Article 26 of the Japanese Constitution defines the guaranteed right to education and the duty to receive compulsory education. This constitutional stipulation is traditionally understood as the demand to the Japanese government to realize equal opportunity in education. In modern years, the national government has continued to arrange educational conditions in response to the right to receive education for children. At the same time, the assertion is now made that teachers who are entrusted by parents with the function of education have the guaranteed right to conduct education according to the developmental stage of children, based on rational judgment as an educator. In this way, the right to education was viewed through the two elements of socials rights and inner civil liberties.
However, this view was greatly changed by an orientation which emerged in later years. Behind this change was heightened by public opinion for abolishing the closed school system and realizing meaningful results while listening closely to the opinions of parents and the community. Today, school operation has been redefined through the aspect of management and is now referred to as “school management.” From the perspective of legal systems, laws such as the School Education Act take systematic measures for exerting the leadership of principals and obligating each school to perform school evaluation.
Recent government administrations in Japan are extremely sensitive to the world university rankings announced by companies such as Times and QA. One reason for such concern is that, in addition to being perceived as an index for the current educational and research capability of Japanese universities, these rankings are recognized as a symbol of national power and social vitality. In reality, world university rankings have a major impact on enrollment by foreign students. In some countries, these rankings are even linked to policy for immigration and the acceptance of foreign laborers. On the other hand, some people assert that these rankings are formed based on biased indices and thus are of no real concern. Even so, Figures 1 and 2 show the low rankings of Japanese universities both in world university rankings and rankings for Asia.
<Rank of Asian universities in the 2014 World University Rankings>
Source: Times Higher Education
|Asia Rank||World Rank||University Name||Country (Region)|
|1||23||The University of Tokyo||Japan|
|2||26||National University of Singapore||Singapore|
|3||43||The University of Hong Kong||Hong Kong|
|4||44||Seoul National University||Korea|
|8||56||Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)||Korea|
|9||57||The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)||Hong Kong|
|10||60||Pohang University of Science and Technology||Korea|
Source: Quacquarelli Symonds (QS)
|Asia Rank||World Rank||University Name||Country (Region)|
|1||22||National University of Singapore||Singapore|
|2||28||The University of Hong Kong||Hong Kong|
|3||31||The University of Tokyo||Japan|
|4||31||Seoul National University||Korea|
|6||39||Nanyang Technological University||Singapore|
|7||40||The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)||Hong Kong|
|8||46||The Chinese University of Hong Kong||Hong Kong|
|10||51||Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)||Korea|
These world university rankings do not have much impact on the element of human rights which exists within university education. However, in conjunction with increased globalization, university education has now exceeded national borders and flows freely. This has created a great chance to revise traditional views of human rights.
Within universities that have expanded in order to provide university education to students from other countries as well as native students, there are some universities which provided inferior education for commercial purposes. There have even been cases of selling false academic degrees at high prices. In response, the WTO enacted the General Agreement on Trade in Services in 1995. This agreement positions university education as a service which is subject to free trade regulations. It also aims to motivate strategic investment for realizing a favorable investment environment toward universities. At this stage, upon having recognized the guarantee of economic freedom in the globalization of university education, investment in university education as a service is now subject to regulations through an international framework.
The aforementioned world university rankings are one of tools for expressing the international acceptance of a university.
We live in a world in which people and goods repeatedly cross national borders. This is particularly true of Europe. In such a world, guaranteeing the quality of university education is an urgent issue. More and more students of various nationalities are crossing national borders to enroll in or transfer to universities and graduate from schools in other countries. However, the creation of a university quality assurance system in the EU is accelerating as part of efforts to stop the outflow of students to universities in the United States and to lay the basis for the economic superiority of the EU region. In other words, in order to facilitate the movement of student between countries and universities, it is necessary to establish a multi-nation assurance system for university education. This system would ensure that credits and degrees acquired at universities in one country have the same value at universities in other countries.
In June 1999, ministers of education from European countries signed and approved the Bologna Declaration. Based on the Bologna process, The European Higher Education Area is now being constructed as the framework for university education assurance throughout all of Europe.
When viewing university education from a global perspective, it has been positioned as a service by the WTO. The provision of such education is one point of focus for strategic investment among advanced nations.
The position of Japanese universities may appear unrelated to such international trends. However, even without referring to the results of world university rankings, it is clear that Japanese universities are generally heading towards a decline from an international perspective.
Already, a large number of Japanese corporations expanding globally are seeking employees who, regardless of nationality, will lead technological innovation and strengthen the management system. The Japanese national government is formulating a policy to recruit outstanding foreign students to enter Japanese universities, thus generating professionals who will contribute to the growth of Japanese society and the invigoration of our economy.
Conventionally, universities are viewed as being under a tradition of autonomy in university and fulfilling the role of a public educational institution supported by the guarantee of freedom in education and research. This form is now undergoing great change due to the force of global market principles which overtake even university education.
The social rights and inner civil liberties bestowed upon Japanese universities by the Constitution must continue to be guaranteed in the future. At the same time, it is now difficult for universities to oppose the force of market competitive principles based on freedom of economic activities. Universities must work to further heighten their unique identity. For that purpose, based on self-awareness as an institution of higher education, universities must maintain sight of their mission. It is vital that they construct decision-making systems to enable careful response in social and economic changes, as well as the demands of students. At the same time, based on the lifeline of independence, universities must establish measures to ensure systematic and organizational internal quality assurance. Through these measures, the university must take responsibility to verify the effectiveness of research and educational activities.