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Japan to cut social sciences in favor of job training

By Wang Xiaozhen | 2015-09-24 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Japanese Gov’t propose to Cut Humanities, Social Sciences


At the request of Japan’s ministry of education, nearly half the national universities in the country with social sciences and humanities programs will terminate or scale back instruction in those disciplines.

According to a report in Times Higher Education, Education Minister Hakuban Shimomura sent a letter to 86 national universities calling on them take “active steps to abolish [social sciences and humanities] organizations or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs.”
Of the 60 national universities that have such programs, 26 have confirmed plans to close or implement cutbacks at relevant facilities. Seventeen of those universities announced that they will stop recruitment of humanities and social sciences students altogether.


In a column published in The Japan Times, Shiga University President Takamitsu Sawade decried the minister’s missive as “anti-intellectual” and counterproductive to the stated goals of Japan’s Council on Industrial Competitiveness, which recommended the measure as a means of revitalizing the national economy. He pointed out that the majority of the nation’s most successful entrepreneurs and political leaders have backgrounds in humanities and social sciences.

Meanwhile, the universities of Tokyo and Kyoto, regarded as Japan’s most prestigious higher education institutions, announced that they would not comply with the directive.

Last month, the Science Council of Japan reportedly issued a statement expressing its “profound concern” over the implications that such an administrative directive could have for the future of humanities and social sciences in the country.

Some media outlets in Japan have linked the move to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy, which is focused on vocational education that has direct and immediate industrial and employment benefits.

The education minister’s letter also cited the demographic challenges facing the nation as one of the reasons for the policy shift, citing a “decline in the university-age population.” This trend has created financial difficulties for many universities, some of which are operating at 50 percent capacity.

This is not the first time Japan has attempted drastic cuts to the social sciences. In 1960, the education minister under Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi’s Cabinet recommended a similar measure.


(Source: Times Higher Education)