Crunch Time: Real Challenges in Internationalising Japan’s Universities

In her Featured Presentation at The Asian Conference on Education 2014, Professor Haruko Satoh discusses the challenges of internationalising academic programs and culture in Japanese Universities.

Internationalising Japanese universities is part of a larger problem of truly opening up Japan more to the waves of globalisation. But while businesses can diversify and globalise their operations or markets in pursuit of profit, universities can have their hands tied where companies do not. The primary ‘clientele’ is Japanese students, and their number is due to decrease over the next two decades. Moreover, Japan has too many universities competing for this shrinking pie. One solution is to take in more foreign students but here is where the problem gets more complicated. Parochial attitudes of faculty members resisting internationalisation and draconian administrations are only some of the obstacles that must be overcome. The English language problem - however trivial it may seem - cuts across all aspects of Japan’s higher education system as it tries to become compatible and compete with universities around the world. It is a deeply social and cultural problem of particularism and parochialism, symbolic of how Japan has conceived and continues to conceive its relationship with the "outside" world. And so long as Japanese universities rely on the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) as the main benefactor for their existence, the fate for many may be doomed.

Professor Haruko Satoh gave this Featured Presentation at The Asian Conference on Education 2014 (ACE2014) in Osaka, Japan.

Professor Haruko Satoh

Haruko Satoh is Specially Appointed Professor at the Graduate School of Engineering Science in charge of CAREN (Osaka University Centre for the Advancement of Research and Education Exchange Networks in Asia) and also lecturer at the Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP), where she runs MEXT Reinventing Japan project on “Peace and Human Security in Asia (PAHSA)” with six Southeast Asian and four Japanese universities. In the past she has worked at the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), Chatham House, and Gaiko Forum. Her interests are primarily in state theory, Japanese nationalism and identity politics. Recent publications include: “Rethinking Security in Japan: In Search of a Post-‘Postwar’ Narrative” in Jain & Lam (eds), Japan’s Strategic Challenges in a Changing Regional Environment (World Scientific, 2012); “Through the Looking-glass: China’s Rise as Seen from Japan”, (co-authored with Toshiya Hoshino), Journal of Asian Public Policy, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 181-198 (July 2012); “Post-3.11 Japan: A Matter of Restoring Trust?”, ISPI Analysis No. 83 (December 2011); “Legitimacy Deficit in Japan: The Road to True Popular Sovereignty” in Kane, Loy & Patapan (eds), Political Legitimacy in Asia: New Leadership Challenges (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), “Japan: Re-engaging with China Meaningfully” in Tang, Li & Acharya (eds), Living with China: Regional States and China through Crises and Turning Points, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

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