This week’s task required us to analyse our own institution’s policy documents. We were asked to consider where they inhibit action and where they promote it. To some meaningful extent, what I wrote was (ironically) curtailed by the knowledge that I would post on this blog. Every document that I consulted is publicly available on the university website, but even so there is a sense that one shouldn’t necessarily wash one’s dirty linen in public.
Professional codes of conduct arose from two sources. The first was the need for protection during professional practice. Protection is multi-directional: practices should minimise harm to those involved in the practice at any stage; practitioners require protection to fulfil their duties; and end users need assurances that the results of practice, whether it be research output or service, will not damage them unduly and are themselves not the result of unjustifiable harm (McAreavey & Muir, 2011; Moore, 2006). The second source is the declarative intention of defining and delimiting the nature, roles and duties of the profession (Martimianakis, Maniate, & Hodges, 2009; Moore, 2006). This intention has intensified recently as managerialism threatens to encroach upon the academic domain and proscribe newer practices from outside academia, imposing a set of values imported from the private sector (Sharrock, 2010). The growth of managerialism which has accompanied the development of universal access to higher education (Sharrock, 2010) has brought not only the techniques of management and government but also the opportunity for those in higher education to re-evaluate their goals and values and to present coherent statements of their professionalism to the general public. In the UK at least, the dual genesis of professional codes assumes both roles of protectionism and definition (McNay, 2007). Concomitantly, committees serve to restrict particular activities that are deemed unprofessional and empower other activities. However, the balance of roles in the UK does not necessarily equate with the balance elsewhere. This essay looks at the notions of restriction and empowerment in a Japanese national university (IU) as seen in its codes of professional conduct. The codes reveal much about their source and subsequently about the values inherent in them.
IU’s public website returns around 2600 PDF documents containing rules and regulations for the activities of its activities. The rule of law undergirds the system at IU. Furthermore being a national university, the internal rules follow national constitutional law. Employees of IU were classified as public servants until deregulation following the University Reform Act of 2004 (Yonezawa, 2014). Now, IU employees are considered semi-independent from governmental control, but their ethical conduct is still judged in line with public servants ([IU President] Dr Iwabuchi, personal communication, 2016). Accordingly, the governmental decrees regarding the ethics and practices of public servants apply equally to IU employees. However, the documents produced by IU do not define this relationship and barely make reference to any definitional aspect of professionalism. The only example can be found in the IU Employment Regulations Chapter 6 Article 43 which states that employees are required to attend training sessions that aim to improve their skills and knowledge in relation to the fulfilment of their professional responsibilities. These sessions are called ‘Faculty Development’ (FD) and attendance is compulsory regardless of whether or not the employee has shown the particular skill prior to the session. FD is the main mechanism for demonstrating the existence of professionalism to those outside IU, particularly for accreditation purposes (Mulvey, 2015).
The vast majority of the remainder of the codes speak to a single facet of protectionism: against unethical uses of funds. Regulations exist against accepting bribes and gifts and other types of financial irregularities. The victim is seen as the tax payer, and it is the duty of IU to create systems that demonstrate their intention of upholding the trust the public place in the national university. The only single instance in the regulations I could find about any individual action was the censure on “creating or joining a political party that aims to violently overthrow Japanese constitutional law or any legally formed government” (IU, 2004, p. 5).
Taken as a whole, IU’s policies speak far more to empowerment than to inhibition. The societal role of the professor is not proscribed officially except to outline the ethical fiscal relationship to the taxpayer. Beyond this, the notion of the ‘good professor’ relies on voluntary self-authorship above and beyond the letter of the law (Poole, 2010). Public servants are expected to embody particular characteristics (Nakaya, 2015). However, censure against those who fail to exemplify expectations takes the form of alienation and isolation and is not explicitly written into the regulations.
IU. (2004). Kokuritsu daigaku hojin IU shokuin shugyo kisoku [National university corporation IU Employment regulations]. (In Japanese). Accessed on May 6, 2016 from http://www.iwate-u.ac.jp/jouhou/kisoku/03jinji/10syugyou.pdf
Martimianakis, M. A., Maniate, J. M., & Hodges, B. D. (2009). Sociological interpretations of professionalism.Medical Education, 43(9), 829–837. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03408.x
McAreavey, R., & Muir, J. (2011). Research ethics committees: values and power in higher education. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 14(5), 391–405. doi:10.1080/13645579.2011.565635
McNay, I. (2007). Values, Principles and Integrity: Academic and Professional Standards in UK Higher Education.Higher Education Management and Policy, 19(3), 43–66.
Moore, G. (2006). Managing ethics in higher education: implementing a code or embedding virtue? Business Ethics: A European Review, 15(4), 407–418. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8608.2006.00462.x
Mulvey, B. (2015). Numbers game: How accreditation, kaken-hi and the “Super Global” program are changing Japan’s universities. Sendai: JALT Sendai Chapter.
Nakaya, J. (2015). Komuin no shokugyo rinri kyoiku ni tsuite no hitotsu kosatsu [A study of ethical education for public officers]. (In Japanese). Japan Society for Business Ethics Study, 22, 33–45.
Poole, G. S. (2010). The Japanese Professor: An Ethnography of a University Faculty. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Retrieved from PDF e-book
Sharrock, G. (2010). Two Hippocratic oaths for higher education. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 32(4), 365–377. doi:10.1080/1360080X.2010.491110
Yonezawa, A. (2014). The Academic Profession and University Governance Participation in Japan: Focusing on the Role of Kyoju-kai. Educational Studies in Japan: International Yearbook, 8, 19–31.