EDEV_505 Week 5_1

Your interpretation of the ‘backstory’ in why regulations focus only on pecuniary matters is interesting, and indeed, I wondered as much myself over the past years. It is true that Japanese politicians are not free from fiscal scandal. Just this January, the Minister for the Economy, Akira Amari, resigned over fiscal irregularities surrounding political funding (White & Kihara, 2016). However, in researching this point to reply to you, I found out something quite interesting and relevant to the topic of values. Until the early 2000s, politicians rarely lost power or position following pecuniary scandals (Hayes, 2009), yet now resignation is standard. In this past decade or so, there has been a sea-change in opinion which has resulted in HEIs introducing controls on how funds are used. An example of this is shown by a comparison from my first year as a lecturer in 2003 and now. Then, I was given my research budget in cash at the beginning of the year. All I needed to do was to show receipts for the large purchases at the end of the year. Now, I need to obtain a quotation for any proposed spending and submit that to our central purchasing agency.

Yet why this happened is perhaps counter-intuitive. Many non-Japanese scholars point to the rise of managerialism and values from the business sector as sources acting as agents of change in HE. And to a large extent this is also true in many of Japan’s 750+ private and smaller HEIs (Hadley, 2015; Poole, 2010). However, many national universities have absorbed most of the administration duties inside their faculty business in an attempt to retain control of their running (Mulvey, 2015). A part of this coverage includes the perceived need to be ‘above board’ in all things. The faculty has become the manager, and in order to legitimise its authority in the face of severe pressures from the Ministry of Education, the faculty wishes to present a perfect face. ‘We can do it, so leave us alone’ is the message that they seem to project. Competent leadership has become a watchword for national universities (Fujimura, 2015)

And this brings us back to empowerment and restriction. Any action that may point to the faculty’s inability to regulate its internal affairs is severely constricted. Anecdotally, one post-doc researcher in HE in Japan was ‘advised’ never to do any home institution research for these reasons. Constraints are enforced through the social informal controls of ostracisation from faculty centres of power. Constraints on fund use come from the administrative offices, but the rules have been introduced without contention. The message is straightforward: faculty members need to uphold normative notions of the ‘good professor’ (Poole, 2010).


Fujimura, M. (2015). Governance, administration and management. In The Changing Academic Profession in Japan. Arimoto, A., Cummings, W. K., Huang, F., & Shin, J. C. eds [pp. 103-118] . Cham: Springer.

Hadley, G. (2015). English for academic purposes in neoliberal universities: A critical grounded theory. System(Vol. 51). Cham: Springer. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2015.04.010

Hayes, L. D. (2009). Introduction to Japanese Politics. 5th Edition. Armonk: ME Sharpe.

Mulvey, B. (2015). Numbers Game: How Accreditation, Kaken-Hi and the “SUPER GLOBAL” Program are Changing Japan’s Universities.

Poole, G. S. (2010). The Japanese Professor: An Ethnography of a University Faculty. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

White, S. & Kihara, L. (2016, January 28). Japan’s economy minister resigns over money scandal, denies bribery. Reuters. Retrieved May 9 2016 from http://www.reuters.com


About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a private university.
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