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Interview with International University of Japan chairman

  • 2015-07-15 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: July 15, 2015 – p. 27)


 The International University of Japan (IUJ) in Minami Uonuma City, Niigata Prefecture is very different from regular universities. Walking through the campus, one realizes that students from Asia and elsewhere constitute the overwhelming majority, making one wonder in which country the university is located. The IUJ is also planning to take advantage of this international atmosphere to train Japanese business persons. We asked Shoei Utsuda, a former trading firm executive now serving as the chairman of the IUJ board, to talk about his thoughts on nurturing global talents.


 Q: The IUJ opened in 1982.


 Utsuda: The IUJ has contributed to the nurturing of global talents. Its graduates are now working in 115 countries and territories all over the world. They have also built a very strong network. The alumni hold “WorldWide Friday” events in different parts of the world in September each year for exchanges.


 Q: At present, foreign students make up 85% of the student body.


 Utsuda: Our goal is to make the global standard in Asia the global standard of the world. Students from Asian countries account for 67% of the students. We have been designated as a super global university. In addition to Vietnam and Sri Lanka, we are also planning to set up an overseas office in Ghana. We will continue to make efforts to recruit students from Africa. Among Japanese universities, our university accepted the most number of students in the first batch of foreign students coming under the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) ABE Initiative (African Business Education Initiative for the Youth). We are training them to be capable of serving as coordinators for collaboration among industry, government, and academia when they go back to their home countries.


 Q: There have been an increasing number of universities conducting their classes solely in English.


 Utsuda: The IUJ is a postgraduate university. Compared to regular universities, most of the students are adults with more social experience. They hold certain views when they come to study. We are starting Ph.D. programs this year. We would like to train highly specialized personnel for international organizations and other bodies and produce practical researchers for society.


 We are basically a residential university. Mixed placement in the dormitories helps students overcome the barriers of race or gender. A strong sense of camaraderie of people who have eaten their meals together is formed. I cannot begin to tell you stories of such relationships developing into business opportunities after graduation.


 Q: In the first place, the university was set up with the support of the business sector.


 Utsuda: I truly admire the lofty ideal of Mr. Sohei Nakayama (former chairman of the Industrial Bank of Japan) and his ability to take action. More than 35 years ago, based on his vision of globalization, he worked very hard for the founding of a postgraduate university where students engage not in desk study but in practical learning and immediately become warriors in the corporate world globally after obtaining a master’s degree.


 I was then working at the Mitsui Corporation, where I was told: “Our company is like a school that produces people who can do useful work and play a role internationally.” The IUJ was founded based on such a line of thinking. My mission as chairman of the board is to make efforts to train more Japanese as human resources through friendly rivalry with foreign students. No matter what language one speaks, one must be able to build a relationship of trust with other people. I would like them to study English with that in mind.


 Q: Young people these days are inward-looking.


 Utsuda: If you let them spend a whole day from morning to night with people from all over the world at the IUJ, they will wonder what these people’s countries are like and will go to foreign countries. There are students from the Philippines, Myanmar, and Mongolia. It is like studying in 38 countries and territories. Many foreign students were sent by their governments, so they are very mature. Meeting them will serve as good stimulation.


 I would even say that this university lacks Japanese flavor. After Mr. Shinichi Kitaoka became president in 2012, Japanese history and culture became required courses.


 Q: Do you collaborate fully with the local government?


 Utsuda: Minami Uonuma City is vigorously promoting its CCRC [Continuing Care Retirement Community] scheme. Many former members of the Japan Foreign Trade Council who have worked for years in Thailand or the Philippines fall in love with these countries, so they still visit from time to time after retirement. There are so many young people from these countries at the IUJ. It will also be nice for Japanese retirees to come here for exchanges with them.


 There is a big hospital nearby called the Uonuma Kikan Hospital. Most hospital staff members don’t speak English, but they will be able to help if we organize social clubs and have the retirees come to the university. I think it will be a good idea for the local government, the hospital, and the university to work together for a CCRC that is a bit different from other localities.

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