Wielding an enormous ax, the Japanese minister of education has apparently decided his country’s universities no longer need humanities and social sciences departments.
[according to] a letter from education minister Hakuban Shimomura sent to all of Japan’s 86 national universities, which called on them to take “active steps to abolish [social science and humanities] organisations or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs”.
Of the 60 national universities that offer courses in these disciplines, 26 have confirmed that they will either close or scale back their relevant faculties at the behest of Japan’s government.
7 national universities will stop recruiting students to humanities and social science courses – including law and economics, according to a survey of university presidents by The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, which was reported by the blog Social Science Space.
Apparently the minister has issued statements along these lines earlier this year and in 2014, so the anti-humanities, anti-social-sciences stance isn’t new. Shimomura seems to be quite, ah, a character.
There are two interesting resonances with the American queen sacrifice strategy. First, there’s obviously the anti-humanities, pro-vocational and/or pro-STEM angle:
The call to close the liberal arts and social science faculties are believed to be part of wider efforts by president Shinzo Abe to promote what he has called “more practical vocational education that better anticipates the needs of society”.
Second, the context Shimomura’s move recalls the challenges facing many American institutions:
[I]t is likely to be connected with ongoing financial pressures on Japanese universities, linked to a low birth rate and falling numbers of students, which have led to many institutions running at less than 50 per cent of capacity.
Can we learn anything about American higher ed from Japan’s example, as they are somewhat ahead of the US on the demographic transformation curve? For example, would we see some American businesses support the humanities and social sciences, as does this Japanese group?
Can someone with more knowledge about contemporary Japanese politics offer insight into why this move, and why now?
(thanks to the indispensable Phil Long for the link; image of Tokyo University from Wikipedia)