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We are not intelligence operatives. Checking resumes and academic records - that should be the extent of our job as a university.

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Takahiko Sasaki, who oversees export controls at Tohoku University, saying his college will seek written pledges from staff not to teach sensitive technology to students or other faculty members with ties to foreign government entities without permission. The Japanese government  is asking universities for greater scrutiny of foreign students and scholars to prevent technology leaks to places like China, partly for its own national security but also to safeguard exchanges with U.S. and European universities.

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The problem is that if the government wants universities to stop accepting students from some countries into some programs, as you say, then they should be setting explicit rules to that effect rather than just giving universities vague admonitions to do something they know admissions offices aren't capable of doing.

Is this the first time you see the Japanese government doing something to force actions without directly opposing them?

The thing is that this straightforward solution can't be taken, so they do as they always do and make up something that will have the same effect while still giving them the excuse of never actually forcing universities to stop accepting students from certain countries.

I'm not sure where the line is and this type of question isn't something that should be just decided by admissions offices under vague pressure from the government to "do something", rather it should be the product of carefully formulated government policy.

A lot of things should be, but in Japan they are not, and instead are regulated by badly defined regulations to be interpreted towards the government benefit without actually solving the problem in the first place.

Another question being: what about the national / friendly nation students, graduates and established researchers?

It is still the same, since the government shifts the responsibility to the universities it leave it all to them, if nothing happens then it is fine, but if the student leaks information to other countries (or their nations stops being considered friendly) then once again the universities will be punished by not doing things "properly"

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Will the students have to keep quiet about what they have learned, both whilst at university and afterwards?

The easiest solution is to stop offering tech courses. Instead offer degrees in manga and anime. As well as being popular domestically, they should pull in some serious cash from foreign students wanting to study such subjects in their spiritual home.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Takahiko Sasaki, who oversees export controls at Tohoku University, saying his college will seek written pledges from staff not to teach sensitive technology to students or other faculty members with ties to foreign government entities without permission. 

Another question being: what about the national / friendly nation students, graduates and established researchers?

Last decade I saw a documentary on NHK on where Japanese research stood and the picture was far from being pretty...

Researchers were underfunded and using their own funds or assets(!) to continue their work. One deadbeat scientist had thrown the towel and was looking to go to the US, but the real icing on the cake was an established (and, I understood, well-known) scientist / researcher who was old enough (end 60s/mid-70s(??) ) to have been "sunset" by his university and who had been bought out...by China.

They interviewed him in his housing, essentially a super-luxury apartment in Beijing or Shanghai with penthouse and olympic pool(!!). He had received the housing, the money, the lab, the staff and team and definitely had NO regrets whatsoever.

I do not recall what his field of research was, but it was poised to be important enough for the Chinese to dig very deeply in their pockets.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The Japanese government is not asking university personnel to become intelligence operatives, the whole thing is just trying to pressure the universities into reducing the acceptance of foreign nationals of some countries under the excuse of sensitive information being leaked.

The problem is that if the government wants universities to stop accepting students from some countries into some programs, as you say, then they should be setting explicit rules to that effect rather than just giving universities vague admonitions to do something they know admissions offices aren't capable of doing.

This is a sticky point though, since I'm not sure how much we want the government (which is already heavily involved in admission policies at national universities to begin with) to be dictating the terms of admission to what are supposed to be independent centres of learning and research. The vast majority of university programs don't involve sensitive technology or information so a blanket ban on nationals from certain countries would just be counter-productive. For the ones that are sensitive, there is a huge problem of where do you draw the line between which programs you want higher scrutiny and which don't. Some programs teach skills that have high commercial value (pharmaceutical research, etc) and could be used to advantage Chinese companies against Japanese ones in the marketplace but aren't militarily useful for example. Should students be banned from those, or only things like missile technology etc which has military capability?

I'm not sure where the line is and this type of question isn't something that should be just decided by admissions offices under vague pressure from the government to "do something", rather it should be the product of carefully formulated government policy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It seems a pretty ordinary and sensible guideline to research/higher education levels as many states including free and democratic ones also practice for the sake of national security.

A big question is how and how much, for almost everything can be "sensitive tech" otherwise specifically defined and targeted. An ordinary part of kids' toys or kitchen utensils could turn to become a military component.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

OK, got it. Thanks.

Always appreciate your insight.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Correct me if I am wrong, but ultimately it is the university which accepts students (possibly with input from the staff in charge of the course).

But here, asking the staff to sign pledges does not seem to make much sense, it's like the university (who ultimately accepts the student) is forwarding the buck (and the responsibility/accountability) to their own staff.

That would still be the same for practical purposes. Since they would be teaching according to a university approved program to university approved students then their excuse is that they are doing only what the university considered safe for them to do.

Of course a different thing would be if the staff went to teach things outside of the syllabus to students they brought by themselves but I don't think that would be common. So if the pledge was directed only to the staff it would help preventing something that is not happening anyway.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@virusrex

Since universities can't actually confirm if a student is or not linked to foreign governments (unless the student declares it) that means the only solution is to refuse to accept people from those countries or be held responsible by the government if anything happens.

While I agree that the universities can't do that and systematic is the only option, is the statement actually slightly different.

Takahiko Sasaki, who oversees export controls at Tohoku University, saying his college will seek written pledges from staff not to teach sensitive technology to students or other faculty members with ties to foreign government entities without permission.

Correct me if I am wrong, but ultimately it is the university which accepts students (possibly with input from the staff in charge of the course).

But here, asking the staff to sign pledges does not seem to make much sense, it's like the university (who ultimately accepts the student) is forwarding the buck (and the responsibility/accountability) to their own staff.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Japanese government is not asking university personnel to become intelligence operatives, the whole thing is just trying to pressure the universities into reducing the acceptance of foreign nationals of some countries under the excuse of sensitive information being leaked.

Since universities can't actually confirm if a student is or not linked to foreign governments (unless the student declares it) that means the only solution is to refuse to accept people from those countries or be held responsible by the government if anything happens.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

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