An Update from the Dean
30 Years and Counting
June 22, 2012
Japan is a society that does not change easily or quickly. When I first came to Japan in 1976, there was much talk about the need to internationalize Japanese universities. Thirty-six years later the leading Japanese university, Tokyo University, has finally announced that it will soon decide whether to begin fall entrance in order to aid its internationalization.
Another important aspect of Japanese society is that perseverance counts. On June 3 Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) held its 28th graduation and began the celebration of its 30th anniversary. In those years TUJ has gone through many changes and faced many challenges, but we are still going strong. In the early 1980s Temple was the first American university to establish a campus in Japan, an example soon followed by approximately 40 other foreign universities. But when the economic bubble burst they all eventually closed, leaving TUJ once again as the "only one."
The two points are related. Although Japan changes slowly, it does change. There is an increasing impetus to true internationalization and an increasing recognition of the role that TUJ has played and will play in the internationalization of Japanese higher education. The fact of TUJ's persistence creates acceptance and support. Many foreigners complain that they will never be accepted "inside" Japan, but as a foreigner who has, I know that one reason is the fact that I have lived in Japan for a long time. However, the key is to remain inside while retaining the positives that one brings to Japan as an outsider. It is not simply about persisting in Japan, but TUJ's raison d'être in Japan and our overall mission.
The first main point in TUJ's evolution to date has been the decision by the main campus to own and control its Japan Campus directly in 1996. That decision solidified the main campus control over education and administrative policy and gave a clear signal to everyone in the U.S. and Japan that Temple University was very serious about maintaining its campus in Japan for a long time in the future. Temple's commitment was reinforced after the disaster of the Great Eastern Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. The second point was when TUJ became the first institution in Japan to receive the MEXT designation of "foreign university, Japan campus." This designation gave TUJ the ability to sponsor visas for foreign students but, more importantly, signaled the growing acceptance of TUJ as a foreign institution.
TUJ has evolved into the largest and the only true foreign university in Japan. There is much more to accomplish and TUJ must evolve even further, although our mission remains the same. We are here to serve the educational needs of Temple University students, whether they are admitted through the Philadelphia portal or the Tokyo portal; and we are here to work in partnership with our host society to further the development of higher education and global human resources in Japan. We will not be able to fulfill the latter mission until we attain, in cooperation with the Japanese government, a legal status in Japan that will allow us to compete on an equal footing with Japanese universities while retaining governance from the main campus, because higher education in Japan will only develop once there is increased internal competition, and collaboration, with foreign universities.
I have seen a lot of fundamental changes over the past three decades in Japan, and all of them are manifested by specific behaviors. Japanese people have always been known to rigidly adhere to rules and regulations, but one sees Tokyoites jaywalking all the time. People with disabilities were not allowed full participation in society, but today Japan is a "universal" society in which the disabled participate openly and freely. A woman used to be a "Christmas cake" who was stale after 25, but now the average age of marriage is 29, and the number of female role models in non-traditional occupations is increasing.
And so it is for the internationalization of Japanese higher education and TUJ. Members of the Diet have spoken of the role we play in Japan. Japanese companies are more and more interested in hiring our graduates. We are accepted in educational organizations and forums on an equal footing with Japanese universities, who are interested in substantial and significant partnering with us in order to increase their own internationalization.
As an American university in Japan, 30 years ago TUJ began with fall semester entrance; the rest of Japan is just beginning to catch up. But those first 30 years are what we might call the initial stage of TUJ's amalgamation with its host society. Now that amalgamation is being completed, it will be very interesting to see how TUJ and Japan evolve together over the next 30 years.
With best regards,