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From The Yomiuri Shimbun, 1 March 2003
Colleges must accept reforms
The Cabinet has finalized a package of bills aimed at transforming state-run
colleges and universities into corporations. The legislative package represents
an effort to reshape institutions of higher learning in the years ahead.
The bills will be submitted to the current Diet session. If adopted, the
legislation will turn all national universities into corporate entities independent
of the Education, Science and Technology Ministry in April 2004.
The envisaged bills will free colleges and universities from government controls
so that they can draft their own budgets and carry out academic activities
on their own. The bills will also ensure that people not directly associated
with these institutions will play a role in making management decisions and
selecting their presidents.
The radical shift from state control means that universities and colleges
will lose government protection. The system will be replaced by a scheme
to encourage institutions of higher learning to carry out activities at their
own risk and compete for excellence.
These changes will signify a reform comparable to the start of a new system
governing colleges and universities that was established after the end of
World War II.
The colleges and universities should inform the public what they will seek
to accomplish, while instituting measures to improve academic activities.
Their failure to do this could mean large cuts in government subsidies under
the envisaged laws.
Modification of early plan
At first, the plan was to help reduce the number of national government employees.
However, this plan was later modified during discussions at the Education,
Science and Technology Ministry, which decided to reinvent colleges and universities
in what would amount to massive changes in their academic and other activities.
Initially, provincial state-managed colleges and universities strongly objected
to the plan to turn them into corporations, a move that would deprive them
of financial aid and other protection provided by the government to all national
universities. However, they failed to win public support.
Some state-run colleges and universities have been slow to reform themselves.
It is also unclear how they make decisions concerning their operations. Many
educators at such institutions have been preoccupied with their own academic
activities, and few are ready to play a role that would benefit society through
The objections raised by regional state-run colleges and universities had
no effect on local governments and other entities that would be affected
by the reform. This apparently shows that these local governments are unhappy
about the management of
state-run universities. Educators, administrators and others at these educational
institutions should take this to heart.
Already there are signs of change in this regard. Some universities have
invited academics and others from outside to serve as presidents. They are
also trying to promote various reforms, such as conducting studies aimed
at encouraging the growth of regions that host them. Some universities are
incorporating industrial-government-academic tie-ups into their activities.
Change in attitude needed
Incorporated colleges and universities will submit reports to the Education,
Science and Technology Ministry detailing midterm goals and plans for their
educational and academic activities once every six years. They will receive
ministry subsidies on the
basis of how much effort they have made to achieve their targets.
In setting up goals and drawing up plans under the system, some state-run
universities have brought together representatives from all sectors to discuss
pertinent issues. This is unprecedented.
Although this kind of action must be encouraged, it also should be complemented
by an effort to change the attitude educators and administrators have taken
in reforming their institutions.
The success in turning state-run universities into corporations--or the lack
of it--will be measured under a new system that will assess the effort of
each institution in achieving its goal. As a result, measures should be taken
as soon as possible to set fair and objective standards to assess this progress.
We hope these institutions of higher education will reform themselves from
a long-term perspective, instead of seeking to make progress only over a
The autonomy enjoyed by colleges and universities in the postwar years has
often been used to defend their vested interests. However, the reform will
force colleges and universities to engage in competition and their performances
will be assessed.
Institutions of higher learning that attempt to remain autonomous must expect
to reap the consequences of their actions.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 1)
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