Quantity or Quality? - The Number of Universities in Japan -


Which Is Important About Universities in Japan?


   About this season a year ago, this writer used to hold a pen while warming numb fingers with breath. The season for university entrance exams is here again this year. Starting with the National Center tests on January 19-20, the exams given by private universities are followed by those of national universities in February. Test-takers must be putting a spurt on their work with a different look in their eyes.


 Japan had much ado about university some time ago. Education Minister Makiko Tanaka touched off a controversy by announcing her decision not to approve proposals to establish three new universities next year. She argued that too many universities could lead to deterioration of the quality of education, saying conditions to approve the establishment of new universities should be made stricter to prevent that happening. The minister eventually withdrew her decision, allowing all the three universities to be instituted in the next academic year. However, some people voiced support for the point she had made.


  As of 2011, there were 599 private universities and 181 national universities across Japan. It was in the late 1970’s that the number of private universities topped 300 in Japan. This means that the number has doubled in just over 20 years. As the country’s birth rate keeps falling, it is obvious that no more universities are needed. In fact, no fewer than 40 universities or junior collages were either abolished or integrated between February 2010 and March 2011. In net terms, however, the number of universities has been increasing at a time when they are shifted through popularity and the rate of employment for their graduates.


  According to data released by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the ratio of high-school students proceeding to university or junior college was 57.6% in 2011. The rate was higher at 81.1% when technical colleges were included. Put simply, Japan is in an era where almost every youngster readily advances to college. Is it really fruitful to increase the number of universities by riding on the bandwagon? That could only encourage high-school students to think that going to university is their overriding aim. What matters ought to be what they will “learn” there.



Written by : Daisuke Aoki