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Toward a Global “Research University”
The Think-Tank Behind Waseda's Challenge

Center for Research Strategy(CRS)

“What kind of strategy is required to make a private Japanese university as a global research university?” - In order to turn this idea into reality, in April 2009 Waseda University opened the new “Center for Research Strategy.(CRS)” A research university is one which uses public and private funding as a base and excels in carrying out high level research activities and quality personnel training which contributes to a global society. After the Second World War, America led the way in development of these research universities, making it a strong competitor in international technology research markets.

Staff at CRS(Director Nakajima is 4th from the right)

Since the 1990s, we have seen major transformations in the world's universities. The steady growth era of the 20th century came to an end and in reevaluating the research and development systems the post-industrial world built within its businesses, hopes have been placed on universities to play a new role supporting social and economic growth in the 21st century. In countries throughout the world, industry, government and academia cooperation, technology transfer, and making the best use of intellectual property etc. have been attached great importance in new strategies of the universities.

On top of that, in the age of globalization, much in the same way as the industrial world, fierce competition and strategic cooperation are starting to develop among universities. In order to enhance their strengths and supplement weak areas, universities are crossing national borders and covering great distances to form mutual cooperative networks. The core of this lies, in addition to cooperation at individual staff level, in the strategic network between organizations in the universities.

CRS Director, Professor Hirochika Nakajima

To become a global research university in this harsh competitive climate, universities must expand research activities and strategic connections and make their presence felt. In order to realize this challenge, CRS has been set up as the university's on-campus think-tank. We talked to CRS Director Hirochika Nakajima (professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering) about the concept and activities of the center.

Toward a New System of Research Expansion Over the Whole University

Not to lag behind the rest of the world, Japan introduced the Science and Technology Basic Plan (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Website) based on the 1995 Science and Technology Basic Law (MEXT Website) with the aim of instigating a “national commitment to science and technology creativity,” and brought forth a competitive perspective in Japanese universities. That symbolic policy led to the establishment of the COE (Center of Excellence) Program to create an international research education base in Japan. With the development of the 21st Century COE Program (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Website) (2002-) and the Global COE Program (JSPS Website) (2007-), the field of universities for selection has gradually been narrowed. Since the start of Global COE, the selected universities have been whittled down to a total of 10 universities made up of national universities from the former imperial university system, including Tokyo University, and private universities including Waseda and Keio. During that period, in April 2004 national universities were privatized and the landscape changed, so not only private but also national universities had to independently manage the core of their business operations.

Agreement from the whole university regarding establishment of CRS came in July 2008. A preparatory committee was formed and final discussions took place at the end of 2008, and the preparation room was installed in January 2009 in accordance to the broad outlines of the jointly developed plan. Professor Nakajima stood down as Research Promotion Division head to take on the top post of the preparation room and three months later in April, opened the Center. These rapid developments, with Waseda University turning toward the vision of becoming a “global research university,” came down to constructing a consistent outlook of reform.

New system for university-wide research expansion (April 2009-)

“The series of competitive policies left a huge opening for not only national universities but also private ones, and this change in the environment gave this university, without doubt, the opportunity to spread her wings. But in those 10 years of progression in major reforms of research and education systems, distortions also appeared. At CRS, to further spread our wings and become a global research university, we intend to become a firmly established cornerstone of the university's management base.” (Director Nakajima)

Preceding all of this in September 2004, Waseda University halted the system of having staff belong to either an undergraduate school, research department (graduate school) or research institute and introduced a new integrated “Faculty” system, where the staff belonged to one branch of knowledge. Different from the era when you only belonged to departments of an undergraduate school, through a narrowing fixation of “affiliation” where it is natural for staff to be concurrently involved in undergraduate schools, graduate schools and research institutes, rather than dealing only with harmful influences as they appear in a single area. But this can only be said to be a necessary redefining of the relationship between higher education organizations and full-time staff (and the faculty meetings forming those).

Regarding this, and being closely related to the implementation of CRS, the new “Research Council” system was introduced. The mission of the Research Council is to promote research initiatives that Waseda should be placing importance on and bring together researchers from across the whole university. With regard to initiatives taken up until now, starting with the COE Program, the research base has been formed in various shapes, but under the new system, to make a clear shape for “Waseda as a research university,” we are aiming to place emphasis on even more independent research activities.

For this to happen, CRS is conducting analysis of investigations into university research activities, and providing necessary data and plans for selecting high priority areas and compiling a research strategy plan. “In terms of all research activity in the university, it is our role to conduct strategic observances, but one of the most important roles for us is to provide support to the Research Council.” (Director Nakajima)

At the same time this organizational reform took place, we substantially restructured the “Research Strategy Committee” into a “Research Congress.” Whereas up until now CRS and Research Council have taken on many of the Research Strategy Committee's roles, the Research Congress, with the university president as chairman, has been given a new position to put in place policies related to research for the whole university and act as a venue for discussing all matters. The Research Promotion Division is responsible for the Research Congress and promoting its executive office functions.

Establishment of Japanese-Style Administration

At Waseda up until now, research activity administration affairs (management and operations) have been run by the office department's Research Promotion Division. With outside funding from both the public and private sectors reaching 10 billion yen, the Research Promotion Division has strengthened its system but it hasn't been easy going for office staff alone to follow-up strategic research management. That is where CRS, as a Center with full-time educational staff, comes in to play, to carry the burden for special investigations and analyses, and strategic planning activities that the Research Promotion Division can't deal with.

Innovative research base “Green Computing System Research and Development Center” scheduled for opening in 2011 (envisaged aerial view: Kikui-cho Campus)

“When attending international symposiums held in the United States, I have filled out questionnaires with the 2 titles “Professor / Administrator” joined together in the profession category. Administrators aren't seen as plain office staff, they have been established as specialists who possess a high level of technical know-how. The concept of administration has yet to take hold in Japanese universities, but this is an indispensible function if we are to become a global research university. Our aim, in cooperation with the Research Promotion Division, is to create a research administration function as well as establishing a specialist position for research administrators in Japan. I do not think we have to copy the American example exactly. To gradually realize this, a way of thinking where we can thoroughly investigate Japan's university system, this university's culture, functions suiting the climate and character is required.” (Center head Nakajima)

At present,CRS has only a few staff, with 5 full-time members, excluding the Director, dealing with activities. 3 staff members who have had plentiful careers related to research planning and evaluation in governmental research organizations, along with 2 young experienced researchers have been appointed. Centered around these staff members, who form a task force with the main office and staff from each area of the university, strategic research affairs are flexibly proscessed.

Just after the Center's launch in the spring of 2009 we were already undertaking a large-scale project. With the plan for the “Green Computing System Research and Development Center” for joint industry, government and academia low energy consumption and high function next-generation processor research and development and application development to be constructed at the university, the Research Promotion Division and CRS have been given a major role to conduct negotiations between entities from within and outside of the university. As a result, we were successfully chosen as the “2009 Cutting-Edge Innovation Base Enterprise (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Kanto Economy, Trade and Industry Division Website)” (official name: Industrial Technology Research and Development Facility Subsidy) to receive a grant from METI. The center is scheduled for completion and opening in the spring of 2011.

Surviving the era of “fierce competition and cooperation”

Discussions at the Center

Waseda University, from the position of representing Japanese private universities, or even as a representative of Japanese university personnel, hopes to dispatch ideas both inside and outside of the university and influence the formation of public opinions and even policy decisions. CSR is also carrying out duties as the brains behind this effort. “Our university will be in demand and there will be many opportunities for our executives, starting with the president, to attend university federation, union and government councils, committees and international assemblies. What with and how we assert ourselves, how we guide ourselves - It is the role of this Center to look hard at the situation, not only on-campus but also on a national and international level, as well as analyze investigations and make proposals.” (Director Nakajima)

It is said that Japanese universities have been slow to adapt to globalization. We can't afford to be oblivious to the rise of European and American universities in the past, and more recently those in China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, India and other neighboring Asian countries. “We need to make efforts to be placed high in research strength index rankings. In order to do this, improving the research environment by building an excellent research strategy and raising research quality is our immediate goal. To do this it is extremely important to make full use of limited resources. We need to acquire highly valid methods and form worthwhile alliances inside and outside of the university, on a national and international scale.” (Director Nakajima)

Waseda University intends to make thorough investigations and build a vision to survive the era of “fierce competition and cooperation,” making this it's greatest theme centered around the CRS.

Related Links

Waseda University Center of Research Strategy

Waseda University Research Council

Waseda University Research Portal