Civil servants' heavenly fall

September 19, 1997

Tokyo. SENIOR Japanese civil servants are sidestepping golden jobs in the business world when they retire to take lecturing posts with leading universities.

Yoshimasa Nishimura, former director general of the ministry of finance's banking bureau, turned down lucrative offers from top companies to take up a professorship at Waseda University's new Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies.

Makoto Utsumi, who retired from his job as a deputy minister for international affairs, is now a professor at Keio University, while Yukio Noguchi left his top job at the ministry of finance to become a professor at the University of Tokyo.

Traditionally senior bureaucrats take up prestige directorships with leading companies when they leave government service. This "descent from heaven", as the practice is known, helps to maintain good relations between the government and private sector.

But more and more officials and senior company managers are retiring to full- and part-time teaching posts.

The trend is welcomed by both lecturers and students, who argue that exchanges between academia, the bureaucracy and big business create a more dynamic, diverse and talented pool of know-how. Universities benefit from being able to present lecture programmes by professors and lecturers with firsthand knowledge and experience of the real world.

Academic staff at leading universities have traditionally been recruited from their own graduate schools. Although careers in academia are less well paid than in business and do not offer the same fringe benefits, they give greater prestige.

Lecturer Satoshi Shinkai said: "The 'descent from heaven' practice has been tainted by claims that some former bureaucrats use their connections and knowledge in improper ways.

"Senior government officials gain more respect by taking up jobs which involve helping young people."

The practice also helps universities that are pushing career-oriented courses to ensure their graduates get jobs.

Former government officials and leading companies are reckoned to provide universities with the right sort of expertise for delivering professional courses.

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