Conceptualising university student exchange: Reflections on ‘3/11’ and its aftermath in Japan

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Date(s) - Wed 05 Sep
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

JSC Auditorium
Monash University, Clayton Campus
Clayton 3168

The 11 March 2011 natural disaster and ensuing nuclear crisis in Japan (‘3/11’) sparked a miscellany of secondary and tertiary crises within Japanese organizations, even those which suffered no direct physical damage. In universities, one of the most visible impacts was on international education programs.

Foreign nationals enrolled in Japanese institutions departed the country in large numbers, and many others scheduled to enroll also stayed away. Among these were numerous participants in exchange programs with universities in other countries, including Australia. In responding to this student exodus and determining the future of their exchange programs and the remaining participants in them, Japanese university administrators struggled to maintain an effective balance between the wider priorities of their own institutions, their obligations to partner universities overseas, and the needs and demands of the exchange students thems elves.

The handling of this ‘trilemma’ exposed some important weaknesses in the conventional approach to operation of international programs, particularly in the area of risk management.

Taking a step back from the immediate subject matter of disaster preparedness and response, this presentation uses the 3/11 experience as an opportunity to consider the problematic concept of student exchange itself. The relationships between different actors in exchange programs are explored, and gaps between policy and practice interrogated. What emerges is a complex arrangement of educational, administrative and strategic considerations, none of which are immediately visible in the day-to-day operation of exchange programs but all of which are called to account in a crisis.

The research leading to this presentation was funded by the Australian Government – Prime Minister’s Education Assistance for Japan.

Jeremy Breaden lectures in Japanese and Asian Studies in the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University. He is interested in international education policy and management and the interface between tertiary education and employment in East Asian countries. Jeremy previously worked as an international communications consultant to higher education institutions, government bodies and private corporations in Japan. He is also a professional Japanese-English translator. Jeremy’s first monograph, titled International Inside Out: The Organizational Dynamics of University Reform in Japan will be published by Routledge in late 2012.