EDEV_503 Week 3_1

I’m interested in the comments about accreditation: that change followed the accreditation process. I would like to ask about how much influence accreditation organisations have in shaping the institutional structure and culture of an assessed university.

This issue is complex because of the multiple perspectives involved. What standards do accreditation agencies employ to create their standards? Do they prioritise the wider society, the university, or the students’ eventual needs? Are their standards transparent and published? Do universities alter their structures to these standards, even when there may be tensions between the two? And so on. The adoption of outside accreditation is now a world-wide phenomenon. See the examples from Portugal (Santiago et al., 2014), Mexico (Galaz-Fontes et al., 2014) and Italy (Rostan, 2014). A common theme in these articles is the reliance on external independent organisations to assess the institutions in these countries. It is easily predictable that the degree of coupling between the host institution and the accreditation agency will indicate the amount that the institution will change its culture and organisational structure.

Or does the international situation mirror that in Japan? Here, universities have reached a “phase of evaluation saturation” (Arimoto, Cummings, Huang, & Shin, 2015, p. 11). However, accreditation agencies carry no legal power (Osaki, 1997), and the officers who carry out evaluations are professor-rank faculty members at other universities (Mulvey, 2015). In the history of Japanese accreditation, no university has failed evaluation, a fact possibly due to the governmental control over the use of ‘university’. This means that, unlike some other countries where there is no legal mandate, universities in Japan can only exist if they have demonstrated to the government their ability to provide a university education prior to their foundation (Mulvey, 2015). Accreditation, in this view, risks a social upset of losing face if failed, and the patriarchal view of government to university is threatened.


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

Galaz-Fontes, J. F., Martinez-Stack, J. G., Estevez-Nenninger, E. H., Padilla-Gonzalez, L. E., Gil-Anton, M., Sevilla-Carcia, J. J., & Arcos-Vega, J. L. (2014). The Divergent Worlds of Teaching and Research Among Mexican Faculty: Tendencies and Implications. In J. C. Shin, W. K. Cummings, A. Arimoto, & U. Teichler (Eds.), Teaching and Research in Contemporary Higher Education: Systems, Activities and Rewards (pp. 199–220). Dordrecht: Springer.

Mulvey, B. (2015, September). Numbers Game: How Accreditation, Kaken-Hi and the “SUPER GLOBAL” Program are Changing Japan’s Universities. Paper presented at the meeting of JALT Sendai Chapter, Sendai.

Osaki, H. (1997). The structure of university administration in Japan. Higher Education, 34, 151–163.

Rostan, M. (2014). Teaching and Research at Italian Universities: Continuities and Changes. In J. C. Shin, W. K. Cummings, A. Arimoto, & U. Teichler (Eds.),Teaching and Research in Contemporary Higher Education: Systems, Activities and Rewards (pp. 89–112). Dordrecht: Springer.

Santiago, R., Sousa, S. B., Carvalho, T., Machado-Taylor, M. de L., & Dias, D. (2014). Teaching and Research: Perspectives from Portugal. In J. C. Shin, W. K. Cummings, A. Arimoto, & U. Teichler (Eds.), Teaching and Research in Contemporary Higher Education: Systems, Activities and Rewards (pp. 153–176). Dordrecht: Springer.

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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