The Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges was established in 1951, the same year in which the Treaty of San Francisco, a peace treaty between the allied powers and Japan, was signed. This association, which came into being at a time when Japan itself was being reborn, has continued to operate as an organization which through the mutual cooperation of all of its members, aims to protect the freedom and authority of private institutions of higher education, promote and improve the seats of higher learning, and serve the progress of science and culture.
Looking back on history, private universities and colleges have implemented their own distinctive and unique characteristics since the Meiji period, and have trained and sent out into the world individuals sought by various sectors of society for the modernization of Japan. And in a time when the Imperial Universities did not yet admit female students, private universities and colleges were endeavoring to spread the higher education of women.
When the new educational system for universities and colleges was introduced after the Second World War, the number of national universities remained more or less the same, while the number of private universities and colleges increased to meet the demands of society. When Tokyo first hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1964, there were 72 national universities and 185 private universities in Japan. In 1984, these had increased to 95 and 331, respectively. However, with the numbers of national universities falling to 86 and private universities rising to about 600 in 2018, private universities and colleges now account for approximately 80% of students in higher education. This goes to show the vital role private universities and colleges have played in fostering a countless number of highly capable individuals who were essential for the reconstruction and economic growth of postwar Japan.
The Act on Subsidies for Private Schools was enacted in 1975, but for many years until public financial aid began to be provided, private universities and colleges had to work hard to remain operational and provide better education and medical care as well as carrying out more research, mostly through their own means. Even with the enactment of the Act on Subsidies for Private Schools, however, in which it is stipulated that the nation may provide up to 50% of an institution’s expenses, financial aid from the government peaked at 29.5% in 1980. Since then, it has rapidly fallen, and today, it stands below 10%.
Lately, there is growing opinion that the number of universities and colleges in Japan is too high. However, although over 50% of high school students now go on to higher education, with the world becoming more globalized and with the rapid technological advancements in fields such as AI, IoT, and robotics that we see today, there will be an even greater need for a highly educated and diverse workforce comprised of individuals who can succeed anywhere in the world.