The British publication Times Higher Education reports that Education Minister Hakuban Shimomura recently sent a letter to all 86 of Japan’s public universities to take “active steps to abolish [social science and humanities] organisations or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs.”
Tokyo and Kyoto, arguably the country’s top two universities, are fighting the order, but 17 others are now refusing to admit new students to these programs.
The new policy apparently reflects an edict from the top. The Japan Times’ published an editorial criticizing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for announcing, “Rather than deepening academic research that is highly theoretical, we will conduct more practical vocational education that better anticipates the needs of society.”
Dr. Lawrence Busch, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Michigan State University, said, “The argument is very much part of the neoliberal claim that future earnings (or the claim to future earnings) is and should be the central reason for university education. It is not terribly different from the Soviet promotion of engineering and demotion of everything else in the 1920s and 30s.”