TOP GLOBAL UNIVERSITY JAPAN from a Foreign Perspective

The voices of faculty and staff from overseas on three topics are introduced.
We will look at TOP GLOBAL UNIVERSITY JAPAN from a new angle.

Education of TGU

  • Mathematics is global but education is local

    GUEST Martin

    Professor, Department of Mathematics, School of Fundamental Science and Engineering, Waseda University
    From the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
    GUEST, Martin

    I am nearing the end of my career as a university teacher, having grown up and been educated in the UK (25 years), worked first in the USA (15 years) then in Japan (25 years). I am probably in a good position to compare the graduate school systems in the USA and Japan.
    Mathematics is the same in every country, but education systems can vary greatly. In evaluating graduate school education it is necessary to keep in mind that education systems are shaped by history. For example, Germany and France have strong systems, despite being small countries, because of their tradition and their central position in Europe, while China, despite being a huge country, is still catching up.
    What are the main differences between graduate programs in the USA and Japan? Most Japanese universities have popular Master's programs, and rather few students go on to do a PhD. In the USA most graduate students are PhD students. In Japan PhD graduates generally find jobs in academia; in the USA both academia and industry/business are the main employers. PhD programs in the USA have been dominated by foreign students (and foreign teachers) in recent decades, in great contrast to Japan.
    Policy-makers (outside academia) may not be aware of the underlying concrete reasons for these differences. In Japanese high schools, students generally study mathematics to a high level before entering university, then take difficult entrance examinations, after which they are ready to take courses such as linear algebra and analysis as freshmen. In the USA, linear algebra and analysis are often taken in the second or third year of undergraduate study. Ironically, it is the weakness of undergraduate education in the USA which leads to the strength of its graduate schools: American universities can offer generous stipends and tuition waivers to PhD students so that they can be employed as teachers of lower level courses. In contrast, in Japan, PhD students are not permitted to teach courses; they have to pay tuition fees as well as find their own living expenses.
    There are many other concrete differences, for example in the respective salary systems, which generally (but not always) benefits the USA, and in the expectations of both students and teachers, which is primarily cultural. A less obvious one is the fact that many more graduate-level courses are available in Japan because of the large number of Master's students. It is important to learn from these differences, and to understand their effect on "outputs" (such as number of PhDs awarded).

  • Local issues, global context: enriching education between Akita and Sabah

    Tini Maizura Mohtar

    Senior Lecturer in Tourism Management, The Faculty of Business, Economics and Accountancy, Universiti Malaysia Sabah
    (Partner School of Akita International University)
    Dr. Tini Maizura Mohtar

    The AIU – UMS Joint Project-Based Learning Program, ‘Multidisciplinary Approaches to Green Economy,’ enabled students from both institutions to explore various aspects of the green economy through introductory research projects in the correct setting of Borneo, which is rich in Biodiversity and Culture. The PBL is serving as a platform to bring in international dimensions to our students’ experience. Our students in the tourism major gain a valuable exposure to what visitors would think through interactions with AIU students while working on the development issue in sensitive natural areas. Interactions like this help us put the local issues into a global context, which is an invaluable experience for students in the tourism major. Importantly, the students were given a chance to actively work in international teams while efficiently conducting field work and eloquently delivering their findings through writing and group presentation in less than two weeks. What was most valuable in my thought was that the students enjoyed the intercultural exchanges while successfully completing the given assignments on time.
    The environment of Borneo provides stimulating learning experiences for AIU students. In return, AIU brings to us elements that help us appreciate the natural and cultural resources that we have even more concretely. Last time, the AIU team introduced to us the Satoyama Initiative, an international initiative for people and nature, and we used an indicator tool created by this initiative to better understand the assets held in and challenges faced by the local communities and landscapes in Sabah.

    Akita International University

International Environment of TGU

  • Living abroad is an amazing experience full of discoveries.

    Philip SEATON

    Professor, in the Institute of Japan Studies, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
    from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
    Philip SEATON

    There are many things you can learn in the classroom, but I want students to have as many opportunities as possible to learn outside the classroom, too. As the amount of information available on the Internet has increased, sometimes students can seem to have lost something of the spirit of “learning by going somewhere”. But learning through experience is really important. On campus, the best place for this is the library. Looking at the bookshelves you can feel humanity’s accumulation of knowledge. Off campus, there are many options in the form of internships and part-time jobs. But the experience I most want students to have is study abroad. Being in an unfamiliar environment from morning until night is an opportunity for learning every hour and every minute of the day. I have lived in Japan for over 24 years as both teacher and student. Yet I still feel every day that there is something to learn in this classroom called “Japan”, whether it’s a kanji I have not seen before or an unfamiliar custom. Study abroad is often thought of as essential for those studying languages, but it is also a good opportunity for people studying both social and natural sciences to increase specialist knowledge and learn life skills. Based on my own experience of study abroad, I strongly recommend it to others. Looking back at the culture, life, and values of one’s own country from an outside perspective is an important experience. During the Covid-19 pandemic, international travel has become difficult, but I continue to recommend study abroad as part of the mission of Super Global Universities. Many programmes work on a student exchange basis, and I hope that the day when both inbound and outbound students can study abroad freely will return soon.

    Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
  • Some Comments on the Scope and Goals of Transnational Legal Education in the Age of Globalization


    Professor, School of Law & Graduate school of Humanities and Social Sciences, Hiroshima University
    From New Zealand/Australia

    I have been a professor of law for nearly twenty-five years at universities in the Asia Pacific region and Japan, including the University of Auckland, the University of Queensland, Niigata University, Ritsumeikan University and Hiroshima University. As I have noted in many of my works, the domestic insularity in which lawyers in the past could practice their profession is no longer sustainable as the interconnectedness between countries and legal systems continues to grow. In response to the internationalization of legal practice, law schools have bolstered their transnational law offerings and developed new study abroad and joint-degree programs. Most law schools in Australasia have introduced into the first-year curriculum a comparative legal studies course. Within the subjects that form the core of the law curriculum there is greater interest in comparative legal analysis and greater attention is given to how global developments and international actors and institutions affect the operation of law. Moreover, an increasing number of law schools provide opportunities for their students to conduct their studies in a transnational environment, wherein they are exposed to different legal cultures and systems of rules. Accessibility of transport and technological innovations permit today’s legal classroom to be mobile, allowing students to study overseas or online through the use of teleconferencing and other forms of electronic communication. Law professors are also encouraged, as much as practicable, to co-teach with colleagues from other legal systems. Co-teaching enhances the learning of students and faculty alike and is a valuable transnational exercise in itself. The ability to speak, write and conduct research in multiple languages is essential to an effective transnational law study. This is recognized by many universities in Japan and overseas nowadays (including Hiroshima University) and therefore a high premium is placed on students (especially graduate students) who enter law school with extensive study or experience in a foreign language. Transnational legal education plays an important role in shaping a new generation of lawyers, public servants and other professionals who recognize and respect cultural diversity in an interconnected world. It is one of the most effective tools in promoting a spirit that helps students to do away with exceptionalism and provincialism and learn instead to cultivate an attitude of openness and international collaboration.

    Hiroshima University

university life of TGU

  • Sophia Dormitories—Place for Learning, Friendship Development, and Personal Growth


    Center for Student Affairs, Sophia University
    from Vietnam

    In recent years, Japanese universities are offering a broad range of extracurricular educational programs in addition to education held in the traditional classroom. As part of the effort to enhance students’ experience with diversity in their daily life, an increasing number of universities have opened international dormitories, which provide valuable opportunities for Japanese university students to develop understanding of diversity and an international mindset.
    At Sophia University, we opened two directly-managed international dormitories during the past decade. These dormitories are characterized as “educational dormitories” rather than as merely accommodation. Here, all the residents are assigned into basic community units called “living groups” to help them grow personally through the experience of living in a diverse environment, and a Living Group Leader (LGL) is appointed for each group. As representatives of the residents, the LGLs help new students adapt to dormitory life and organize various seminars, workshops and exchange events in the dormitory, thus helping to foster a dormitory culture among the residents. The experience of serving as an LGL helps the students develop various leadership skills, such as team building and project management. In this way, our international dormitories allow students to gain broad perspectives by learning from each other and achieve personal growth. Residents who graduated from our dormitories have gone on to work for companies doing business in Japan and abroad. Many of them say that the time they spent as students with friends who have diverse values and ways of thinking, including those at the international dormitories, has helped them greatly in their current careers.
    As a staff member of the Center for Student Affairs, I support the LGLs in their leadership activities and organizing dormitory events by advising them how the dormitories operate and designing training programs to develop leadership skills and so on. Through my new roles as an advisor and facilitator, not a day has gone by without learning something inspiring. Working with residents from different backgrounds is the most interesting, and challenging, part of my daily work. I will continue trying to understand their respective backgrounds, to better assist them and maximize their learning experience.

    Sophia University