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Perspective Chapter: Contribution to the Local Community at the University

Written By

Shinichiro Maeshima

Reviewed: December 17th, 2021 Published: February 28th, 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.102074

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Abstract

In 2020, Japan had nearly three million students enrolled in 795 universities, representing 54.4% of the student population—the highest in the nation’s history. However, the number of private universities has grown dramatically, while the population of 18-year-olds has dropped due to Japan’s declining birthrate; as a result, one-third of private universities are now under-enrolled, making it difficult for many of them to operate. Universities have a long and storied history, and their function and mission have changed over time. Amid competing visions for what a university’s primary focus should be, the roles universities are expected to play are also changing. To meet the demands of local communities and society, as well as the diverse needs of students, universities should provide an education that draws on students’ individuality. Recently, universities’ contributions to the development of society have started being emphasized; together with research and education, social contribution needs to be perceived as the so-called third mission of the university, and analysts are calling for more industry-academia-government collaborations. This chapter focuses on universities’ social contribution, and describes the connection between local communities and the social contribution activities that universities have carried out for the past 20 years.

Keywords

  • local community
  • university
  • project

1. Introduction

1.1 What is a university and its historical background?

Universities are the core educational institutions of higher education. They convey a wide range of knowledge as a center of academia; teach and research specialized arts and sciences; and develop intellectual, moral, and applied skills (the School Education Act) [1].

Modern universities had their origins in medieval Europe. The oldest university in Europe is said to be the University of Bologna [2] in Italy, which began when a guild of law students organized a “universitas magistrorum et scholarium,” roughly meaning “community of teachers and scholars,” as an autonomous organization in 1088. In 1150, the University of Paris was founded, which originated from a group of teachers (collegium) who had been running private schools. In both cases, they were organizations created when people with the common purpose of learning gathered to protect their positions and interests [3]. The University of Bologna was a student guild specializing in law, while the University of Paris was a teacher’s guild that seemed to have had a high reputation for theology.

On the other hand, in Japan, the University of Tokyo was founded in 1877 as the merger and reorganization of Tokyo Kaisei Gakko and Tokyo Medical School [4]. There was no autonomy as in medieval European universities, and it was a powerful state-led bureaucracy training institution. However, in Japan, a bureaucratic training organization called “Daigaku-ryo” had already been established more than a thousand years earlier (670) during the reign of Emperor Tenchi—it was created by the government to learn about the systems and cultures of China and to create an organization as a nation, and it differs greatly from the university organizations in Europe created by the teachers and students themselves [3].

The number of universities doubled from 389 schools (75 national schools, 33 public schools, and 281 private schools) 50 years ago (1971) to 795 schools (86 national schools, 94 public schools, and 615 private schools) as of 2020 (Figure 1), and the number of students also increased, from 1,469,000 to 2,916,000 in 2020. This was greatly influenced by an increase in the population of 18-year-olds. The population peaked in 1966, when the postwar “baby boomer” generation reached the age of 18, at 2.49 million. By 1992, when the generation of their children reached the age of 18, the total stayed fairly steady at 2.05 million. In addition to promoting decentralization, the government announced the deregulation of university establishment standards [5]—that is, the government’s policy of restraining the increase in the capacity of universities and faculties was abolished. As a result, private universities increased from 378 private schools in 1991 to 615 private schools in 2020. The percentage of students advancing to universities has improved dramatically, and the percentage of students advancing to a four-year university reached a record high of 54.4% in 2020, compared with 25.5% in 1991 (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Number of universities and higher education rate in Japan.

Meanwhile, the population of Japan began to decline after peaking in 2008 (128 million people). Due to the declining birthrate, the population of 18-year-olds has continued to decline; it is currently at 1,167,000 (Figure 2). Because of this, and because of the increase in the number of universities due to deregulation, one-third of private universities are under-enrolled [6]. The decline in the quality of university education due to insufficient academic ability and the shortage of students make it difficult for universities to operate. To meet the demands of local communities and society, as well as the diverse needs of students, there should not only be a limited number of universities but many universities should provide education that draws on students’ individuality and attributes, so that a wide variety of educational approaches could be provided in Japan as a whole [7]. For universities to remain seats of learning, teachers and staff should work together to consider their roles, while the administration stabilizes the business foundation.

Figure 2.

18-year-old population in Japan.

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2. The role of universities: from education and research to contributing to local communities

Modern universities began with the idea envisioned by Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), the founder of the University of Berlin. He defined universities as institutions that integrate education and research, and emphasized not only lectures but also seminars and practicums, and laboratories of different sorts. That is, he thought that scholarship was something always being produced anew, created by both the professor and the student [3]. This educational philosophy is based in the humanities, and it rejects the idea that vocational education takes precedence over general cultural education. Karl Theodor Jaspers (1883–1969) also described the mission of universities as “the search for truth in a community of researchers and students” [8]. Here as well, research is a basic requirement for universities, and although it is impossible to separate research and teaching, research is regarded as the most important element. In contrast, José Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955) developed a theory of university reform in his book Mission of the University, written in 1930, and stated that it was the fundamental mission of the university to teach the liberal arts (Kulturdisziplinen) and conduct university education by categorizing both specialized vocational education and scientific research [9]. Jaspers believed that the target audience should be a small number of the best students, while Ortega stated that a university education should begin with average students [3]. How a university education should be conducted remains a universal problem. Knowledge and information are important, as professionals respond to the rapid changes and demands of society, and liberal arts and vocational education cannot be conducted by separating the two. On the other hand, the roles universities are expected to play are also changing. Recently, universities’ contributions to the development of society as a whole—local communities, economic societies, and international societies—have started being emphasized [10]. Education and research certainly provide social contributions from a long-term perspective. However, more direct contributions through public lectures and industry-academia-government collaborations are being sought. Perhaps we are in a time where such social contributions need to be perceived as the so-called third mission of the university.

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3. Our universities and the Kinjo dream project

Kinjo-Yugakkan, which became the basis for Kinjo University, was established in 1904. At that time, there was no school in Ishikawa Prefecture where girls who graduated from higher elementary school could advance to higher education, and to improve girls’ education, Kokichi Kato, a teacher at the prefectural normal school, founded the school with his own money [11]. The educational philosophy of the school was “leading by example,” and “frugality and diligence.” “Leading by example” means doing things before others do, to become a model for such actions, while “frugality and diligence” refer to working and studying hard without extravagances. When it started as a private school, Kinjo-Yugakkan had 29 students, including eight boys. In 1908, a school building was established in Honda-machi, and in 1924, the school was approved as a five-year high school for girls. Furthermore, Kinjo Junior College was founded in 1976. In 1996, the Kinjo Women’s Senior High School was renamed Yugakkan High School and became co-ed.

Kinjo University opened in 2000, and the Faculty of Social Work’s Department of Social Work was established. In 2007, the Department of Physical Therapy was established in the Faculty of Health Services, and in 2013, the Department of Occupational Therapy was added. In addition, in 2015, the Department of Nursing was established in the Faculty of Nursing, and the Graduate School of Rehabilitation was created; with these, Kinjo has become a university specializing in medical and welfare. There are five departments in three faculties, and there are about 1200 students aiming to become medical welfare and childcare/early childcare education professionals. Physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, social workers, and care workers are not licensed unless they have taken and passed the national examination. For this reason, medical and welfare universities must provide vocational and professional education also in addition to a liberal arts education and community contributions, which are considered to be the essence of universities.

In reality, since the establishment of our university, many faculty members and students have made social contributions by becoming involved with the community with undergraduate and seminar units. These activities have been useful for regional revitalization and student education, but have rarely led to teachers’ research activities. Therefore, these activities were made into a university-wide initiative, promoting teachers’ research activity. In this era, universities also require “brand power.” The Kinjo Dream Project (KDP) is aimed at developing a system for the promotion of both research and branding by restructuring some established regional collaboration projects while contributing to the community in a more developed manner.

This book therefore focuses on social contribution—one of the proposed roles for universities—and describes the connection between local communities and the social contribution activities that have been carried out over the past 20 years until the establishment of KDP.

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Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interests.

References

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Written By

Shinichiro Maeshima

Reviewed: December 17th, 2021 Published: February 28th, 2022