The Impact brought about by the Final Report on "Concerning the Image of the New 'Corporate National University'"

Fellow, RIETI

Since the start of the Koizumi administration last April, society has come to accept the recognition that in order to cope with the economic crisis that faces Japan, structural reform is necessary. However, we are still at the stage where we are seeking the answers to the questions such as which steady state of equilibrium will be attained a result of a change in exogenous variables, and which path the process to reach that equilibrium will follow. It is still unclear what part of the social system will be influenced by the tide of "structural reform," and so the situation is one where inertia is not easily overcome.

With this in the background, it is also true that several "structural reform" experiments are steadily emerging. One is the report entitled, Concerning the Image of the New "Corporate National University," currently being worked on by an Study and Deliberation Conference established to consider making national universities, etc. into independent administrative institutions. The interim report was released last autumn, and last month, ahead of the final report expected to be submitted at the end of March 2002, the concepts of a "non-civil servant style" and a "management organization composed of management councils, executive councils, and senates," which are at the core of making national universities into independent administrative institutions, were introduced. In this discussion I will ponder the meaning of the notion of Corporate National University.

Making National Universities into Independent Administrative Institutions Holds the Line Against Conventional Reform

First I would like to start with an overview of university reform. With regard to the establishment of institutions, starting with the proclamation on the Imperial University Order (1886) and on university regulations (1918), the present university system was brought into being by the establishment of the School Education Law (1947), and the framework for the current university system was built up. Furthermore, the Standards for the Establishment of National Schools Law and the Private School Law (1949) characterize national universities and private universities in society. Also with the establishment of the Standards for the Establishment of Universities (1956) and the Standards for the Establishment of Graduate Schools (1974), the government clarified the rules regarding the establishment of universities and graduate schools.

After that, based on a report by the National Council on Educational Reform, the University Council was established in 1987, and after a period of 10 years, their direction on university reform was offered in a report. The report included such proposals as, "Emphasis on Graduate Education," "Diversification Based on Individual Responsibility in a Competitive Environment," "Improvements for Organizational Management" and "Establishment of an Evaluation System," Establishing independent graduate schools (universities that have only graduate schools), broadening educational courses, reinforcing the president's office, establishment of a university evaluation and National Institution for Academic Degrees are elements that Government has already implemented in system reform in this direction. From above, it is known that university systems have repeatedly undergone drastic reforms and gradual adjustments, but these can be said to have been reforms from within the university system. In making national universities into independent administrative institutions deliberations have proceeded as a part of administrative reform. However, this plan does not stop with simply altering the framework of national universities, but also promotes the reorganization of the university system including both public and private universities, and furthermore forces to realize the creation of a complementary relationship between the social system and the university system. From this point, one can understand that this university reform makes a clear distinction with the conventional reform.

The Need for the Setup of a Social System that Provides for Various Career Paths

Given this fact, what then can we make of "The Image of the Incorporation of National Universities?" Several key phrases can be found: "imparting individuality to national universities," "introduction of the principle of competition based on third party evaluations," "introduction of top-down style decision making," etc. but most of these ideas are already familiar from University Council reports. However, with the recognition, "It is essential for the central government to seek a corporate structure appropriate to a university under its responsibility," the grand design for national universities becomes the issue in the future.

In the management organization, founded on "the unification of corporate organizations and university organizations" and "the participation in planning of outside experts," concepts are raised such as senates to preside over deliberations on education (consisting of university representatives), a steering council to preside over deliberations on management (including members outside of universities) and an executive board to vote on specific important elements.

The decision-making and coordinating functions of the university presidents and the executive board are the keys for the success of the management system. Added to conventional research and education activities, the role of universities has been expanded to include technology transfer and contributions toward society. As the diversification of universities' business presses forward, reinforcing the support system for the university president will be essential to work to reconcile this diversification with universities' medium and long-term goals and promote strategic university management. Specifically, the idea is in each university function to have staff dispatched with expertise in the university's main function, but it is hoped from this perspective that it will be made up of members of the board. Because the university president and the university organization will be responsible for interface with society, it is desirable to appoint individuals with work experience both inside and outside of the university setting. However, this poses the problem that in Japan people with such a career path are relatively scarce. Also from the perspective of the reinforcement of the university management system, high hopes are being pinned on advancing the flow of the movement of human resources among industry, the academic world and government, and the construction of a social system whereby diverse career paths are possible.

The Implications of Selecting the "Non-Civil Servant Style"

This brings us to the status of the staff. The interim report reads, "Do not select civil servant style or non-civil servant style a priori," but at the end of deliberations in the final report the matter is narrowed down to, "non-civil servant style." As I mentioned earlier, when conducting this kind of drastic reform, making maximum flexibility and diverse experiments possible is a measure to speed up the convergence to a new, steady state of equilibrium. Furthermore, for national universities to appeal to society for the significance of their existence and contribute to the society as institutions that serve to create, communicate and utilize knowledge, it will be necessary for universities themselves to select people, which are the core of the organization, at their own discretion. It is anticipated that the selection of the "non-civil servant style" will work to promote the independence of national universities.

In April 2001, the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI), which used to be an organization internal to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, became a non-civil servant style independent administrative institution, and the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology changed its name to National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), and chose the path toward being a civil servant style independent administrative institution. Moreover, the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy exists working under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. At present, research institutes coexist in various forms and are experimenting with many unique forms of organizational management. However, I will close this discussion by noting that in the event that national universities, which boast 17% of the total number of researchers in Japan, shift to become non-civil servant style independent administrative institutions, they will play a huge role as models for this style of system.

March 5, 2002

March 5, 2002