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Ministry probes Japan's Kagawa University over 400 part-time lecturers on service contracts

This photo shows a business consignment contract concluded with a part-time lecturer at Kagawa University. (Mainichi/Sahomi Nishimoto)

TAKAMATSU -- The education ministry has begun investigating Kagawa University in western Japan following the finding that it has left classes in the hands of about 400 part-time lecturers working under service contracts, university and other sources have disclosed.

    The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has indicated that universities should directly employ lecturers -- thereby enabling the institutions to control and supervise them -- in order to educate students in a responsible manner, and is seeking a detailed explanation on the state of employment at the university.

    According to Kagawa University, it had around 400 part-time lecturers as of the end of the 2020 school year. In April 2005, the year after the institution became a national university corporation, it switched from direct employment to service contracts. It remains unclear why the university made the change.

    From the perspective of enriching the content of education, universities are permitted to form service contracts with off-campus educational facilities and businesses and have staff and company members teach classes as external lecturers. But a notice the education ministry issued in 2007 called on universities to make sure that academic assessment and other such matters be handled by university teachers in charge of classes. This came after the ministry expressed the view in the 2005 academic year that the role of lecturers on service contracts should be limited to assisting teachers handling classes, based on the fact that universities can't order lecturers on service contracts to report to them, otherwise it would be regarded as fake contract work, which is illegal.

    However, according to a part-time lecturer who has taught liberal arts at Kagawa University for 10 years, the service contract states the subjects the lecturer is in charge of, and the work is described as "classes, exams, grading, etc." The lecturer explained that the content of the work was the same as that of a part-time lecturer directly employed at another university.

    In September 2018, the University of Tokyo abandoned service agreements with part-time lecturers, and switched to direct employment on the grounds of improving employment stability and the quality of education. Kyoto University in western Japan similarly says it directly employs all part-time teachers. Akira Ejiri, secretary-general of the group University Part-time Lecturers Union Kansai, commented, "We've hardly heard of any cases of service contracts with part-time lecturers."

    A representative of Kagawa University's personnel affairs and planning group told the Mainichi Shimbun, "The university is considering a response internally, including whether to implement direct employment."

    (Japanese original by Sahomi Nishimoto, Takamatsu Bureau)

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