The present study used data collected from 1,048 academic faculty in Japan using the 2012 survey, “The Changing Academic Profession in Asia,” which was conducted by the Research Institute for Higher Education, Hiroshima University. The survey discussed the characteristics of academic careers by discipline, focusing on degree acquisition and the content and methods used in graduate education. A number of interesting findings were obtained.
The content and methods used in graduate education differ depending on the academic discipline, which subsequently influences the PhD acquisition rate. For instance, compared with academics in the humanities and social sciences, those in the natural sciences and engineering demonstrate stronger research interests (greater personal interest in teaching) and higher PhD acquisition rates.
Over 10% of academics in the social sciences acquired their academic degrees (Master or Doctoral degree) outside Japan. However, the introduction of fixed-term employment lags even although internationalization is progressing in the social sciences.
Approximately 90% of academics in the humanities have taken on careers at universities, and the ratio of full-fledged professors is greater than that of associate professors and lower-ranked faculty (lecturer, assistant professor, research associate, research assistant, or assistant).
Thirty percent of academics in the health sciences are in workplaces other than universities. A high percentage of those are lecturers and lower-level faculty (assistant professor, research associate, research assistant, or assistant), and the introduction of fixed-term employment systems is progressing.
Irrespective of academic discipline, faculty members’ interests lie primarily in research. However, when they are considered for promotion, they expect that their teaching will also be appropriately considered.
Discipline-based differences in the careers of academic faculty are reflective of the characteristics of each faculty and department. Universities will likely continue to respond to society’s needs by providing a diverse range of academic faculty careers.