The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Opinion >  International



Taking Waseda University Beyond Japan—The True Meaning of Globalization Reform

Shuji Hashimoto
Senior Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost and Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University

Waseda Vision 150 is a platform for envisioning a global Waseda University that goes beyond the borders of Japan. In order to realize this vision, in addition to Waseda University’s founding principles of openness and diversity, it is necessary to maintain global fluidity. Five years have passed since the launch of Waseda Vision 150. We have achieved remarkable results, such as attaining the top rank in Japan in various indicators related to globalization of education and research. Last year, the interim reports of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Program for Promoting the Enhancement of Research Universities (2013) and the Top Global University Project (2014) were produced. These projects were selected as plans to accelerate these efforts. Here, I would like to consider the meaning of globalization in the context of Waseda University’s objectives.

Globalization of Education

In the Top Global University Project’s Waseda Ocean Initiative, the goal is to produce 100,000 global leaders in 10 years. Global leaders in this context does not refer merely to the narrow definition of human resources capable of utilizing language skills to succeed internationally in business and academics. The definition includes human resources with global perspectives in any field to take on challenges, a strong will to better the future lives of people, and the ability to lead and create solutions by interacting with people of various value systems and cultural backgrounds.

To achieve this, a logical mindset and strong communication skills are needed in addition to scholarly expertise. It is also crucial to have the skills not only to lead, but also to follow effectively when necessary. In order to equip all students with these skills, Waseda University must establish an educational environment that does not dissuade students from crossing national borders. The building blocks for this type of educational environment are foreign language acquisition and study abroad programs. Furthermore, by increasing the number of international students (with college student visa), students are provided with opportunities to interact with people of different cultural backgrounds. Not only is this beneficial for Japanese students, but it also opens up the university to the rest of the world. This is what we call internationalization of education.

Sending Students Overseas and Accepting Foreign Students

In the academic year of 2016, 4,086 students from Waseda University studied abroad. Out of these students, the number of students who earned academic credits necessary for graduation while studying abroad was 2,770. As many of the students were on short-term study abroad programs, many did not receive academic credits. Although studying abroad is a valuable international experience for students even if it is short-term, my hope is that when the next opportunity arrives, students will spend a longer period of time studying at an overseas college. In fact, many students who experienced short-term study abroad programs decided afterwards that they want to study overseas for the long term, or find employment abroad. If a program is effectively run, even short-term study abroad programs can turn out to be significant and meaningful experiences for students.

Meanwhile, the number of international students who come to study in Japan is increasing every year. The total number of international students in the academic year of 2016 was 7,156. Waseda University accepts the most number of international students (with college student visa) than any other university in Japan. The challenge lies in lack of variation in the countries and regions . Most Japanese students tend to study abroad in English-speaking countries, while foreign exchange students in Japan largely come from Asia. It goes without saying that English is a crucial international language and many classes in Waseda University are beginning to be held in English. However, the world is much more diverse, and focusing only on English limits the understanding of this reality.

Learning English is just the first step in globalization. As the use of voice recognition and machine translation technologies become prevalent, multilingual interaction becomes normalized and the need to adhere to artificial constructs of nationality diminishes. The realization of internationalized campuses where we are less conscious of ethnicity and national boundaries, share common values and teach one another our unique qualities, is no longer a pipe dream. It has been said that not located in a non-English speaking country is a weakness of Waseda University. However, I believe this will become a strength in the near future.

In order to keep up with changes and adapt to the international standards in the context of research and higher education, Waseda University aims to increase its international student population to 20% over the next 20 years.

Globalization of Research

The fields of research that made it in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017 have been highly rated for their national preeminence.

The desire to acquire knowledge and to apply that knowledge is a shared desire among many people. The academic pursuit of knowledge and skills is common to all humanity, and is a field where national borders are irrelevant. This is where the foundation of the globalization of research lies.

In recent years, amid anxiety surrounding the decline in Japan’s international position in research, many have been pushing for international collaborative research aimed at improving the degree of international recognition. However, considering the global nature of academic research, this is something that should develop naturally. Waseda University not only invites students, but also many researchers from overseas. In the academic year of 2016, there were 839 mid-to-long term researchers. Furthermore, the number of researchers from Waseda University that went overseas reached 190. Out of all research publications, the percentage of internationally co-authored publications exceeded 40 percent.

In such ways, Waseda University has made great advancements in globalization in research and in the education system that supports it. However, with regard to the progress made toward Waseda Vision 150’s goal of having all students participate in study abroad programs before graduation, and to increase the number of international students to 10,000, we are still only half way there. Waseda University has been making thorough progress in global human resource development and research globalization, but the goal of these efforts is not merely to contribute to the vitalization of Japan’s industries or the development of Japan’s economy. It is also our hope that the 10,000 students that graduate every year and the results of the international collaborative research conducted at Waseda University contribute to bolstering Japan’s standing in the world, as a country that has always contributed to improving the futures of people and regions all over the world, by cultivating capable human resources and producing research results.

Globalization: From All Regions of Japan to All Regions of the World

Although Japanese universities are just starting to experience globalization, the private sector has been riding the wave of globalization for over 20 years, and has been forced to go through major transformations. Most of the demands that private industry makes of today’s universities is based on this experience. These demands may not always fit the structure of universities, which are fundamentally different from corporations, but there are many points that may be very useful to consider.

Furthermore, if we go further back in history, I am reminded of the new Meiji government’s initiatives to establish universities. Higher education in Japan during the early modern era centered around clan schools, which, as the name suggests, were limited to students that belonged to each feudal domain. However, in a rapid turn of events after the Meiji Restoration, the entire nation began establishing imperial universities and normal school (i.e. an institute that trains its students to become teachers) systems. Today’s global transformation of universities is reminiscent of the transformation of clan schools to national universities. However, while the transformation of clan schools was facilitated by the elimination of political boundaries of feudal domains by the Meiji government, today’s globalization (development to all regions of the world) is made difficult by the fact that the world today still has national borders.

However, by observing the development of corporate globalization, it is clear that this is not an insurmountable challenge. As opposed to economic globalization, the globalization of knowledge is sure to bring far more fortune and prosperity to the world. Furthermore, considering the fact that some private schools during the Edo period (1603–1868) had already spread nationally even with the prominence of clan schools, the globalization of universities is a fitting path especially for private universities.

Shuji Hashimoto
Senior Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost and Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University

Shuji Hashimoto graduated from the Department of Applied Physics, School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University in 1970. He continued his studies at the Graduate School of Science and Engineering at Waseda University, and earned his Ph.D. in 1977 (Doctor of Engineering).
After working as a full-time lecturer and assistant professor at Toho University, and as an assistant professor at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University, he assumed his position as a professor at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University in 1993, and then as a professor of the current Faculty of Science and Engineering in September 2004.
Among other positions, he was the senior dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering from September 2006 to September 2010.
He assumed his current post in November 2010, while also serving as the senior director of the Center for Higher Education Studies since 2014.

He is an expert in instrumentation and information engineering, the application of stochastic processes, image processing, robotics, sensory data processing and other fields.
Major publications include Fukuzatsukei Sosho Dai 4-kan (The Complex Systems Monograph Series Volume 4) (Kyoritsu Shuppan, 2007), Iwanami Koza Multimedia Johogaku Dai 1-kan (Iwanami Lectures of Multimedia Informatics Volume 1) (Iwanami Shoten, 1999), and Ningengata Robot no Hanashi (The Story of Humanoid Robots) (Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, Ltd. 1999) (all publications were co-authored).