In Japan, the skills of working adults are normally improved through OJT, for example. Compared with other advanced countries, the proportion of working adults making use of institutions of higher education such as universities and graduate schools is extremely small. The potential demand for graduate schools that offer practical education to working adults is large. The number of graduate schools providing opportunities for professional education in various fields needs to be increased, and doing so would also help make Japan more competitive.
1. Improve the Quality of Japan’s Professional Schools (Graduate Schools Offering Professional Education)
During the last decade the government has achieved some success in implementing a policy to increase the number of institutions offering professional education in Japan. The first breakthrough came in 2003 with the introduction of special structural reform zones in which companies other than university corporations, i.e. private-sector companies such as joint-stock companies, could operate schools. GLOBIS took advantage of this special-zone framework to become a joint-stock-company graduate school of management. As GLOBIS Graduate School of Management, opportunities for working adults to develop their abilities have been expanded further.
Japanese graduate schools also need to improve their quality if working adults with high educational needs are to choose domestic graduate schools.
Specifically, there needs to be a shift from a focus on undergraduate education toward the concept of independent graduate schools. Harvard University’s law school, business school, etc. all exist as independent educational institutions, and their administration is entrusted mainly to their respective deans. Graduate schools themselves need to develop teaching faculty who are highly skilled in providing education to students.
2. Expand Non-Degree Programs at Graduate Schools and Increase the Size of Graduate Schools
The fact that Japanese graduate schools are incredibly small compared with the top overseas schools is one of their weaknesses. A look at business schools alone reveals that Keio enrolls 100 students and Hitotsubashi enrolls 41 students each year. Both of these are small numbers. Harvard, meanwhile, has more than 900 first-year MBA students. Even Stanford, a relatively small school, has around 400 first-year students.
Graduate schools need to expand their non-degree programs, such as training programs for corporations, and each graduate school needs to increase in size.
3. Expand Evening and Weekend Curricula to Make It Easier For Working Adults to Study
In the U.S., a master’s degree is regarded as an important vocational qualification for development of one’s career, and for this reason most graduate school students are adults in the middle of their careers. As a result, many graduate schools offer class times and locations that make it easy for adults who are working full time to study. To increase the size of graduate schools, and to meet student needs, it will be important to expand curricula that make it easy for professional adults to continue working while they study.
4. Have Graduate Schools Work with Industry to Develop the Kind of Human Resources That Companies Want
In Japan, it cannot be said that society, i.e. corporations, the government, etc. are properly utilizing people with master’s and doctorate degrees. Industry and graduate schools need to collaborate more closely, and through such collaboration, educational curricula need to be reformed, internship programs need to be expanded, and so on.
With people now living for 80 years, we are entering an era in which people will acquire the abilities they need to adapt to changing times at professional schools on an as-needed basis, and then utilize these abilities in their jobs. Universities should adopt a global outlook while offering distinctive education for lifelong learning. Otherwise, they will be left behind in competition at the global level.