The University of Tokyo, regarded as one of the country’s most prestigious, has said it will not comply with the education minister’s call to close humanities & social sciences faculties. [IStock.com/Jaimax]
Japan’s state-run universities have been ordered by the government to review their faculties and graduate schools and develop reform plans for humanities and social sciences courses. The directive from the education ministry instructs that the universities take “active steps to abolish (social science and humanities) organisations or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs.”
The ministry’s order has generated outcry among numerous groups, including Japan’s powerful business lobby, Keidanren.
Keidanren said in a written statement that media outlets falsely reported that the business community “is seeking work-ready human resources, not students in the humanities.” The statement says Keidanren member companies want exactly the opposite, graduates “who can solve problems based on ideas encompassing the different fields of science and humanities, and not only those who can be immediately effective.”
Also voicing opposition is the Science Council of Japan, an organization of scientists under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister.
The council put out a statement saying that humanities and social sciences “play a vital and unique role in critically comparing, contrasting and reflecting on the way in which human beings and society operate. Academics contribute to the creation of an intellectually and culturally enriched society and are hereby responsible for its transmission to future generations. We see it as our duty to produce, enhance and transfer in-depth and balanced accounts of knowledge about nature, human beings and society.”
Twenty-six universities have already agreed to comply with the ministry’s request to shutter or scale back on social sciences and humanities courses.