EDEV_503 Week 1_6

I enjoyed your question about the ‘confusion and chaos’ in universities as they are forced to interact more with society. Your answer is that there is now a good opportunity to reassess the role of the university. I’d like to ask you about how you see elementary medical education in universities. I ask this because it seems to offer a concrete example that elucidates the discussion more than discourse at the conceptual level.

Trainee medical doctors need to memorise a great deal of information. Furthermore, there are many concepts in medicine that underpin an MD’s perspective. While recognising that new developments occur regularly in medicine, do you agree that there are concepts in medicine that have continued fundamentally unchanged since the time of Galen? Knowledge transmission of “traditional knowledge”, or Mode 1 knowledge, (Gibbons et al., 1994, p. 1) must remain a key task for universities. In Japan, there are roughly 2.5 million undergraduates and 163,000 students on graduate courses (Statistics Bureau Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Website, 2013). Japanese professors have long expressed preference for research over teaching (Arimoto, Cummings, Huang, & Shin, 2015), and the burden of teaching undergraduates had to be enforced on all professors by the Ministry of Education (Yamada, 2014).

It seems to me that the perceptions of role differ greatly between those inside and outside higher education. Democratic government acts as a voice of the people, and in that capacity, perhaps there is an argument that the increasing power of governments in higher education (Altbach, 2006) is a function of the difference in perception. Most of the readings for this week attempt to problematize the position of the university in society, yet arguably the majority of society view the university unproblematically as a provider of more specialised instruction at the undergraduate level. Academics muse on academic issues, and the perception of crisis may well be a minor and localised one (Tight, 1994).


Altbach, P. G. (2006). International Higher Education: Reflections on Policy and Practice. Massachusetts: Centre for International Higher Education. http://doi.org/10.1080/00091380009601750

Arimoto, A., Cummings, W. K., Huang, F., & Shin, J. C. (2015). The Changing Academic Profession in Japan. Cham. http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-09468-7

Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P., & Trow, M. (1994). The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies. London: Sage Publications. http://doi.org/10.2307/2076669

Statistics Bureau Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Website, J. (2013). Chapter 22 Education. Retrieved October 11, 2015, from http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan/1431-22.htm

Tight, M. (1994). Crisis, what crisis? Rhetoric and reality in higher education. Society for Educational Studies, 42(4), 363–374.

Yamada, R. (2014). Measuring quality of undergraduate education in Japan: Comparative perspective in a knowledge based society. (R. Yamada, Ed.). Singapore: Springer.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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