This readings talked about the governance of higher education and the different models and frameworks used in a number of countries, specifically Cambodia, Japan, China, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Having studied Japanese language and culture in high school and in college, I was interested in learning more about the governance of higher education in Japan.
The IIEP on governance reforms and university autonomy in Asia mentions the switch in Japan from a state controlled national university system to national university corporations in 2004, which increased institutional autonomy on various levels from organizational structure to the hiring of faculty and staff. After the switch, there was also a surge in private universities because the requirements to being recognized as a university in Japan were relaxed when reforms passed to change the national universities into national university corporations. In the same paper, professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, Amano Ikuo, talks about the various trends that pushed Japan to reform and change its higher education system to the way it is today and the unique factors affecting Japan. It was interesting to learn about how the bubble economy burst at the beginning of the 1990s continues to have effects on the higher education system in Japan. This coincides with the intense round of reforms mentioned in the IIEP report how the Japanese government began to change the public universities to meet the knowledge economy demands, and there was also the formation of the various evaluation systems, ranging from self-evaluation in the beginning to ultimately the formation of a national evaluation agency (NIAD-UE).
One of the factors Amano Ikuo mentions in the his paper is the dramatic changes in population composition from 1980 to the present (which in the case of the paper was 2013). In the span of a decade, from 1980-1990, there was a sharp increase in the population of 18-year-olds from about 1.5 million to just over 2 million. This also led to an rapid increase in the formation of more universities to meet the demands (public universities also enjoyed pretty much a monopoly on higher education), but immediately after the initial decade, Japan experienced and continues to experience a decline or stagnation in the population of 18-year-olds, which resulted in the loss of enrollment and the struggle of the universities to change their ways of attracting and recruiting students. And with the switch in governance in 2004, the funding sources also changed and became more of a competition for research funding and public funding amongst all the various types of institutions. While it seemed like a good idea to make sure the institutions kept up their standards and quality, Amano Ikuo mentions that many of the institutions struggle to get enough funding and increasing turn towards conducting revenue-generating activities, which we’ve learn from previous classes could cause negative impacts on the quality of education offered.
Another thing mentioned by Amano Ikuo is the strive for internationalization and how Japan lags behind on that aspect, and in order to improve its global rankings, Japan has increasing put more emphasis on internationalization of its higher education system. Because Japan previously had a self-reliant system (or “closed” system) in terms of technological advances, this has caused the country to fall behind other OECD countries in joining the evermore globalized world and economy. This goes back to what was mentioned in a previous class discussion about Japan’s constant efforts to be a global hub for knowledge and technology, and how those efforts continue to fall short. Overall, Japan is admirable for its consistent efforts to ensure quality, but there is still much room for improvement if it wants to go up in the global rankings.