Christopher D. Hammond
Regional cooperation in Northeast Asian higher education: comparing policy across institutions and disciplines at Japanese universities
My current research is a qualitative study of policy ideas and programs aimed at fostering regional cooperation between China, Japan and South Korea in the higher education sector. The aims of the research are to understand the ideational drivers shaping Northeast Asian higher education (HE) regionalism from the perspective of Japan, and to investigate the ways policy ideas are translated into practice across different institutional and disciplinary contexts in Japanese universities. This takes in an investigation of the conditions under which those ideational drivers are implemented and any limits, barriers and resistances to them. The research takes the form of an interpretive study underpinned by a social constructivist epistemology. Adopting a discursive institutionalist approach (see Schmidt, 2008, 2010) the study aims to investigate the ways certain ideas about HE regional cooperation (and not others) emerge and become institutionalized, as well as how they are contested, re-appropriated and translated by actors into practice. To investigate these issues, two government-initiated regional collaboration programs have been selected, one representing higher education’s societal role as a producer of research-based knowledge, and the other representing its social function as a site for teaching and learning. The program addressing the former role is the A3 Foresight program, a funding scheme for scientists to engage in regional research collaboration. The program addressing the latter role is CAMPUS Asia, a regional exchange program for students at top universities in the three countries. Through contextualized case studies involving thematic analysis of documents and over 60 semi-structured interviews with program participants, an attempt is being made to construct nuanced and informed answers to the following research questions:
- What are the ideas shaping Northeast Asian regional cooperation in the higher education sector at Japanese universities?
- What factors can account for the emergence of these ideas (as opposed to others)?
- Under what conditions and how are these ideas translated into practice across different institutions and disciplines? What facilitates the translation into practice and are there limits, barriers or resistances?
The study will aim to contribute new and valuable knowledge to the social science literature in fields such as Higher Education Studies, International Relations and the interdisciplinary field of Comparative Regionalism. It is hoped the knowledge generated will also have societal relevance by highlighting the potential value of HE regional collaboration programs in fostering peaceful and cooperative relations between China, Japan, and South Korea.
Utilizing thematic and narrative analyses of documents and interview transcripts, I am working to identify emergent themes and develop a framework for understanding the cognitive and normative ideas driving Northeast Asian regionalism in Japanese HE at the policy, programmatic and philosophical levels. While still in the early stages of analysis, the initial findings from my work have been presented at the Asia Pacific Association of International Education (APAIE) Annual Conference in Singapore, and at the study groups and workshops of a number of research societies in Japan. As my research progresses, I plan for the findings from the completed project to be disseminated through published papers and conference presentations, and possibly a scholarly book. It is my hope the research will contribute to the policy discussion about the roles of HE in fostering mutual understanding and collaboration across borders.
The two ‘top-down’ government initiated programs for HE regionalism selected for this study are the A3 Foresight Program and CAMPUS Asia. These programs and the selected cases are described below.
The CAMPUS Asia program
According to the National Institution for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation (NIAD), the aim of CAMPUS Asia is to promote “exchange and cooperation with quality assurance among universities in Japan, China and Korea, in order to strengthen the competitiveness of universities and nurture the next generation of outstanding talent in Asia” (NAID, n.d.). The idea for the program can be traced to the second Japan-China-Korea Trilateral Summit held in October 2009, and the first pilot version of the program was launched in 2011. In its present form, 17 Japanese universities are participating. From within this group of 17, the following universities and their respective CAMPUS Asia programs were chosen as cases. The disciplines within which each program is situated are highlighted in bold.
Table 1: Selected CAMPUS Asia Programs
|No.||Japanese University||Sector||Project Title||Partner universities in China and Korea|
|1||University of Tokyo||National
|Beijing-Seoul-Tokyo (BESETO) Dual Degree Master’s Program on International and Public Policy Studies||Peking University (China); Seoul National University (Korea)|
|Training Human Resources for the Development of an Epistemic Community in Law and Political Science to Promote the Formation of “jus commune” in East Asia||Renmin University of China, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China); Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul National University (Korea)|
|Cooperative Educational Program for Fostering Human Resources to Lead Development of Sustainable Urban and Architectural Environment in Asia||Tongji University (China); Pusan National University (Korea)|
|Program for nurturing medical research leaders to solve global health problems||Peking University, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jioa Tong, Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (China); Yonsei University (Korea)|
|5||Okayama University||National||Asiancrats: A Prime Professional Human Resource Development Program for the East Asian Higher Education Area (Sustainable Development)||Jilin University(China), Sungkyunkwan University (Korea)|
|6||Tokyo Gakugei University||National||International Graduate Program for Teacher Education in East Asia||Beijing Normal University (China) Seoul National University of Education (Korea)|
|7||Tokyo Institute of Technology||National||Advanced TKT CAMPUS Asia Consortium (Science and Engineering)||Tsinghua University(China),Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) (Korea)|
|8||Waseda University||Private||East Asian Global Leadership Program for Multi-layered Conflict Resolution and Social Innovation||Peking University (China); Korea University (Korea)|
Adapted from MEXT (2014).
The A3 Foresight program
A3 Foresight is a program run jointly between the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF). The program aims “to create world-class research hubs within the Asian region, which by advancing world-class research will contribute to the solution of common regional problems, while fostering new generations of talented young researchers” (JSPS, 2015). Since 2005, a number of projects have been funded for five-year intervals in a range of scientific fields. Ten projects are considered to be ‘completed’, and 12 projects are currently underway. From among these, the goal will be to secure interviews and documents related to at least three projects, each of which involves a Japanese university also involved in CAMPUS Asia. As of this writing, the following projects have been selected and more may be added if possible:
Table 2: Selected A3 Foresight Projects
|University||No. of projects||Project Title(s)||Fiscal Year||Collaborating Universities in China and Korea|
|University of Tokyo||2||1. Chemical & Synthetic Biology of Natural Products through Streptomyces Genome Mining, Artificial Chromosome Engineering, and Synthetic Cell Factory Designing||2016||Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China); Inha University (Korea)|
|2. sub-10nm wires; new physics and chemistry||2005||Tsinghua University (China); Seoul National University (Korea)|
|Osaka University||1||Organic/Inorganic Nanohybrid Platforms for Precision Tumor Imaging and Therapy (Scientific and Industrial Research – Interdisciplinary)||2017||Donghua University (China); Ewha Womens University (Korea)|
|Waseda University||1||4. Synthesis and Structure Resolution of Novel Mesoporous Metals (Chemistry)||2005||Fudan University (China); Inha University (Korea)|
Adapted from JSPS (n.d.)
Methods of data collection and analysis
Data collection and analysis involves thematic analysis of documents and semi-structured interviews with program administrators, senior leadership, researchers and academics involved in program planning and implementation. Where possible students are also being interviewed who have either graduated from or are current participants in one of the two programs.
Analysis and interpretation of the data involves thematic coding of interview transcripts and documents using both inductive and deductive methods. Additionally, comparative analysis across institutions, programs, disciplines and individual actors is being conducted. The themes and comparisons are made using a grounded approach that attempts to acknowledge the biases and role of the researcher in the co-construction of the findings.
Thank you for your interest in my research. Please feel free to contact me for more information.
- JSPS. (n.d.). Projects underway. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from
- JSPS. (2015). JSPS A3 Foresight Program FY2017 CALL FOR PROPOSALS < Molecular Imaging-based Precision Medicine >. Retrieved March 1, 2017, from
- MEXT. (2014). Selection for the FY 2014 Top Global University Project. Retrieved November 17, 2015, from
- NAID. (n.d.). Concept and Overview: Campus Asia Initiative. Retrieved April 16, 2017, from
- Schmidt, V. A. (2008). Discursive Institutionalism: The Explanatory Power of Ideas and Discourse. Annual Review of Political Science, 11(1), 303–326.
- Schmidt, V. A. (2010). Reconciling Ideas and Institutions through Discursive Institutionalism. In D. Beland & R. H. Cox (Eds.), Ideas and Politics in Social Science Research (pp. 45–66). Oxford University Press.