RIETI Report February 2003

University Evaluations: What will Become of Japanese Universities?
<RIETI Featured Fellow> HARAYAMA Yuko

This month's featured article

University Evaluations: What will Become of Japanese Universities?
<RIETI Featured Fellow> HARAYAMA Yuko

HARAYAMA YukoFaculty Fellow, RIETI

Greetings from RIETI

In Europe, university evaluations have been used as a tool to solve problems and effectively utilize the autonomy of universities. In Japan, a university evaluation system under the National Institutions for Academic Degrees (NIAD) was launched on a trial basis in 2002. In 2004, national universities will become independent administrative institutions (IAIs) in which faculty and administrative members no longer hold public servant status, and a new evaluation system based on mid-term goals and plans will be implemented. On Feb. 22, RIETI organized a policy symposium entitled "How to Evaluate a University and What For?: Seeking a Model for University Evaluations - The European Experiment." Taking this opportunity, RIETI Report interviewed RIETI Faculty Fellow Yuko Harayama on the background and challenges of university evaluations in Japan.


Dr. Harayama became a fellow at RIETI in April 2001 and she has been a faculty fellow at RIETI and a professor at Tohoku University since April 2002. She received a B.A. in mathematics from the University of Besancon in 1973, a B.A. in sciences of education from the University of Geneva in 1988, and a B.A. in economics from the University of Geneva in 1992. She was a teaching assistant between 1992-97, and a researcher between 1993-94 at the University of Geneva. She was also a visiting scholar at the Center for Economic Policy Research at Stanford University between 1996-97. She received her Ph.D. in sciences of education in 1996 and her Ph.D. in economics in 1997 from the University of Geneva. She became an assistant professor at the University of Geneva in 1998. Her expertise is science and technology policy and technology transfer higher education studies.

Selected publication in English include: "Japanese Technology Policy: History and A New Perspetive," Discussion Paper, 01-E-001 2001/09, RIETI

Grin, F., Harayama, Y. & Weber, L., "Responsiveness, responsibility and accountability: an evaluation of university governance in Switzerland," Six-Nation Education Research Project (SNRP), Federal Office of Education and Science, Bern, 2000

Her columns:
"Industry-University Cooperation to Take On Here from"
"The Impact brought about by the Final Report on Concerning the Image of the New 'Corporate National University'"

RIETI Policy Symposium "How to Evaluate a University and What For? : Seeking a model for University Evaluatons - The European Experiment -"
For handouts and references, click here


RIETI Report (RR): What is the current state of university evaluations in Japan?

Harayama: There are three major evaluation bodies, namely, NIAD, which evaluates national universities, Japan Accreditation Board for Engineering Education (JABEE), which evaluates and accredit the level of engineers, and a private organization called Japan University Accreditation Association (JUAA). Revisions to the School Law enacted during last year's extraordinary Diet session called for the introduction of an evaluation system for all the universities including private ones. Meanwhile, national universities, which will become nonpublic servant IAIs, will be evaluated based on mid-term goals and plans. As such, diverse evaluation systems exist now; we are in the midst of an evolutionary process.

RR: What problems do you see in the ongoing discussions?

Harayama: A discussion about the purpose of the evaluations has been completely absent hitherto. Reinforcing education and research activities, improving management and operational efficiency, assuring quality, providing a barometer for resource allocations, fulfilling social accountability can be cited as purposes of evaluations. University evaluations should serve for universities themselves or stakeholders of universities. Evaluations can be done through self assessment and peer review or by using an index. Meanwhile, specialized organizations, specialists, colleagues, media members, students as customers, and companies that employ university graduates can serve as evaluators. University evaluations are a combination of all those factors and are very complex. Japanese universities should get themselves more involved in the creation of a university evaluation system.

RR: What kind of evaluation system is desirable?

Harayama: Evaluations by the government is one way but self evaluation by universities is also an option worthwhile considering. "University evaluations for universities" should be the guiding principle, and discussions should be made as to why a governmental framework is necessary. Association of Private Universities of Japan is studying an evaluation organization from its own point of view and I think this kind of approach is important. It is contradictory for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to implement uniform measurements for evaluating universities while calling for the "diversification of university systems." Also university evaluations are costly, for example in terms of massive volume of documents that universities should provide. Unless evaluations provide concrete suggestions for improving their activities and operations, universities would find no reason to actively participate in university evaluations. Different perspectives and methods should be tried out in order to take a step forward, departing from the passive stance to simply "cope with rules established."

<Ref.> Evolution of university evaluation system in Japan

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