EDEV_505 Week 9_4

To counteract your incipient cynicism, let me offer these two famous and contradictory quotations.

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.—George Bernard Shaw

A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.—Oscar Wilde

When Japanese national universities underwent reorganisation into National University Corporations in 2004, many foreign teaching staff lost their jobs (Arimoto, Cummings, Huang, & Shin, 2015). The rhetoric from the government (MEXT) was in support of the agentification model found in most OECD countries that passed the bureaucracy of management onto the universities. Goldfinch (2006) argues that this redistribution of authority was nothing more than a “ritual of reform”, one designed to cloak the government’s continued extreme presence in the university. (I digress, but a neat ten years later, I concur. Just last week, I received a message from MEXT asking me to change the arrangement of the wording of one document that was submitted for our new graduate course. No content was to be changed, but the person at MEXT felt that I should put all of one kind of information together rather than intersperse it throughout the document. This is micro-managing from the government at its extreme!) A further set of redundancies looks likely in 2 years following another change in the contract law (Arudo, 2016). My point in this post is that you may be right about the motives if the Japanese case is anything to go by. If you follow Shaw’s observation, your cynicism may be protective; but perhaps Wilde’s version may ask you to reconsider the underlying values in play.

What, then, are the values in play? You say that management seem to be creating divisions between units in the institution. If the purpose is to be divisive, the motives could be to save costs through redundancies later on. This points to the value of fiscal control. However, deliberately setting up alienated groups within an organisation may be to increase productivity through competition. In this case, the value moves towards institutional growth through evolutionary processes. In both cases, the underlying market metaphor is strong, and equally important is the neglect of the individual who stands to suffer during this conflict. The values of managerialism incorporated from the commercial world erode the status of the faculty (Teichler & Arimoto, 2013).

But according to Rovosky (1990), the university is the faculty. If the faculty are eroded, the university itself disappears. Is Rovosky right and what we are witnessing in your institution and in Japan to the extent that McVeigh (2002) has labelled the entire Japanese university system an educational “myth”? Or should Rovosky’s position be located in a more historical framework? Personally, I am not worried about the future of the institution type we know as the university (although my heart goes out to those who lose their jobs and feel threatened). Its form has changed radically over the centuries and will continue to do so. As Halstead (1996) has noted, an education system is a product of its society. We can expand this and add that it is also a product of its time. In all stage theories (by definition) of epistemological development, it is recognised that 18-year-olds think differently from 22-year-olds (see for example Baxter Magolda, 2010; Belenky, Clinchy, & Goldberger, 1999; King & Strohm Kitchener, 2004; Perez, Shim, King, & Baxter Magolda, 2015; Perry, 1970). Unless 18-year-olds suddenly develop adult-like thinking powers, there will always be a need for the function of a teaching institution for that age group. The situation is more complex for research functions, and space forbids me outlining my reasons for believing in the continuation of those institutions. But I’m optimistic.


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

Arudo, D. (2016). The 2nd Great Gaijin Massacre in Japan’s education system, with 5-year contracts coming due in 2018 (2023 for uniprofs). Debito.org. Retrieved on June 7 from http://www.debito.org/?p=13948

Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2010). The interweaving of epistemological, intrapersonal, and interpersonal development in the evolution of self-authorship. In M. B. Baxter Magolda, P. S. Meszaros, & E. G. Creamer (Eds.), Development and Assessment of Self-Authorship: Exploring the Concept Across Cultures (pp. 25–43). Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing.

Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, B. M., & Goldberger, N. R. (1999). Women’s Ways of Knowing, (88).

Goldfinch, S. (2006). Rituals of reform, policy transfer, and the national university corporation reforms of Japan. Governance, 19(4), 585–604. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0491.2006.00341.x

Halstead, J. M. (1996). Liberal values and liberal education. In J. M. Halstead & M. J. Taylor (Eds.), Values in education and education in values (pp. 17–32). London: The Falmer Press.

King, P. M., & Strohm Kitchener, K. (2004). Reflective Judgement: Theory and Research on the Development of Epistemic Assumptions Through Adulthood. Educational Psychologist, 39(1), 5–18. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep3901

McVeigh, B. J. (2002). Japanese Higher Education as Myth. Armonk: East Gate. doi:10.1353/jjs.2004.0010

Perez, R. J., Shim, W., King, P. M., & Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2015). Refining King and Baxter Magolda’s Model of InterculturalMaturity. Journal of College Student Development, 56(8), 759–776.

Perry, W. G. (1970). Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years: A Scheme. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Rovosky, H. (1990). The University: An Owner’s Manual. New York: W W W Norton and Company INC.

Teichler, U., & Arimoto, A. (2013). The Changing Academic Profession: Major findings of a comparative survey. Dordrecht: Springer.doi:10.1007/978-3-319-09468-7


About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a private university.
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