Accepted Paper:

Trends and tensions at a rural Japanese national university  


Anthony Rausch (Hirosaki University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper offers an Asian perspective (rural Japan). The case exemplifies the tension of contemporary academic demands of a large university versus characteristics of peripherality, reflected by being sited in Asia as well as peripheral in terms of its relationship to academic trends within Japan.

Paper long abstract:

This paper offers an Asian perspective, at a national university in rural Japan. The contemporary academic demands of any large university versus the character of 'peripherality' that Hirosaki University exemplifies is multi-dimensional, reflecting 'global peripherality' by virtue of being sited in Asia as well as 'national peripherality' in terms of its relationship to the academic trends within Japan.

At the university level, while activating international institutional relationships was seen as vital to the university in the past, the trend recently has been to strengthen the profile of the university through local community programs. This has been undertaken through a Center of Community (COC) initiative that positions research and educational objectives less with regard to international academic standards than in terms of local relevance. Secondly, at faculty/departmental levels, the trends are cost rationalization and reorganization/consolidation of resource allocations. This runs counter to educational expectations, where tensions regarding the English credit requirements reflect tensions emerging within a broader debate in Japan about the relative value of liberal arts courses versus more specific skills oriented concentrations, a common argument in light of corporatisation and commodification. Finally, at the individual (and personal) level as a social scientist/English teacher, I have organized educational objectives and course curriculums such that they serve dual purposes: inculcating fundamental communication skills that will be beneficial in Japanese and in any communicative context, but introduced and actualized through the English language course that I am required to teach.

Panel P041
Higher education and transnational academic hierarchies: anthropological work in/on the academic periphery