Working Paper 57
The Public Good in Japan’s Higher Education: Main findings from interviews with various stakeholders
Published January 2021

The purpose of this study is to analyze different interpretations of public good(s) in the context of higher education, the contributions that higher education makes to the public good, and how these contributions are measured in Japan.

The analysis draws on 17 semi-structured interviews with policy makers, presidents of national professional associations, institutional leaders, deans and professors from contrasting disciplines, and other administrators from two national universities in Japan.

Firstly, all interviewees believed that Japan’s higher education could be considered to be a public good. However, they did not consider it a pure public good, as its benefits are not accessible to and enjoyed by all students and members of society.

Secondly, they argued that the contributions of Japan’s universities vary considerably according to their educational level and sector, and academic activities. For example, participants argued that research activities represent a greater contribution to the public good(s) than teaching activities, and doctoral education contributes more than undergraduate education. Specifically, they argued that Japan’s national universities play a decisive role in contributing to the public good(s) by promoting social justice, equal access, innovative basic research, and advancing the development of science and technology at the regional, national, and international levels.

Thirdly, although some contributions to the public good(s) cannot be measured, or are difficult to measure, no one denied these contributions. Finally, participants shared many opinions in common, different interpretations could also be identified between the interviewees.

You can read the full working paper here.