WASEDA ONLINE

RSS

The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Campus Now > Messages to Their Second Century: Midsummer Issue (Jul.)

Campus Now

Midsummer Issue (Jul.)

Message to the second century

As friendly rivals, inspiring and enhancing each other

Mr. Atsushi Seike
President of Keio University

We discussed the role of private universities in current society and expectations towards Waseda University with Mr. Atsushi Seike, President of Keio University, a friendly rival of our university.

An encounter with labor economics shaped my path in life

――How did you spend your time as a university student?

I spent my 1st and 2nd years studying on Hiyoshi Campus. I served as coach for the rugby team of my high school and spent time searching for myself without having a particular future goal. I was enrolled in a seminar taught by Professor Haruo Shimada, an expert in labor economics. Through my encounter with labor economics, I realized the usefulness of economics as an academic discipline for analyzing human behavior and solving social problems. This realization opened my eyes to the appeal of economics. Professor Shimada was one of the first economists to focus on the issue of an aging society. In graduate school, I helped with Professor Shimada's research project on "quantitative analysis for the labor supply of the elderly." This theme has become my lifework and I am continuing such research even today. Analysis through quantitative economics was a new method in which large-scale computers were used to perform statistical analysis of micro data (individual data) which was developing rapidly in America at that time. There were no program packages in those days, so I struggled to learn computer language and created my own programs.

Cultivating professionals capable of independent thought

――Currently, Japanese universities are facing many issues. How would you define the role of universities?

Universities are part of society. As such universities must consider how to respond to social changes. The basis for such response is to consider what will bring happiness to students. In that respect, I believe that universities must fulfill two major roles.

The first role of universities is to cultivate professionals who are capable of adapting to change. A lot of focus is placed on new employees who are able to contribute from day one. However, such employees are useful only in current conditions. If conditions change, their abilities become useless. Therefore, the ability to adapt to change is the most important attribute for professionals to acquire. Expressed another way, this is the ability to think independently.

Currently, Japanese society is facing major issues such as global warming, a declining birthrate, an aging population and a financial crisis. The very sustainability of our social structure is being questioned. In this age, it will become increasingly difficult to considering current issues and solve problems by following past examples. The ability to think independently is required. More specifically, professionals must be able to identify problems, form hypotheses, verify these hypotheses through objective methods, and establish a conclusion. This is exactly the same method used in academics. In other words, conducting thorough academic study at university is the best method for acquiring the ability to think independently.

Thinking ability is also cultivated through extracurricular activities. I often tell students participating in sporting events that sports are also a form of academic study. For example, in order to achieve victory in a Waseda-Keio baseball game, athletes must independently think of methods for winning and then prepare for the game. This is a perfect example of independent thought.

Research for creating new value

The second major role of universities is to instill students with the ability to produce the high added value which is required in our advanced society. Also, in order to create new value, both fundamental research and long-term research for creating future value are required.

At the Global University Leaders' Forum held this January, there was a shared sense of urgency regarding how tough financial conditions have reduced the allocation of resources to the fundamental research and long-term research which should be conducted by universities. Regarding the importance of fundamental research, when tracing the roots of the rich material society which we currently enjoy, it can be seen that our society was realized through advancements in academics. The industrial revolution was brought about by modern technology which was created through modern science such as Newton's classical mechanics. Before that, Kepler's laws were the basis for the law of universal gravitation. Einstein's quantum mechanics made it possible to use nuclear power, and the discovery of DNA structure by Watson and Crick was the basis for the life science industry. What is important is that Newton, Kepler, Einstein, Watson and Crick all conducted research according to pure academic curiosity. This curiosity and research enriched future society.

Academics teach us that what we see is not always reality. One good example of this teaching is the Copernican system. Through astronomy, people learned that their time-honored beliefs were actually false. Such realizations are not limited to the natural sciences. In fact, the same can be said of social sciences. Yukichi Fukuzawa once said that "a scholar must act like the goose on watch for society." By "goose on watch," he refers to a single goose which stretches its neck and surveys its surrounding for danger while the rest of the flock are eating. Scholars must solve and clarify truths which no one has noticed yet. For that, they may even be criticized by their contemporaries. However, society will only advance through the efforts of people who focus on the future without being distracted by immediate gain or loss.

In times of change, a variety of perspectives are necessary

――How do you view the role of private universities within such conditions?

Private universities each possess their own unique founding philosophy. This uniqueness brings diversity to education and learning in Japan. In terms of dispersing risk, the greater the changes taking place during a certain time, the greater the need for various ways of thinking. Keio University uses the phrase "independence and self-respect." These qualities express the meaning of existence for private universities.

――What is your impression of Waseda University? What expectations do you have for Waseda?

Waseda University is a friendly rival of Keio University. At the same time, our universities work hand-in-hand in order to realize mutual improvement. People often speak of Waseda and Keio together and there is a higher brand value in this set than in our individual universities. Of course, the many sports competitions between Waseda and Keio are only possible because both our universities exist. Another important facet of our relationship is cooperation in international events such as the Japan-Korea Millennium Forum which is held annually by Waseda University, Keio University, Korea University and Yonsei University.

Waseda University and Keio University have different founding philosophies. Even today, Waseda honors the founding philosophy of Professor Okuma and Keio honors the founding philosophy of Professor Fukuzawa. In this way, both universities have contributed to society. In the future, I hope that both of our universities will continue to adhere to our founding philosophies and utilize our unique characteristics. These different characteristics make it possible for us to inspire, supplement and improve each other. I look forward to continued cooperation with Waseda in the future.

Mr. Atsushi Seike
President of Keio University

Born in 1954. In 1978, graduated from the Faculty of Economics, Keio University. In 1983, completed the Doctoral Program at the Graduate School of Business and Commerce, Keio University. In 1993, obtained a PhD in commerce. In 1992, appointed as a Professor at the Faculty of Business and Commerce, Keio University and as Professor at the Graduate School of Business and Commerce, Keio University. In 2007, appointed as Dean of the Faculty of Business and Commerce and the Graduate School of Business and Commerce, and as Chairman of Keio University. Appointed as President in 2009. Has also served as Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, and as a Visiting Principal Research Officer at the Economic Research Institute, Economic Planning Agency.