2020 New Year’s Interview: The Meiji University of Tomorrow


 

Transformation to a research-oriented university that communicates knowledge to the world

——Happy New Year. Today, as we welcome the new year of 2020, we would like to hear the thoughts of Takashi Yanagiya, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Keiichiro Tsuchiya, President of Meiji University, on the subject of “The Meiji University of Tomorrow.” Let’s begin with each of your reflections on 2019.
Takashi Yanagiya, Chairman: Happy New Year. The year 2019 was a year in which Japan experienced numerous natural disasters. Areas across the Japan archipelago suffered severe damage as a result of Typhoon Faxai in September and then Typhoon Hagibis in October. I would like to express our heartfelt best wishes to all of those in the affected areas. The Board of Trustees has decided such means as reduction of tuition and waiver of entrance examination fees for students from the affected areas based on the request from the academic side, and put them into effect promptly.

Incidentally, looking back on 2019 from the perspective of management of the educational corporation, it was a year in which we began full-fledged activities on construction of new facilities. The Meiji Global Village, an international dormitory with the capacity to accept 216 residents, where international students and Japanese students from rural communities live and learn together, was completed in March and now is operating at full occupancy.

In addition, as one of the activities to commemorate the 140th anniversary, in 2021, of the University’s founding, we decided to begin construction in March on a new educational building approximately 12,000 square meters in size on the Izumi Campus, based on the educational concepts of such as initial education, general education, and international education. We have been able to start moving on efforts such as these thanks in part to the considerable support provided by our current year income and expenditures balance before transfers to capital fund, which is equivalent to net income at a business corporation. In FY2018 settlement of accounts, this figure rose by approximately JPY500 million from the previous year, to total JPY1.921 billion. Major factors behind this increase include the succession by the current Board of Trustees of the efforts by the previous Board of Trustees to control expenditures and efforts to cut costs led mainly by staff members, along with increases in educational income thanks to efforts of the academic side including tuition revisions and capacity increases. Another important factor was the fact that the number of applicants for the general entrance examinations exceeded 110,000 for the third consecutive year.

We intend to make 2020 a year of great progress as the educational corporation and the academic side will continue working together as one to graduate skilled human resources capable of building a future of harmony between humanity and the earth's environment.
Keiichiro Tsuchiya, President: Happy New Year. Since taking office as President, I have called repeatedly for the University’s transformation into a research-oriented institution. In 2019, we established two new institutes directed by professors of the School of Science and Technology: the Meiji Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Meiji University International Institute for Materials with Life Functions. Under the leadership of Professor Atsushi Ogura, the Meiji Renewable Energy Laboratory will carry out research into generation, effective use and storage of renewable energy centered on solar cells, and under the leadership of Professor Mamoru Aizawa the Meiji University International Institute for Materials with Life Functions will carry out research related to medical applications of artificial materials in fields such as regenerative medicine. I believe that it is highly significant that we have established new institutes in these two research areas, which are deserving of considerable attention.

In addition, as seen for example in the considerable media attention given to School of Agriculture Professor Hiroshi Nagashima's research plans to produce a human pancreas inside a pig's body using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells at the end of last year, the School of Agriculture's research is generating a very high degree of results. Even though Meiji University does not have a School of Medicine, it has begun to attract considerable attention for its research such as this in the area of medicine and life sciences. It seems to me that these initiatives show the way forward for Meiji University as a research-oriented university.

We have developed the basic path toward becoming a research-oriented university, through means such as lessening the teaching workload to achieve an environment in which faculty can dedicate themselves to research. I hope that the next President will carry on these efforts to further advance Meiji University's research and enable such research to give back to the educational side, so that the University will be able to offer abundant resources.

Looking back over the past four years

—— Both of you are approaching the final years of your four-year terms of office after being appointed in 2016, on Meiji University's 135th anniversary. What are your impressions of the past four years?

Tsuchiya: Two major events occurred immediately after I took office as President. The first of these was the University’s adoption to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's FY2016 Inter-University Exchange Project. The theme was how to take advantages of Japan's lessons in the economic growth process of the CLMV states (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam). This can be described as one practical result of Meiji University's international strategies.

The other major event was the adoption to the FY2016 Private University Research Branding Project of the "Math Everywhere: Meiji University Doing Mathematical Sciences" project. In these ways, in my first year in office the University took powerful steps forward in both the international and mathematical arenas.

In addition, in January 2017 we ran advertisements in national newspapers that stated, "Meiji University pursues human rights and peace." These advertisements had a major impact, and I believe that they succeeded in publicizing our vision of what a university should be today, based on our founding principles of "Rights and Liberty" and "Independence and Self-government." Furthermore, in 2018 we issued our Statement on Diversity and Inclusion. While similar initiatives are underway at other universities as well, none has promoted these ideas as forcefully as Meiji University, and they can be said to have expressed Meiji's individuality clearly. As specific efforts, we have appointed a new Vice President in charge of gender equality and support for people with disabilities and minorities, and we have implemented measures including support for students with disabilities, consideration for gender diversity, and support for women researchers. I believe that our greatest achievement over the past four years has been the way we have demonstrated clearly that we are a university open to diversity.

Yanagiya: While about three months remain in the term of office of the current Board of Trustees, looking back over the past four years I would say that I have been able to meet with many members of faculty and staff as well as alumni and parents, and to receive numerous comments and requests, along with support and cooperation, regarding management of the educational corporation. In these ways, it has been a very enriching four years, and I am deeply grateful to all involved.

Incidentally, in the 1930s U.S. universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT, which are world-leading institutions today, still had low educational levels. At that time, they began various efforts to catch up with universities in Europe, which then were considered the very best in the world. While U.S. higher education progressed together with the high levels of economic growth in the nation as it welcomed immigrants from around the world, the universities also implemented unceasing efforts and internal reforms, such as adoption of the tenure track system under which young researchers could accumulate experience with fixed periods of employment, teaching evaluations, and recruitment of professors worldwide—all measures that are considered commonplace today. As a result, in the 1970s these universities were said finally to have secured the status of the best in the world. In fact, this status was achieved through taking on challenges over 40 years. Compared to this aspect of the global history of higher education, it seems to me that even after the past four years we still have a long way to go. It will take 20 years, 30 years, or even longer until our graduates start to thrive as leaders in their respective fields, and I expect that it will be vital for us to carry out initiatives based on a long-term perspective to increase the University’s presence when that time comes. We will continue making steady progress toward the future as a university that is open to, and that communicates knowledge to, the world.

Commemorating the 140th anniversary of the University's founding

—— Mr. Yanagiya, would you tell us about the state of progress on activities to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the University's founding, as chairperson of the organizing committee for such activities?

Yanagiya:  The organizing committee began meeting at the end of 2018, and it is in the process of developing practical plans for commemorative activities, in four subcommittees on a commemorative and celebration ceremony, activities related to the academic side, athletic activities, and PR strategy. Membership of the organizing committee also includes representatives of the Alumni Association, the Parent's Association, the Rengo Sundai Kai, and the Sundai Athletic Association, and it aims to reflect the views and wishes of many stakeholders in the commemorative activities. We already have decided on projects including a commemorative and celebration ceremony to be held on November 1, 2021, the anniversary of the University’s founding, and construction of the new educational building on the Izumi Campus, as I noted earlier. We also have decided on a logo for the 140th anniversary. We intend to plan a wide range of other projects as well, and we hope you will look forward to further information concerning these.

At the same time, these activities to commemorate the University's 140th anniversary are supported by the 140th anniversary fundraising drive, which fully began in September of last year. This fundraising drive employed a new commendation system under which the names of donors will be imprinted on plates affixed to seats and classroom doors in the new educational building on the Izumi Campus. Such a commendation system already is in general use at universities in Europe and North America, and we will use it from now on to increase prospective donors' motivation to support commemorative activities, through further increasing the visibility of donations.

The year 2021 also will be the final fiscal year of our current long-term vision, and this year will be an extremely important one in which we will start formulating our next vision. Accordingly, activities to commemorate the University’s 140th anniversary will be developed with an eye toward the 150th anniversary 10 years later as well. We will formulate a long-term vision for the educational corporation based on the Grand Design 2030 established by the academic side last year, and we will continue to stress strong communication between the academic side and the educational corporation on this point.

While I too will do all I can as chairperson of the organizing committee for the activities to commemorate the University’s 140th anniversary, I would like us to realize compact yet substantial commemorative activities, with the understanding and support of faculty and staff, the Alumni Association, the Parents’ Association, students, and members of our local communities as well.

About the Grand Design 2030

——This next question is for President Tsuchiya. Would you please tell us about Meiji University's vision for the future, including the Grand Design 2030 long-term vision for the academic side?

Tsuchiya: It is difficult to predict what the year 2030 will be like. Over the past few years, I have been considering new methods of job-hunting activities for graduating students in conjunction with the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), as chairperson of the Recruitment Issues Committee of the Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges. It is projected that by 10 or 20 years from now, the employment market in Japan will have opened broadly to Asia. In light of Japan's low birth rate, the time will come in which the nation will welcome many human resources from Asia. When that happens, students in Japan will be competing with human resources from Asia. There is a concern that if Japan’s students lack the abilities needed to compete with human resources from Asia, then their future prospects might be extremely limited.

In university education as well, it is essential to be conscious of Asia and the rest of the world instead of merely looking at the domestic market alone. In particular, it is said that the 21st century will be the age of Africa. We must graduate human resources who possess broad-ranging perspectives and capabilities. I believe that only the universities that are aware of this point will be able to survive into the future.

One goal of the Grand Design 2030 is to offer 30% of our courses in foreign languages by 2030. It is impossible to work together with colleagues around the world unless one has the ability to study in English, at the very least. I believe that the time when it was enough just to consider one's own home country alone is over. In the future, the content of education will need to look at the whole world including Asia and Africa.

Diversity is another important consideration. Our goal is for 30% of University faculty members to be women by 2030. We will transform into a university supported by people of diverse races, genders, and nationalities. It is important to consider how to realize the facilities and barrier-free accommodations that will be needed to meet this goal. Already we have begun preparations for becoming a university that is welcoming of diversity in various ways.

Moving forward together with the Alumni Association and the Parent's Association

—— The University's founding principles include the term "Doshin Kyoryoku" ("concentric cooperation"). The University has progressed over its history through cooperation among students, faculty, and staff as well as alumni and parents. In conclusion, would you please tell us how you expect to implement further cooperation with alumni and parents?

Yanagiya: Meiji University's founding spirit of "Rights and Liberty" and "Independence and Self-government" has been handed down to us today as something like a source of pure groundwater. The spirit of Meiji University is that of moving forward by blazing our own trails through polishing diverse individualities, based on this founding spirit. It is vital that we pass along this spirit of Meiji University like a baton to our successors.

The Meiji University of today has been possible thanks to the concentric cooperation of its three founders. Surely our shared hope is for Meiji graduates to take on challenges and thrive on the vast stages on which they will play roles. As Mr. Mukaidono, Honorary Director of the Alumni Association, and Mr. Kitano, Director of the Alumni Association, both are fond of saying, "There is only one Meiji." For the University as well, it is very reassuring to know that our alumni come together as one to support our students. I have visited branches of the Alumni Association in various locations, and in the future I would like to enhance further cooperation with the Alumni Association’s 56 branches, its 224 chapters, and the 23 Shikonkai organizations overseas.

In addition, all of us involved in Meiji University, including executives of the educational corporation and executives and employees of the University, earnestly hope that students’ parents too will come to think of Meiji University as their second alma mater, and that this will serve as an opportunity for families to hear more about Meiji from their children in the household, as a common topic of interest. Nothing makes me happier than to hear parents say that they are glad they enrolled their children in Meiji University. Like Meiji's renowned rugby team, I would like us to continue moving forward in a scrummage formed with members of the Alumni Association and the Parent's Association in the coming year as well.

Tsuchiya: Since becoming President of the University, I have attended general meetings of Alumni Association branches across Japan. When my time as Dean is included, I have met with alumni in nearly all regions of Japan. I was happy to see that a one-time executive of the Alumni Association whom I met about 15 years ago while I was Dean of the School of Law still is healthy and playing an active role in the Alumni Association as a branch advisor after so many years.

In addition, in the national alumni association conference held in Okinawa in 2017, I met with alumni who had undergone very difficult experiences during World War II and in the postwar period. The event included a spirit-consoling service for alumnus Taizo Arai, who saved the lives of many people in Okinawa during the war, and it reminded me strongly of how important it is that Meiji remains a university that values the people of Okinawa's desire for peace. Meeting with alumni in these ways is a constant remainder of the history of Meiji University and the spirit that the University has maintained since its founding.

With regard to cooperation with the Parent's Association, over the past four years I also have visited with Parent's Associations overseas, in South Korea, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, and elsewhere, and these visits showed me that parents of international students too have strong feelings for Meiji University.

The Parent's Association has brought together 1000 people to support the Meiji ekiden marathon team and more than 1300 parents to cheer for Meiji in the year-end rugby match against Waseda University. Our athletic teams play a central role in attracting their support as their second alma mater. The past four years have impressed strongly on me how both alumni and parents are valuable assets of Meiji University and how they provide strong support for the University. While it makes me a little sad to think that I will not be able to meet with members of the Alumni Association and Parent's Association after I leave my post as President, I would like to ask for their continued support of Meiji University.

I will leave the post of President in March, and looking back over the past four years I realize that they were four years of positive relations between the Chairman and other members of the educational corporation and the academic side. Since a look over the history of Meiji University shows that this has not always been the case, it is my hope that in the coming four years the educational corporation and the academic side will continue to work hand in hand in the same way, to build up Meiji University's presence into an even stronger one.

—— I'm certain that faculty and staff together aim to realize the Meiji University of tomorrow as the best it can be, and a one-of-a-kind institution. Best wishes to both of you for the New Year as well.
Takashi Yanagiya, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Meiji University
Graduated in 1975 from Meiji University School of Commerce. Joined Nomura Securities Co., Ltd. (Current Nomura Holdings, Inc.) in 1975. Positions held at Nomura Securities Co., Ltd. include company director in 1997, Representative Director/Senior Managing Director in 2002, 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

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