New Year’s Interview with Chairman, Board of Trustees, Yanagiya and President Tsuchiya: “Towards a Fruitful 2018”

What role should higher education, and Meiji University in particular, play today, when it is so difficult to forecast the future due to advances in artificial intelligence (AI), the relentless march of globalization, and declining numbers of eighteen year olds? 2018 marks the third year since Takashi Yanagiya, Chairman, Board of Trustees, and Keiichiro Tsuchiya, President of Meiji University were inaugurated. They talked about their thoughts on the year ahead, including the second-stage mid-term plan based on a long-term vision and the promotion of education and research based on the President’s policy, etc.

Bolstering the Foundations with an Eye to the Future

Naomi Ushio, Vice President: Happy New Year. Today, I would like to hear the thoughts of Mr. Yanagiya and Mr. Tsuchiya under the theme “Towards a Fruitful 2018.” First of all, this will be the third year for both of you since your respective inaugurations as Chairman and President. I would like to ask for your feedback looking back at 2017. Could I start with you please, Mr. Yanagiya?
Takashi Yanagiya, Chairman: Happy New Year. Looking back over 2017 from the perspective of management of an educational corporation, I believe we are well positioned to find solutions to our past concerns. In terms of the fiscal 2016 settlement, the total balance for the year before allocations for endowments, which you can think of as equivalent to net earnings for a company, moved into the black to the tune of about 1.46 billion yen. Red figures had persisted since fiscal 2011, so for the first time in six years, we reported a positive figure, and it was over one billion yen. This was mainly due to increased income from entrance exams because we had over 110,000 applicants, coupled with successful cost-cutting measures including our utility expenses. In addition, because we were able to revise tuition fees starting with students entering in fiscal 2017, while increasing the admissions quota from fiscal 2018, we are beginning to see a more stable direction in terms of academic income, etc. This has only been possible thanks to the understanding and cooperation of the faculty, alumni, and parents. We also sold off the former Honda Farm (Chiba City) following a review of retained assets, and began preparations for the “Izumi International Mixed-Residence Dormitory (tentative name)” that is scheduled for completion in spring 2019. In order to ensure that Meiji University continues to excel in the future, we will strive relentlessly in cooperation with the educational corporation and academia as well this year.
Keiichiro Tsuchiya, President: Happy New Year. One of the main issues in 2017 was the policy of restraining the capacity of private universities within the 23 wards of Tokyo announced by the Cabinet Office. Renewed efforts are needed to maintain the university’s dynamism as a private entity, and these stricter policies on quotas and restraints on admissions quotas will be tough to deal with. Fortunately, our position was understood, and our application to increase the admission quota by 1,030 was approved. I believe we will be able to enhance our financial base even while pushing forward with new projects for the future. As regards research, a program undertaken by the Meiji Institute for the Advanced Study of Mathematical Sciences (MIMS) was selected for the “Private University Research Branding Project” in fiscal 2016, and I believe that the momentum on how each department should create research projects has been boosted overall throughout the year. On November 23rd last year, the “Meiji University Academic Festival” – an initial attempt at sharing information on Meiji University’s research results with the public – was held, and attracted over 1,000 visitors. Moving forward, we will rearrange the system so that faculty can dedicate more time to their research, and we would like to demonstrate Meiji University’s new phase as a renowned “leading research university” in the future. This is my dream – though I fully appreciate it may take some time to realize. In terms of education, we have established a new fifty million yen scholarship fund for students as grant aid to encourage more of them to study at top overseas universities in Europe and America. I consider that sending excellent students to those overseas universities with the support of our university is very important.

“Second-stage Mid-term Plan” and “Annual Plans for Education and Research”

Ushio: I would like to ask Mr. Yanagiya to outline and highlight points to note concerning the second-stage mid-term plan while looking ahead “to realize a center to nurture and interact with people with an international mindset, and education and research to foster brilliant “individuality” that actively participates in the world,” which reflects the long-term vision drawn up in 2011.
Yanagiya: The purpose of enhancing and reinforcing the management of the educational corporation is to ensure that the university, which has been established with a clear philosophy, can develop sustainably. University courses operate on a four-year cycle. Bearing in mind the characteristics of the system and pace of reform, the adoption and implementation of a “mid-to-long-term plan operation cycle” are indispensable to ensure the managerial propriety and clarity of the educational corporation. 2018 marks the start of the second-stage mid-term plan based on the long-term vision. Academic matters related to the second-stage mid-term plan are drafted based on the president’s policy in the “Annual Plans for Education and Research,” but for this mid-term plan, more specific quantifiable goals and a rating index are included as far as possible; for example, aiming to improve our ranking to enter the top 100 in Asia in the World University Rankings, which is a significant feature. We would like to improve the workability of the mid-term plan and confirm progress each year while looking ahead to our 140th anniversary in 2021, and 150th anniversary in 2031.
Ushio: Now, I’d like to turn to Mr. Tsuchiya. The fiscal 2018 “Annual Plan for Education and Research” has been drawn up, and policies decided for eight items, such as “Challenges for human issues ~ Realization of Comprehensive Educational Reform” and “Branding Meiji University’s research through co-creation” for education and research respectively. Please could you describe the most important aspects of these.
Tsuchiya: I consider the promotion of research throughout the university as very important for “co-creative research”, regardless of department or area. A system to promote collaboration between departments, or between the liberal arts and sciences, etc., also needs to be set up. Co-creation and cooperation with companies is also key. Last year, Associate Professor of the School of Agriculture, Shuichiro Murakami developed an “aging sheet,” which quickly and safely enables the production of aged meat, through an academic-industrial alliance, and the commercialization of this process by First Kitchen and others has become a topic of conversation. Other co-creative projects, such as “Origami engineering” by Professor Ichiro Hagiwara, Vice Director of MIMS, and robot research by Professor Yoji Kuroda of the School of Science and Technology, were conducted with corporate cooperation in a variety of ways. At present, about ten projects are underway, but we would like to increase that number tenfold over the next five years, under a plan termed “100 Projects.”

Alumni and Parental Energy in Support of the University

Ushio: I consider the cooperation with both alumni and parents as indispensable to promote various projects with a vision of looking ahead to the future. What are your thoughts on this point, Mr. Yanagiya?
Yanagiya: “Alumni Rules” were established the year after Meiji Law School was founded in 1881, and the first general meeting of alumni was held in 1886. It is fair to say that the history of Meiji University is down to its alumni. This university was founded by three young lawyers, and the expression “harmonious cooperation” was recorded in the “Purport for establishment of Meiji Law School”. Each student is only enrolled for a few years, but their relationship as an alumnus continues for the rest of their life. I fervently hope that the “harmonious cooperation” that nurtures the next generation of alumni through support for the younger contingent will continue.
Tsuchiya: I attended the national alumni meet in Okinawa last year, and reaffirmed the strength of our alumni association. However, the number of students entering Meiji University from the regions has been declining. If this continues, the very survival of the various branches of the national alumni association will be in question. I think it may be worth considering a recommendation-based admissions system for the children of current alumni to redress this situation. Now, there are some families with three generations of Meiji graduates, but we must also consider Meiji University’s identity and perception being passed down to the alumni. I understand that there are a variety of opinions, but I would like to continue working to convince the relevant parties to promote this proposal, partially as a means to maintain the regional branches of the alumni association.
Ushio: What about cooperation with the parents’ association?
Yanagiya: We invited former and current Parent’s Association board members for the first time last year since it was a momentous occasion as the twentieth Homecoming Day. Although it was pouring heavily due to the approaching typhoon, many people visited and enlivened the proceedings. Our greatest pleasure is hearing parents say, “I’m so glad my child entered Meiji University.” I would like such parents to also consider Meiji University as a “second alma mater.” Every day, we will do our best to run the university with “Students First!” as our underlying principle.
Tsuchiya: I doubt there is any other organization with more energy than Meiji University’s Parent’s Association. I have been participating in parents’ meetings since heading the School of Law. I think that traveling around the country to consult and interact with parents about their children’s studies and so on is a revolutionary approach. In the past year, Parent’s Associations have been established in other countries, namely South Korea and Taiwan, and the various scholarships associated with these Parent’s Associations have also been enriched. I would like to make the most of the Parent’s Associations thanks to the kind of support proffered to the university. The vitality possessed by the alumni and Parent’s Associations goes a long way in support of Meiji University’s future. I think this is rather symbolic of the open stance that Meiji University has long been noted for.
Ushio: I also sense the strong school spirit amongst the alumni and incredible bond between parents whenever I participate in such meetings. It is also very stimulating for us and the faculty to directly interact and communicate with parents.

A year to craft the future image of Meiji University

Ushio: Finally, please could you say a little about how you position the year 2018, including your enthusiasms and resolutions.
Tsuchiya: My remaining term is two years, but there are still many issues. I would like to steadily promote the second-stage construction of the Nakano campus, and improvement of the sports park, etc. in cooperation with the corporation. Also, regarding the Izumi and Ikuta campuses, there are issues related to the new buildings for education/research, and making everywhere barrier-free. I also think we need to prepare an improvement plan including rationalization of the campus system while looking ahead to the 150th anniversary. I will work to sufficiently resolve the issues taken over by the Board of Trustees within this term, and prepare for the next four years. We cannot consider future prospects without first considering the next 12 years, including those in my own term. I would like to see both the academic and corporate sides forging ahead in tandem like a two-horse carriage.
Yanagiya: In terms of global trends, higher education is less hindered by borders, and thus competition between top universities is becoming ever more intense. Also, specifically in Japan, government subsidies have contracted by four percent over the last decade while the population of 18 year olds has also declined. Bearing in mind the national financial status, it is forecast that such contractions will persist through 2020 and onward. I believe that restructuring of the private educational sector will really kick off in 2018. Furthermore, in the case of Meiji University, 2018 is when we must establish a specific quantitative goal within the second-stage mid-term plan and try to ride the tide, and I would like this to be “the year for designing the future image of Meiji University.” On the other hand, when we look at the current situation, there are 18 primary buildings that are over forty years old, and preparations for a new education and research environment and reconstruction of these aging facilities are urgent tasks. With due consideration for consistency, we must draft a construction plan with priorities set from an overall perspective of the university while paying attention so as not to put undue pressure on finances due to short-term concentration on funds. I consider mutual academic-corporate communication to be crucial on that point.
Ushio: I very much hope that Meiji University will progress in an integrated manner between the academic and corporate sectors. Thank you very much for your time today.
Takashi Yanagiya, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Meiji University
Graduated in 1975 from Meiji University School of Commerce. Joined Nomura Securities Co., Ltd. in 1975. Positions held at Nomura Securities Co., Ltd. include company director in 1997, vice president in 2006, and vice chairman in 2008. Served as external director of Showa Sangyo Co., Ltd. May 2016 ~: Current post

Keiichiro Tsuchiya – President, Meiji University
Graduated from Meiji University’s School of Law in 1970, then withdrew from the Meiji University Graduate School having completed the coursework in 1977. Appointed as a Research Assistant in 1978 and then as a Professor in 1993 at Meiji University School of Law. Held positions as Dean of the School of Law, and Executive Trustee (Academic Affairs). April 2016 ~: Current post Expertise: “Jurisprudence, History of modern British thought”

Naomi Ushio, Vice President (Public Relations)

After quitting as an announcer for Fuji Television Network, Inc. following her marriage, attended graduate school while raising a child. Employed by the university in 1998. 2009: Professor, School of Information and Communication. April 2016 ~: Current post Research theme is “Design of places and methods, which ensure that company workers can reach their full potential regardless of gender.”

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