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Top>Education>Market principles and the freedom of education & research at universities


Yukimasa Hayata

Yukimasa Hayata [profile]

Market principles and the freedom of education & research at universities

Yukimasa Hayata
Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: High Education Theory, University Evaluation Systems and Education Act

1. Social change for the right to receive education

Article 26 of the Japanese Constitution defines the guaranteed right to education and the duty to receive compulsory education. This constitutional stipulation is traditionally understood as the demand to the Japanese government to realize equal opportunity in education. In modern years, the national government has continued to arrange educational conditions in response to the right to receive education for children. At the same time, the assertion is now made that teachers who are entrusted by parents with the function of education have the guaranteed right to conduct education according to the developmental stage of children, based on rational judgment as an educator. In this way, the right to education was viewed through the two elements of socials rights and inner civil liberties.

However, this view was greatly changed by an orientation which emerged in later years. Behind this change was heightened by public opinion for abolishing the closed school system and realizing meaningful results while listening closely to the opinions of parents and the community. Today, school operation has been redefined through the aspect of management and is now referred to as “school management.” From the perspective of legal systems, laws such as the School Education Act take systematic measures for exerting the leadership of principals and obligating each school to perform school evaluation.

2. Right of access to university education

University education is not compulsory education. However, since university education fulfills an important role in public education, the national government has the duty to make every effort to provide learners with access to university education. Furthermore, the “guarantee of academic freedom” in Article 23 of the Japanese constitution is commonly interpreted as applying directly to the educational and research activities of universities. This is typically constitutional theory. Accordingly, for both the individuals receiving university education and the universities providing that education, this interpretation is subject to the guarantee of social rights and the guarantee of inner civil liberties. Today, increasing globalization is forcing us to significantly revise the characteristics of human rights in university education.

3. Usefulness of world university rankings

Recent government administrations in Japan are extremely sensitive to the world university rankings announced by companies such as Times and QA. One reason for such concern is that, in addition to being perceived as an index for the current educational and research capability of Japanese universities, these rankings are recognized as a symbol of national power and social vitality. In reality, world university rankings have a major impact on enrollment by foreign students. In some countries, these rankings are even linked to policy for immigration and the acceptance of foreign laborers. On the other hand, some people assert that these rankings are formed based on biased indices and thus are of no real concern. Even so, Figures 1 and 2 show the low rankings of Japanese universities both in world university rankings and rankings for Asia.

<Rank of Asian universities in the 2014 World University Rankings>

Source: Times Higher Education

Asia Rank World Rank University Name Country (Region)
1 23 The University of Tokyo Japan
2 26 National University of Singapore Singapore
3 43 The University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
4 44 Seoul National University Korea
5 45 Peking University China
6 50 Tsinghua University China
7 52 Kyoto University Japan
8 56 Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Korea
9 57 The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Hong Kong
10 60 Pohang University of Science and Technology Korea

Source: Quacquarelli Symonds (QS)

Asia Rank World Rank University Name Country (Region)
1 22 National University of Singapore Singapore
2 28 The University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
3 31 The University of Tokyo Japan
4 31 Seoul National University Korea
5 36 Kyoto University Japan
6 39 Nanyang Technological University Singapore
7 40 The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) Hong Kong
8 46 The Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
9 47 Tsukuba University Japan
10 51 Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Korea

4. University education as a service

These world university rankings do not have much impact on the element of human rights which exists within university education. However, in conjunction with increased globalization, university education has now exceeded national borders and flows freely. This has created a great chance to revise traditional views of human rights.

Within universities that have expanded in order to provide university education to students from other countries as well as native students, there are some universities which provided inferior education for commercial purposes. There have even been cases of selling false academic degrees at high prices. In response, the WTO enacted the General Agreement on Trade in Services in 1995. This agreement positions university education as a service which is subject to free trade regulations. It also aims to motivate strategic investment for realizing a favorable investment environment toward universities. At this stage, upon having recognized the guarantee of economic freedom in the globalization of university education, investment in university education as a service is now subject to regulations through an international framework.

5. International acceptance of university education

The aforementioned world university rankings are one of tools for expressing the international acceptance of a university.

We live in a world in which people and goods repeatedly cross national borders. This is particularly true of Europe. In such a world, guaranteeing the quality of university education is an urgent issue. More and more students of various nationalities are crossing national borders to enroll in or transfer to universities and graduate from schools in other countries. However, the creation of a university quality assurance system in the EU is accelerating as part of efforts to stop the outflow of students to universities in the United States and to lay the basis for the economic superiority of the EU region. In other words, in order to facilitate the movement of student between countries and universities, it is necessary to establish a multi-nation assurance system for university education. This system would ensure that credits and degrees acquired at universities in one country have the same value at universities in other countries.

In June 1999, ministers of education from European countries signed and approved the Bologna Declaration. Based on the Bologna process, The European Higher Education Area is now being constructed as the framework for university education assurance throughout all of Europe.

6. How should universities deal with market principles?

When viewing university education from a global perspective, it has been positioned as a service by the WTO. The provision of such education is one point of focus for strategic investment among advanced nations.

The position of Japanese universities may appear unrelated to such international trends. However, even without referring to the results of world university rankings, it is clear that Japanese universities are generally heading towards a decline from an international perspective.

Already, a large number of Japanese corporations expanding globally are seeking employees who, regardless of nationality, will lead technological innovation and strengthen the management system. The Japanese national government is formulating a policy to recruit outstanding foreign students to enter Japanese universities, thus generating professionals who will contribute to the growth of Japanese society and the invigoration of our economy.

Conventionally, universities are viewed as being under a tradition of autonomy in university and fulfilling the role of a public educational institution supported by the guarantee of freedom in education and research. This form is now undergoing great change due to the force of global market principles which overtake even university education.

The social rights and inner civil liberties bestowed upon Japanese universities by the Constitution must continue to be guaranteed in the future. At the same time, it is now difficult for universities to oppose the force of market competitive principles based on freedom of economic activities. Universities must work to further heighten their unique identity. For that purpose, based on self-awareness as an institution of higher education, universities must maintain sight of their mission. It is vital that they construct decision-making systems to enable careful response in social and economic changes, as well as the demands of students. At the same time, based on the lifeline of independence, universities must establish measures to ensure systematic and organizational internal quality assurance. Through these measures, the university must take responsibility to verify the effectiveness of research and educational activities.

Yukimasa Hayata
Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: High Education Theory, University Evaluation Systems and Education Act
In 1977, Hayata Yukimasa graduated from the Department of Law at the Chuo University Faculty of Law. In 1980, he completed the Master’s Program at the Chuo University Graduate School of Law. After serving as a Full-Time Researcher at the Japan Research Institute for Local Government, he entered the Japan University Accreditation Association in 1985. He was appointed as Head of University Evaluation and Research in 2001. In 2003, he was appointed as Professor at the Kanazawa University Research Center for Higher Education. He was appointed as Professor at the Osaka University Institute for Higher Education Research and Practice in 2008 and Professor at the Office for Evaluation and Information Analysis in 2012. He assumed his current position in 2014. Concurrently he serves as a Visiting Professor at Kanazawa University. Involved in various social activities, he holding positions such as expert member of the Subdivision on Universities in Central Council for Education, member of the MEXT Selection Committee for the Project to Support Advanced University Reform (current position), Director of Japan Law Foundation law school evaluation committee (current position), Chairman of the Japan University Accreditation Association’s Research Committee for Form of High Education and Research Committee for Surveying the Form of Internal Quality Assurance(current position), and member of the Japan Institution for Higher Education Evaluation’s Committee for Review of Evaluation Systems.