In 2004, Japan restructured the state-directed public university system to create the national university corporations (NUCs). Proponents of the reforms made explicit mention of agentification in the United Kingdom, changes to university management structures elsewhere, and reforms in the wider Japanese public sector. As such, the NUC reforms are an example of policy transfer. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, however, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has not surrendered the large degree of control it had manifested over the university system. Rather the means of control have changed from largely direct ones to largely indirect ones. Policy transfer provided a means by which MEXT could legitimate its policy stance by referring to developments elsewhere, show it was responding to pressure for reform by adopting its rhetoric and superficial forms, but use this to capture the policy agenda to its own ends.