EDEV_503 Week 1_7

You ask, “Do you think that the way universities are ranked and ways in which professors are recognized also encourages research vs. teaching?”

This question is very complex. By complex, I mean that there are various agents involved whose interface with the stimuli and systems produce effects that are not always predictable from the agents themselves. A Bourdieu-type analysis might reveal how agents in these systems interact for their own benefit yet fabricate a weaker situation for all (Swartz, 1998). I wonder, though, how many researchers enter the profession in order to become famous? Anecdotally[1] it seems that very few have this as a priority. It’s nice to be recognised, sure, and the very best researchers want the status of being involved with the best institutions. However, this may be a function of ability and not a requisite of status. Governments have different focuses. In Japan, the Ministry of Education has explicitly announced their desire to “place at least 10 Japanese universities in the world rankings of the top 100 universities within the next ten years” (Monbukagakusho [MEXT], 2013). As most Japanese write in Japanese and rankings are affected by an English language bias, (Altbach, 2006), this aim runs counter to the culture and notion of nationality in Japan.

Possibly, your second question has a more direct answer; “Could this be also because of lack of higher education philosophy of framework as outlined by Barnett (2004)?”

Trow (2007) describes an elite system that discussed its endeavours “through meetings in small committee rooms or around tables at the Athenaeum Club” (p. 257). Although Trow forwent the philosophical discussion, he does mention a function of elite universities that focused on “the shaping of character and the preparation of a broad or general elite” (p. 254). Clearly, for such an aim to be representative of the elite system, a philosophy must have been in place even if it were largely unstated. The clubs of the elite would be training grounds in the philosophy of the universities. I would argue that the reluctance to teach is not due to a lack of philosophy but rather to the change imposed onto the structures of the university. Without a philosophy, there could be no reason for any reluctance. This reticence is a result of the tension between different views (or philosophies) of the role of the professor.


[1] Quora.com, academia.edu, researchgate.com have fantastic forums where academics talk about, well, everything related to the profession. The Quora forum ‘Doctor of Philosophy’ is my personal favourite.

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

Monbukagakusho [MEXT]. (2013). National University Reform Plan Summary. Accessed on Oct 13 2015 from http://www.mext.go.jp/english/topics/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2014/03/13/1345139_1.pdf

Swartz, D. (1998). Culture and power: The sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. Chcago: University of Chicago Press.

Trow, M. (2007). Reflections on the transition from elite to mass to universal access: Forms and phases of higher education in modern societies since WW11. In J. J. F. Forest & P. G. Altbach (Eds.), International Handbook of Higher Education: Part 1 Global themes and contemporary challenges (pp. 243–280). Dordrecht: Springer.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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