Posted July 18, 2011

Japanese universities can accelerate internationalization

The following article is a translation of Ann Weaver Hart’s interview with the Japanese newspaper Daigaku Shinbun (University Newspaper), a monthly publication that is widely read among university administrators and high school teachers.


Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) is known as "Foreign University's Japan Campus." Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart visited Japan to attend TUJ's graduation ceremony on June 5. We asked her view on Japan after the earthquake.

Daigaku Shinbun: It is feared that the number of study abroad students will drop because of the nuclear power plant accident. How do American students view the situation?

Ann Weaver Hart: Since media broadcasts (in the U.S.) have been exaggerated, parents are often more worried than students. But we were able to get information directly from our staff in Japan, so we did not have to be blinded by rumors.

DS: How did Temple respond to the disaster?

AWH: We immediately formed a crisis response team that was engaged in confirming our students' safety and offering other student support. A few days after the quake, the U.S. Embassy issued a recommendation for voluntary evacuation. It is easy to say “let's evacuate,” but as an American institution, TUJ, unlike Japanese universities, was in the middle of the semester. So the dean and all our staff and faculty worked together to come up with three options for students: They could continue their courses at Main Campus in the U.S., with housing provided for free; they could complete their classes on the Internet; or they could come back to Tokyo to finish the semester. It is more difficult than you can imagine to teach one course in three different ways.

DS: How was it possible to offer these choices including the Main Campus option?

AWH: It is precisely because Temple is fully internationalized. Our decisions attracted much attention from worldwide media.

DS: We understand that Temple's overseas partnerships increased by 50 percent in the first four years since you became president. What are the key factors behind this growing internationalization?

AWH: First, it is important that the value of internationalization is understood and shared throughout the organization. Second, you must organize international experiences so that they are readily accessible. For instance, set up a structure in which students can share their study abroad stories with others. Finally, you must form strong partnerships at an institutional level. Through strong institutional partnerships, all activities can be implemented smoothly, including credit transfer; students, faculty and staff exchanges; and joint degree programs.

DS: What are the areas in which Japanese universities are lagging behind?

AWH: There seem to be few partnerships with overseas institutions. It’s important that more of these partnerships are formed at an institutional level. The key is to involve faculty ­— their leadership is critical to forming institutional partnerships.

DS: Japan is still suffering the aftermath of the earthquake/tsunami. Can Japanese universities be expected to pursue internationalization in such an environment?

AWH: This may be the right time to accelerate internationalization, since everyone in the world is thinking of Japan. At Temple's Main Campus, we see many disaster relief activities underway to raise funds for TUJ's students. Everybody is watching Japan right now. There is a saying that "good comes out of evil." We need not be overly pessimistic.