Humanities, social science faculties in Japan to close

From the Times Higher Education:

Many social sciences and humanities faculties in Japan are to close after universities were ordered 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.

The universities of Tokyo and Kyoto have refused to comply with the June 8 notice from the education minister to “either abolish their undergraduate departments and graduate schools devoted to the humanities and social sciences or shift their curricula to fields with greater utilitarian values.” Although the notice was “non-binding,” it was the kind of missive that faculty in public institutions around the world have likely experienced — the kind that indicates the threat to reduce funding:

On June 8, the education ministry issued a “nonbinding” notice, instructing 90 state-funded universities and research institutes to submit a rough draft of their streamlining plans for the six-year reformation period for national universities starting in April 2016 by the end of the month. The ministry will monitor the progress made on the plans each year and allocate the subsidies accordingly.

The state subsidies are critical to universities. According to the ministry, the government allocated ¥1.09 trillion in subsidies to 90 universities and research facilities for fiscal 2015, accounting for 44.4 percent of their combined revenue.

The University of Tokyo received the biggest amount, ¥80.3 billion, followed by Kyoto University with ¥53.0 billion.

Reported motivations for the notice include a shortage of workers in particular sectors, and according to the THE, “a low birth rate and falling numbers of students, which has led to many institutions running at less than 50 per cent of capacity.”