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Home > Tech Reiews > Japan Technology Review Last Updated: 15:24 03/09/2007
Japan Technology Review #14: Auguts 28, 2001

Grants and Endowments System

By Hajime Yamada (GLOCOM)

Grants and Endowments are donations from private corporations or individuals for enrichment of study or education of national universities. They are used in the following four ways:

  1. School expenses allowed or lent to students;
  2. Expenses for purchase of books, machines, apparatus and specimens provided or lent to students;
  3. Expenses for scholarly research; and
  4. Other expenditures aimed at promoting educational research

Donations for the third purpose amounts to the largest, and the total was as much as 46 billion yen in 1999. The amount was 15 billion yen in 1983 when the system was established, which means that donations expanded approximately three times in 16 years.

National universities can initiate courses or research departments according to the donors' request with the Grants and Endowments. Many donated Chairs have been established in a variety of areas such as economics, science and engineering, and medical science. According to the figures of 2000, a total of 53 donated courses and 20 donated research departments exist at 36 universities.

For example, the the School of Economics, Osaka University held the Tokio Marine Chair. This research department was established by a donation from the Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance Company, and it conducted a wide range of research projects on finance, insurance, and social security. The Chair existed from April 1993 to March 1998.

The Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University held the Bayer Chair of Department of Molecular Immunology and Allergy, established on April 1st, 1995 with a donation of 250 million yen from Bayer Yakuhin, Ltd. This donated course existed for 5 years until March 2000. The purpose of the Chair was to probe into molecular level mechanisms of the human immune system, and to make use of the study for diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases caused by immune disorders.

The Chair system is useful for universities to promote Research and Development on the issues requested by private sector organizations. The number of Chairs increased gradually, and has grown about 3.6 times since 1989.

The table below shows that during the 1980s, the total amount of Grants and Endowments increased steadily, but that in the 1990s it tended toward slow or little growth. In Japan, the Bubble Economy collapsed in the early 1990s, and since then the Japanese economy has been sluggish. This economic trend seems to reflect the total amount of Grants and Endowments. Agreement on inevitable promotion of Science and Technology for revitalization of the Japanese industry began to form in the 1990s, but it didn't result in increased amounts of Grants and Endowments.

During the period from 1989 until 1999, the average amount of a grant, or the total amount divided by the number of donations, did not change much. The average donation has been hovering around 800 thousand yen, as is shown in the table below.

Table: Transition of the Amount of Grants and Endowments
Fiscal Year Togal (Billion Yen) Number of Donations Average (Tousand Yen)
1983 15.0    
1984 18.3    
1985 22.4    
1986 24.9    
1987 29.1    
1988 35.2    
1989 38.0 48042 791
1990 42.6 53161 801
1991 45.7 57339 797
1992 50.1 61331 817
1993 50.0 59469 841
1994 48.9 55265 885
1995 48.7 55145 883
1996 48.4 56887 851
1997 46.5 55731 825
1998 46.7 53393 875
1999 46.0 53954 853

Grants and Endowments are first paid to the national treasury, and then the same amounts are subsidized from the Ministry of Education to universities for practical uses in accordance to the purpose of donation. This system seems unlikely to cause unlawful acts because the Ministry of Education as well as the university authorities take part in the allocation process. However, in reality, several cases of illegal acts such as offering special advantages to private companies in exchange for donations, or appropriating a part of donations in the process of administration are reported every year.

To prevent this kind of misconduct from happening, improvements of organizations with integrated control of the studies at universities, as well as the rules for administration of Grants, are necessary.

It is important to distinguish, as a part of the rules, official duties of a university professor from private studies he or she conducts as an individual. A national university professor is a government employee whose duty is education and study, and therefore research activities on university campus are in principle official functions. Conducting research off campus can also be regarded as an official duty if the research is a part of his or her responsibility as a university professor. However, when a university professor conducts research at his or her own expense, or at a cost paid by somebody other than the government--for example on a holiday at home--or studies at a private company after being permitted to have a side job, it will be regarded as unofficial or private research. The policy of fortifying industry-academia cooperation, as I have already reported, stresses the necessity of university professors' holding two jobs concurrently. Therefore, the latter type of private research will increase in number from now on. To form clearer and more accurate rules for distinguishing official studies from private ones is thus getting more and more important.

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