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Multilateral initiatives in the East Asian arena and the challenges for Japanese higher education

Akiyoshi Yonezawa (Graduate School of International Development, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan)
Arthur Meerman (Faculty of Literature, Kurume University, Kurume, Japan)

Asian Education and Development Studies

ISSN: 2046-3162

Article publication date: 6 January 2012




The purpose of this paper is to analyze the recent evolution of the policy debate over the internationalization of Japanese higher education in times of particularly strong financial constraint, with reference also made to trends in the higher education systems of neighboring Asian countries. The authors describe the de facto formation of a regional Asia‐Pacific higher education arena through open multilateral initiatives, which continues to develop despite the lack of a developed regional policy consensus.


The present paper is based upon over a decade of investigation into the Japanese and other Asian higher education systems. Observations drawn are based on the critical analysis of regional dynamics, including changing sociopolitical, demographic, economic and technology/information‐based factors. The paper objectively interprets information gathered on Japan's investment in human resources, the research performance and international standing of its universities, as well as on and cross‐border phenomena within the Asia‐Pacific region, such as transnational academic mobility, exchange agreements and other multilateral initiatives.


The international dimension of Asia‐Pacific higher education is becoming increasingly pronounced, primarily as a result of regional multilateral initiatives. Mutual exchange and collaboration between higher education institutions and individual academics and students are widespread and developing rapidly. However, at this moment, there is neither a developed policy consensus to guide the process, nor explicit agreement as to what the “regional higher education arena” in East Asia and the Asia Pacific looks like. Increasingly complex regional dynamics now present Japanese higher education with the need to reposition its role as a distinguished global leader to one as an active member in supporting multilateral initiatives within the Asia‐Pacific region.


In providing an objective synopsis of selected policy initiatives in Japanese and Asian higher education, this paper underscores the need to re‐conceptualize higher education dynamics in the Asian region and Japan's role therein. Long‐held views of Japan as “regional leader”, of the significance of the geographic situation of any one nation, of cross‐border initiatives as planned phenomena and of the factors influencing regional collaboration in academia are reassessed. As such, this paper moves beyond traditional “polar” conceptualizations to the new reality of “multilateral” relationships, concluding with an urgent call for consensus on key policy issues.



Yonezawa, A. and Meerman, A. (2012), "Multilateral initiatives in the East Asian arena and the challenges for Japanese higher education", Asian Education and Development Studies, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 57-66.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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