April 15, 2012 

Re-posted from Waseda University website:  On Monday, April 9, 2012, the US-Japan Higher Education Panel was held at the Rihga Royal Hotel Tokyo under Waseda University’s auspices (Supported by: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technolog (MEXT), US-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON), US Japan Research Institute (USJI)).

Post-war US and Japan, with their relationship maturing politically, economically, and socially, have played a vital role in ensuring a constant development of the world. Meanwhile, the American student population growth has gradually leveled off in Japan. Furthermore, with more Japanese students opting out of studying in the US, higher education of the two nations is now facing shrinkage of its exchange networks. The overall downward trend in mobility of students, who are much hoped to take charge in the future of the bilateral relationship, is of a serious concern and has presented a prominent challenge for both countries. It was to this end that this day’s US-Japan Higher Education Panel was convened.

Chairing the Panel as the moderators were Prof. Kazuo Kuroda of Waseda University Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies who also serves as the Dean of Center for International Education and Prof. Deane Neubauer, Senior Advisor to the East-West Center. The following were among the distinguished panelists and participants of the day: Mr. Minoru Makihara, Japan Chair for CULCON and Senior Corporate Advisor of Mitsubishi Corporation, Dr. Yuichiro Anzai, President of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Prof. Michael Green, Senior Advisor of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) , Prof. Suzan Pharr of Harvard University. In addition, representatives from the following organizations graced this grand academic panel: United States-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON) , Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) , Embassy of the United States Tokyo, Japan-U.S. Educational Commission, National Science Foundation of the United States, and seven Japanese universities selected for the “Re-inventing Japan Project”: The University of Tokyo, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Nagoya University, Akita International University, Keio University, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, and Waseda University. The Panel aimed to raise and share awareness widely acknowledged among the participants, and with a future vision, address issues emerging out of the US-Japan student exchange.

The morning session proceeded under the theme: Prospects of US-Japan Higher Education Exchange and Cooperation and the Roles of Stakeholders. Japan and America’s foremost intellectuals discussed, while referring to statistics and data, wide-ranging circumstances of the US-Japan educational exchange status quo and some of the challenges that have surfaced. The panel reaffirmed the importance of the bilateral educational exchange, with ample recognition of its function as a breeding ground for nurturing future leaders of both US and Japan and solving global issues. The participants also agreed on the need to find a way out of the current doldrums and work out effective measures towards sustaining vigorous exchange.

A summary highlighting the key points from the morning session was submitted to the 50th anniversary (the 25th Plenary Session) of the United States-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON) held in Tokyo on the following two days.

Concrete measures discussed in the morning session for the promotion of the US-Japan educational cooperation and exchange were as follows:
  1. Forming a high-level task force comprising of intellectuals representing various sectors in both nations and laying out a roadmap of tasks including implementable policies and their priorities—this will require steadfast support from both governments.
  2. Propelling “rebranding” of the US-Japan educational exchange—either nation is being urged to help its own new image take root in the young of the counterpart country so that, in this era of increasingly global interdependence, American students regard Japan as an important gateway to fast-growing Asia and thus a desirable study destination, and likewise, more Japanese students will choose the US—a country that remains to be an attractive gateway to the world—to continue on with their higher education. The endeavor to accomplish rebranding should take the form of guidance and educational exchange and include proactive approach not just to university students but also to those in high school.

The afternoon session evolved around the theme: Shared Vision for US Japan Higher Education Exchange and Cooperation. Seven Japanese leading universities selected for the Japanese government’s “Re-inventing Japan Project” and their US partner institutions invited to the Panel co-presented their new international education programs currently underway in collaboration. The obstacles encountered upon each program development and challenges to override in the future were shared. The Panel was afforded a valuable insight into perspectives of businesses. Mr. Yukio Sadamori, HR Department Manager at Mitsui & Co., Ltd., who attended the Panel representing the industrial circles voiced comment that cultivation of young talents at universities is an extremely important matter to the nation’s industry arena and called for recognition of the industrial world as one of the most significant stakeholders.

The Panel meeting was followed by a dinner reception where the participants continued to exchange views on the bilateral academic and cultural cooperation that is expected to flourish in the future.