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Education

Japan to ditch humanities and social sciences

Japanese students in Copenhagen and academics give their reaction to a new Japanese policy

European, Danish, and Copenhagen humanities departments face cuts to government funding, critical industry lobbyists and failing budgets. But consolation may be had that at least it is not Japan.

Education minister Hakubun Shimomura issued last year reforms that will begin in 2016. It asked universities to scrap departments and courses devoted to humanities and social sciences or to “convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs.”

The call focuses on undergraduate departments and graduate programmes that train teachers, and includes the areas of law and economics. Universities should ditch the humanities and social sciences so they better can serve the needs of society and are in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic ideas that focus resolutely on direct and immediate industrial and employment benefits.

Kyoto, Tokyo unis say no

Marie Højlund Roesgaard is Professor at the department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at UCPH.

“It reflects the thinking in the government. They want to spend the money in what they think is more useful right now for the country. The government thinks that private universities should focus in Humanities and Social Sciences, and that [the other, ed.] sciences should be more accessible to the rest of the students,” she explained to the University Post.

“Not all universities are accepting this reform, the Kyoto and Tokyo Universities are not going to do it, and these two are the biggest in Japan, and this has a powerful meaning,” she says.

Scared of getting no jobs

Marie Højlund Roesgaard says the government decision will force other students to study other subjects.

“Students are being affected,” says Koga, a Japanese exchange student at UCPH. For other study programmes than the humanities and social sciences it is easier to get a job already – even before finishing studies.

Japanese UCPH student: “I agree with this. What Shimomura intends is to make vocational-training schools for such students, in place of universities.”

“Some students are dropping their actual studies in humanities and social sciences because they think this will be useless in the future and it will be difficult to get a job in Japan,” he says.

Humanities enthusiasts are already abroad

Kenichi Maeda is a Japanese student doing his master in Physics at the Niels Bohr Institute, UCPH, and argues in favour of the reform.

“I think enthusiastic students of Humanities and Social Sciences are already learning at foreign universities. I agree with this. What Shimomura intends is to make vocational-training schools for such students, in place of universities.”

“But I don’t think this reform project will work well unless Japanese companies and society change.”

Best not talk

Several Japanese exchange students refused to give their opinion to the University Post as the plan to downscale the humanities and social sciences is highly controversial in Japan. Camila Graciela, a Danish student of Japanese Studies is on an exchange program in Japan right now.

“Not so many students talk about this in Japan. Students know that a lot of political changes are happening, but they don’t speak about this very much,” she says.

Danish UCPH student of Japanese Studies: “This is going to halt the progress of international relationships and will alienate millions of students in Japan.”

None of the Japanese universities that are in contact with Denmark are in danger of being affected by the reform.

A less-connected Japan

Rasmus Fugl is a Danish student doing his bachelor in Japanese Studies:

“It proves that the current Japanese government is turning into some totalitarianism. The president ignores what people want. He said he will shut down law departments too also which is extremely crazy. This is going to halt the progress of international relationships and will alienate millions of students in Japan.”

The reform may make no difference for actual exchange Japanese students, but Rasmus is worried about the future: “It will make it more difficult to create connections with new Universities in Japan, and fewer Japanese students will come to UCPH.”

universitypost@adm.ku.dk

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