Few people link the public good with higher education issues in Japan. One reason seems to be that private universities, which charge expensive tuition fees, outnumber the public sectors in Japan, making it difficult to perceive higher education as a public good which has the attributes of being non-rivalrous and non-excludable. But is it true that the vast majority of private universities has hindered the discussion of public good in higher education in post-war Japan?
Based on a discourse analysis of official documents from the government, economic organisations and associations of universities, the paper will argue that for a long time national universities were reluctant to acknowledge their social contribution. However, in the last 15 years the three key actors (government, industry and universities) have synchronised their approach to three key public functions of the higher education sector in Japan, in relation to knowledge creation, human resource development, and the social contribution. The paper is part of CGHE’s larger study of the public good role of higher education in ten countries.