About Japanese Universities

This is a post I wrote quite a while ago in response to Shige’s post about Japanese Universities. I had intended to place it as a comment on his blog, but it got so long that I decided to just make a blog post out of it. Then I kept it as Draft and didn’t publish it until now.

However, people say that all the Japanese universities’ students’ levels are so low compare to other countries’.

Why? Because usually we don’t study after enrolling in our universities. In order to enroll in universities we study very hard, and that’s all. We don’t need to study that much in order to graduate, especially in Kyoto University.

What is the cause of this? I heard Hai Minh say something about the competition between professors: They all want students to work in the lab. So they cannot ask too much work from students in the courses, because then the students would be too busy to work in the lab. Did I interpret that correctly?

When it comes to job seeking, all the students HAVE TO skip their classes otherwise they cannot get any job. […] we cannot study very much, and the worst thing is those companies (usually) don’t expect anything academic from students, even though we’ve spent at least 3 years by then at universities. […] I think this is one of the reasons why we don’t study much. We don’t need to for graduation and getting jobs!

I’m not sure if this is strange from the companies’ point of view. I think the cause-and-effect is as follows: The level of education is relatively low, which means students don’t need to study much. This results in low expectations from companies and that is why they test students after graduation. Do you agree or disagree with that?

A next question is: Why do people go to University then? If you don’t need to study for graduation and getting jobs, why don’t you just apply for a job without a diploma. Because you’re saying it doesn’t matter. 😉

Some other quote, from somewhere:

Lifetime employment is still very common in Japan. Japanese companies prefer to hire ‘fresh’ graduates in order to train them with the company culture from the very beginning of a career. Remember, graduates who do not start their career straight after graduation will need a good excuse for why they did not start working immediately.

What is strange is that there are, obviously, foreigners applying for jobs outside April. Are there really no Japanese people who get a job on a different time than right after graduation? This might be a biased view on the situation, I cannot imagine that you can only apply for jobs during a certain period. Companies need employees, independent of the period of the year they’re in. Do you know anyone who has applied for a job after graduation?

On the topic of casual interaction:

When we are 4th year students, we need to write a thesis with teachers’ help to graduate, so during this time we’ll be quite friendly.

Hm, I think that’s not quite the difference I had in mind. You say it’s “quite friendly” but does this also mean “casual”? Let me put it differently: Do you know if your teacher has children? Do you know their hobbies? Do they talk to you about other things than your courses?

There are so many questions you can ask yourself. Of course, I base my questions on a one-sided view of Japan, and with these questions I may be pushing you a bit too much. But let me tell you something I heard from a professor from my university. He and a colleague have been working with Asian students and they don’t like the formal attitude (“Thank you, sir. Yes, sir. No, sir.”), they think it is too distant. Where do you stand on that topic?

If you’re not interested in my questions, you’re free to let them be, of course 😛 I have to admit that I’m being a bit stubborn and choosing the “naive view on Japan” approach. I know things are not at one-sided as they are presented sometimes, but I think it is interesting if you first start with stereotypes and work your way up from there.

4 Replies to “About Japanese Universities”

  1. 1

    Hi Diana,

    Thank you for writing about these topics!! I really appreciate your response, and I promise I’ll write my answers to your questions on my blog, let’s say, within a week (otherwise I think I wouldn’t do that forever :P).
    See ya!

  2. 2
    Hai Minh


    Although Shige has mentioned some facts, for example the education level is low (lectures are boring, textbooks are rubbish, etc), but the reasons and arguments are not so persuasive. Your questions will help Shige to refine his reasoning.

    Some “chickens or eggs” kind of questions are hard to answer definitely. “Because the education level is already low, therefore companies don’t expect academic ability” OR “Because companies don’t expect academic ability, therefore students don’t need to study hard”. And the less companies expect, the less students study, then the lower education level becomes, so the less companies expect…

    Looking forward to answers from Shige!

  3. 3

    Hi guys, thanks for reading and responding 🙂

    Some “chickens or eggs” kind of questions are hard to answer definitely.

    Yes, I understand it’s hard to find where the situation started, but I think it’s safe to say that there’s a vicious cycle here.

    For the record, in the Netherlands right now, education levels are also lowering. This is because of:

    • some institutions receiving money from companies as donation and the companies want to see results in numbers (= many students graduating)
    • all institutions receive rewards for graduating students
    • they’re trying to reform the system, which means change after change, which is also not good for the quality of the education

    Just last year, there were several scandals with institutions giving diploma’s away too easily. Just so you know that our education system isn’t perfect either 😉

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