Editorial: Japanese private universities must adopt governance reform amid scandals

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How to increase transparency in the organizational management of universities while respecting their autonomy? This is a crucial time for the reform of private higher education institutions in Japan.

Following a series of scandals at private universities, a group of experts from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology drew up a reform plan to strengthen corporate governance school.

The plan would designate boards of directors as the highest decision-making bodies of these institutions instead of boards of directors, with each administrator coming from outside the educational institution. Voting rights for administrators would extend to budgets and business plans, and they would also have a say in the selection of principals and other school officials.

The plan emphasizes the need for information disclosure. He urges institutions to actively disclose to the public financial information, business reports, and director appointment plans, among other information.

Private schools, however, strongly resisted the move, saying it would be difficult for a board composed only of external members to make management decisions regarding education and research. A concrete design of the proposal should therefore be postponed until next year.

Under the current system, the board is only an advisory body to the chairman of the board. It is also common for lecturers and others affiliated with educational institutions to also act as trustees or trustees. It was therefore reported that the control system was not functioning sufficiently.

In fact, there has been a flood of cases where it has not been possible to prevent the widespread behavior of the chairman of the board or other administrators – such as the rigging of university entrance exams. of Tokyo Medicine and the breach of trust case at Nihon University. There is no doubt that increased management oversight is essential.

Among private schools, however, some fear that external opinions may go so far as to influence the direction of the teaching and research they aim to provide.

The governance of social protection companies and foundations incorporated as public benefit companies has been cited as a model for reforming educational institutions. In these bodies, directors and workers are prohibited from doubling as directors.

Universities, however, are educational institutions designed to cultivate human resources based on the spirit of their foundation. We must respect the individuality they have cultivated. It is also necessary to ensure a system in which the opinions of students, who should be valued the most, are reflected in management.

Private universities receive generous tax incentives and grants to private schools from the central government. Making their management sound is a social responsibility. However, it is difficult to do this relying solely on outside power.

Universities must first demonstrate their capacity for self-cleaning and their position to stimulate governance, and government reforms should support these efforts.

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