Private universities and colleges make a considerable contribution to the development of our nation. Especially at major turning points in history, they have performed roles of enormous importance. It is doubtful that the rapid modernization that Japan underwent during the Meiji Era could have been achieved without the ethos of study that was promoted by the private universities and colleges, which raised the overall level of knowledge among a wide range of citizens, and cultivated and popularized a modern sensibility among the public. Neither would it be an exaggeration to claim that the rapid recovery and high economic growth of Japan, which amazed the world after the end of WWII, was due to the way that many private universities and colleges recruited talented staff, implemented higher education and created a large middle class. When Japan’s population began to soar and the rate at which people went on to higher education suddenly jumped, it was the private universities and colleges that absorbed the lion’s share of the increasing number of students, while the national universities hardly expanded their quotas at all. The end result of this is that nowadays around 80% of Japan’s undergraduate students attend private universities and colleges, and the common feeling among the public is that the costs of higher education are something that is borne by household budgets.
The Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges (JAPUC) was founded in 1951 in order to further enrich the rapidly increasing roles of private universities and colleges and with the purpose of contributing to the mission of higher learning, “through the mutual cooperation of all members in protecting the freedom and authority of private institutions of higher education, promoting and improving the seats of higher learning, and serving the progress of science and culture.” Ever since, the Association has greatly flourished thanks to the cooperation of its members and many others who appreciate our work.
I think that one of the greatest achievements of JAPUC’s initial activities came in 1975, when the enactment of the Act on Subsidies for Private Schools was realized. However, although the Subsidies for Current Expenditures to Private Institutions of Higher Education that are enshrined in the Act reached a peak of 29.5% in 1980 they have subsequently plummeted, eventually dropping below the 10% mark. The very concept of governmental assistance appropriate to the publicly beneficial role played by private universities and colleges is in immediate danger.
Contemporary society is changing rapidly and on an enormous scale due to the progress of globalization and the spread of information and communication technology. In order to be able to respond to new and hitherto unknown issues it is vital that we not only increase the amount of knowledge we have but that we absolutely maximize every last drop of that knowledge. Furthermore, we have to keep up with the latest technological information on a lifelong basis. It is probably safe to say that it is in a day and age such as this that the private universities and colleges, which have respected people’s individuality while developing free and flexible educational research, face considerable demands to fully exercise these special characteristics.
Despite all this, while governmental expenditure per student in Japan is regarded as being extremely low in international terms, in actual fact the level for national universities is among the highest in the world, while that for private universities and colleges is at the very lowest level. Governmenet expenditure is less than 8% of the expenditure per student at the national universities. There is no perceivable logic to this state of affairs in which there is such an enormous gulf in governmental spending according to the type of institution of higher education.
In order to fulfill our social duty of fostering the human resources that will support the new generation, Japan’s private universities and colleges are continuously making their own efforts to assist themselves, but we have now reached the furthest limit of what we can do on our own. It is absolutely imperative that we make our voice heard, and ensure that we gain a wide appreciation in society about the importance of the social role we play and our need for governmental support in order so that we can realize that role.
The Association fully intends to share this sense of crisis among all our member universities and colleges, and closely unite ourselves in order to enthusiastically develop activities that will usher in a new era of activities among private universities and colleges. I hope that I may call upon all of you to support us in this effort and with even more vigor than before.
President, the Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges (Former President of Waseda University)