universities• Significantly improve leadership structures – Add a new tier of professional management - Pay on an incentive basis• Provide a more comprehensive and fully developed secondary education (including reduced tuition burden on families), and ensuring a quality-assured public education for all citizens.
  • 40. Potential Measures3• Delay the selection of a major until the end fo the 2nd year, and eliminate job-seeking from interference with college instruction• Involve a more progressive, stakeholder focused style of input, feedback, and decision-making• Use incentives (recognition, and remuneration) for faculty, students, staff to promote growth, new programs, and innovation to bring success• Separate the career development and job placement functions to specialized centers of such activity outside of the HE system• Greatly modified the processes for selecting potential university candidates for entrance
  • 41. Specific Solutions1• Accreditation system is still in its infancy. It should be greatly expanded and based more on known criterion, and actual school visits.• Use profession development incentives: Sabbaticals, merit pay, differentiated tenure, pedagogical ranks• Faculty Development, Professional Re- credentially Programs• Instructional Support and Learning IT Development Staff and Human Resources• Begin professional teacher certification for HE
  • 42. Specific Solutions2• Start credentialing programs for business enterprises and medical institutions using HE resources• Expand Lifelong (Citizen) Educational Programs. Including Outreach for the elderly, associate degree programs for the under-educated and for career improvement• Employ a better system for transfer of university earned credits between colleges• Create a coordinated policy initiatives for inter- university cooperation• Specify course level designations 100, 200, etc and include suggested or required prerequisites• Allow for earning credits or supplying credits through exam or actual work experience
  • 43. Specific Solutions3• Stop discriminating between regular courses, night school and correspondence courses by ensuing adequate quality for any course taught by an accredited university or college• Revoke licenses for college that cannot offer more than 8 degree programs by 2020• Decrease dependence on individual entrance exams, instead base a more comprehensive college entrance system on multiple factors• Central and norm-referenced standardized testing college-bound testing should be based on a national academic achievement testing program
  • 44. Specific Solutions4• Define and disseminate an effective set of policy guidelines on e-learning and distance learning• Ensure the broader use and expanded applications of research-based instructional and assessment practices• Strongly consider changing the academic school year to Sept - July (instead of the current April - January system• Remove English as required entrance exam subject and replace it with critical thinking skills in Japanese• Broaden the scope of liberal arts and professional arts to include instruction for international (foreign) students at the undergraduate and graduates levels• Seek out outstanding graduate research students, employ short-term and long-term interns for getting an more international and diverse faculty and staff
  • 45. ACE 2011 Asian Conference on Education Ramada Hotel, Osaka, Japan October 27-30, 2011今日の発表を聴いていただきまして、有り難う こざいました。Thank you for your kind attention.Contact: David Brooks Kitasato University
  • 46. The End The Challenges of Upheaval in Japanese Higher Education: Crisis or Opportunity? By David L. Brooks Associate Professor, Kitasato University Sagamihara, Kanagawa, JapanA presentation at Asian Conference on Education ACE 2011, Osaka, Japan on Oct 28, 2011