W10 – Japanese Higher Education Governance

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.

W5 – Yes, We Know Quality Assurance is Important

This week’s reading continues to touch upon the importance of having a shared strategic plan between the national government and the institutions and also includes an analysis on various governance models that exist in higher education governance around the world. As mentioned in the OECD report, ensuring the quality of the outcomes of internationalization efforts for all parties involved (students, faculties/staff, institutions, governments, local communities, etc.) should be a priority of the decision-makers. The report focuses on what institutions should consider in various issues and aspects of internationalization of higher education, and for the most part, ensuring that any decision made towards internationalization efforts should be analyzed to see what the benefits and risks are. Even though that seems obvious, I think there is definitely a possibility that in efforts to catch up to institutions that are in the lead, some institutions may fall prey to all the various trends that may or may not be a good fit for that particular institution.

In particular, when it comes to recruiting more international students (which, in the US, definitely seems to be one of the go-to methods of internationalization, but probably more for financial reasons), the OECD pushes for a global effort to ensure quality education and the need for institutions and governments to evaluate the education offered to international students (which would subsequently lead to benefitting their local students I hope). With the continual chase to turn students into global citizens ready to tackle global issues in collaboration with other around the world through internationalization of higher education, it makes sense why the OECD report (class reading) highlights in multiple cases that working with the government and also finding the best fit institutions in other countries to form networks and collaboration relationships to generate new knowledge is ever more important for institutions looking to provide more in terms of helping their students and the institution become more globally competent and viable.

Specifically in regards to international students, the UK compiled a study on international student satisfaction to better inform the UK institutions on areas to improve and what strengths to continue to hone. In a majority of the measures of the study, UK institutions ranks number one and has seen an increase in satisfaction when compared to previous years. But despite the high level of satisfaction, there’s a stagnation in international student enrollment at UK institutions as compared to the US and Canada, which have seen a increase in international student enrollment. But it’s not entirely surprising because the study also found that the UK does not seem to utilize education agents as much to recruit students. And as mentioned in class discussions, the US, in particular, has increasingly utilized education agents (even providing commission fees) to continually increase its international student population, which might allude to why there’s been an increase in international student enrollment at US institutions. While the article goes on to suggest that maybe the UK should make more use of education agents to recruit more international students, I think the UK’s focus on ensuring its students get a quality education and experience is a better focus.