Beyond Seiiki and Garyuu: In Pursuit of EMI in Japanese Higher Education

Yoko Mori, University of Otago

8:50 am – 9:20 am (Room 235)



Over the past few decades, “globalization” has been an impetus for higher education development. This paper focuses on two concepts elicited from my study on faculty developers’ professional identity formation in the context of English Medium Instruction (EMI) in Japanese higher education: seiiki (sanctuary) and garyuu ([doing a thing] in one’s own way). Exploring professional identity is important because it impacts work (Sternszus, 2016). Each country has its own culture (Meyer, 2014), and how an identity (in my case, faculty developers’ professional identity) is formed in a local context could have implications for the others elsewhere in the world (Hall, 1990). Though there are abundant literature on EMI in Japanese higher education, there are scarce studies on this topic through the lens of faculty developers’ professional identity.

Faculty development (FD) in Japanese higher education began in earnest from the late 1980s. While in the West, the purpose has been to respond to massification and diversification of student population, the uniqueness of FD in Japan has been that it emerged out of necessity for internationalization of higher education (Yoshida, 2016). The government’s ambitious 100,000 Foreign Students Plan in 1983 that was set to promote international student mobility accelerated the FD movement, and FD programs have become mandated for higher education in 2008. Many Japanese universities, accordingly, set up FD programs to support academics transfer to EMI so that international students could learn subjects in English. However, despite prominent movements toward internationalization, the transformation to EMI has been rather stagnant. My qualitative case study investigated ten faculty developers’ professional identity formation in a research-intensive institute in Tokyo. Results from semi-structured interviews identified two key themes: seiiki and garyuu, which were found to be deeply rooted in Japanese higher education culture— with many developers sharing the view that these concepts have been interpreted as “academic freedom”. The two themes provided a framework in which to make sense out of the EMI stagnation and shed light on interdisciplinary communication (i.e., exchange of discipline languages) and establishment of bridging-programs between SLA (Second Language Acquisition) and EMI as a strategy to overcome pressure for EMI transformation.