Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Universities Cross Pacific to Open Campuses in Japan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Universities Cross Pacific to Open Campuses in Japan

Article excerpt

CAN an American education be "made in Japan?"

In the latest percolation from the Pacific Rim stew of trade, finance, and cultural exchange, dozens of United States colleges and universities are testing that notion.

From fly-by-night diploma mills to small community colleges to prestigious universities like Temple and Texas A&M, US schools are finding a big demand for "American-style education" among Japanese students, on Japanese soil.

Japanese youth, most of whom do not qualify for Japan's most prestigious schools, see English-language training and a degree from the less rigid, more creative US education system as a career ticket in a global economy.

But the proliferation of such programs - the number has doubled to 30 in the last six months - is raising concern from US accrediting bodies. US accrediting bodies are asking why community colleges or state university systems which normally don't even cross state borders are rushing to cross the Pacific to cater to Japanese students.

"The question is who is in control of American education in Japan," says Marjorie Peace Lenn, vice president of the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation (COPA). "These institutions leave the US as nonprofit institutions and arrive as proprietary, under Japanese control."

The schools are being drawn to Japan not only by the cachet of having a strong international program, but also by incentives from real estate developers, construction companies, wealthy politicians, and municipal and prefectural governments eager to promote development in their areas.

These investors often build multimillion-dollar campuses and pay American professors' salaries. They also pay the schools' management fees in addition to basic operating expenses.

With more than 100 additional US colleges and universities conducting feasibility studies for programs in Japan, COPA's membership of regional accrediting bodies recently approved a set of principles of good practice in overseas international programs for non-US nationals. Welcomed by school administrators, it is a window on the problems that have arisen.

For example, the COPA principles ask that US schools not sell the rights to their names, that they provide an accounting of funds designated for all parties to contracts, and that standards for student achievement in the international branch be equivalent to those on the US campus.

The majority of the programs are English-language training courses, but others offer US-accredited general-education credit toward degrees, and Temple University offers a full degree program in Japan through the doctoral level.

However, while some of the American branches have received US accreditation, none are licensed by the Japanese Ministry of Education, and by law they cannot use the Japanese words for university or college.

"There is a genuine idealism at work," says Gail Chambers, a professor at the University of Rochester Graduate School of Education. "But we also found it mixed with other motives and it's the tension between the idealism and more pragmatic motives (that is a problem). …

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