Japanese universities told to scrap social science and humanities

Japanese universities told to scrap social science and humanities

Seventeen universities in Japan are to close their humanities and social science courses following orders from the government to “serve areas that better meet society’s needs”, the Times Higher Education has reported.

Of the 60 national universities that offer courses in these disciplines, 26 have confirmed that they will either close or scale back their relevant faculties at the order of Japan’s government.

Education minister, Hakuban Shimomura, sent a letter to all of Japan’s 86 national universities, which called on them to take “active stages to abolish [social science and humanities] organisations or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs."

According a survey of university presidents by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, 17 national univiersities will stop recruiting students to humanities and social science courses - including law and economics.

The move has been denounced by one university president as “anti-intellectual”, while the universities of Tokyo and Kyoto, regarded as the country’s most prestigious, have said they will not comply with the request.

Last month, the Science Council of Japan released a statement that expressed its “profound concern over the potentially grave impact that such an administrative directive implies for the future of the humanities and social sciences in Japan.”

Many believe the plans are part of President Shinzo Abe's call for wider efforts to promote “more practical vocational education that better anticipates the needs of society.”

Jake Grove of Times Higher Education believes that that the move is connected with the "ongoing financial pressures" on Japanese universities, following a low birth rate and falling numbers of students which have led to many institutions running at less than 50% capacity.