Technology and Innovation in Japan: Policy and Management for the Twenty-First Century

By Martin Hemmert; Christian Oberländer | Go to book overview

4

HIGHER EDUCATION IN JAPAN FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF R&D

Shinichi Yamamoto

Introduction

Today, every advanced country has its own science system, by which I mean the combination of various elements essential for performing scientific research and development. The higher education system is one of the most important elements for the science system in each country. However, there are wide international differences in its structure. Among advanced countries, Japan is known for its huge volume of higher education. In 1995, there were 1,161 universities and colleges, and total enrollment was about 2,820,000 at the undergraduate and junior college levels combined. Of the 18-year-old population 46 percent advanced to higher education in that year (Monbusho 1996b). Graduate students, however, were fewer in number compared with the huge number of undergraduate students. There were 110,000 students in masters degree programs and 44,000 in doctoral degree programs.

It has been widely said that the Japanese education system has played a pivotal role in the development of Japanese economy and industry and, later, of the innovation system. Regarding higher education, universities have been training future engineers and researchers who work for industry, and they have also been creating and introducing new knowledge and technology from Western countries which has been transferred to the industrial sector for production. Universities and colleges have recently accounted for about 20 percent of the total Japanese R&D expenditure (Monbusho 1996b).

Furthermore, Japanese higher education has the important function of identifying highly qualified manpower through its demanding entrance examination system, in which young people must demonstrate what they achieved in their high school days. This function has caused various educational problems including the credential problem, which places too much emphasis on people's academic background. However, people have accepted the usefulness of higher education for their later career and this notion has greatly motivated people to advance to higher education.

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