Posted October 30, 2007

Temple University’s Japan Campus celebrates 25 years

  • Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg/Temple University In a special event at the U.S. Embassy residence in Tokyo, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer (right) hosted a celebration on Nov. 6 to honor the 25th anniversary of Temple University’s Japan Campus.

It was the first foreign university to operate in Japan.

Temple University established its Japan Campus in 1982 to offer English-language courses and American degrees — a radical idea at the time.

“Twenty-five years ago, the perception was that Japan was superior in just about every respect. The bravery — even audacity — of bringing a U.S. model of education to Japan was really amazing for that time,” recalled Kirk Patterson, who was working in Japan at the time and has served as dean of Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ), since 2002.

Despite U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s praise at its establishment that Temple’s Japan Campus would be an important step in Japanese-American relations, it was a leap of faith, and few expected it to last.

“Over the 25 years that TUJ has operated, about 40 universities have tried and failed to establish similar campuses,” said Patterson, who will retire as dean at the end of this year.

But Temple remained steadfast in its support of its students and campus, and, over time, demonstrated its value and commitment to Japan and the world. Twenty-five years later, TUJ is recognized as a successful and important contributor to Japanese education and to both the local and international communities.

To celebrate that success, Temple is hosting a series of seminars and conferences this fall that draw on its unique perspective and expertise, on topics from change management in global organizations to legal issues for Japanese companies doing business in the United States. On Nov. 10, the campus will host a special symposium on a topic that TUJ knows well, “International Education in Japan.” Two alumni reunions, in Tokyo and Osaka, will bring together some of the more than 31,000 TUJ alumni located throughout Japan and around the globe.

“We are proud that Temple University’s Japan Campus has been a forerunner in providing a U.S.-style education to outstanding students from Japan and around the world,” said Temple President Ann Weaver Hart, who visited the Tokyo campus in early November. “As we celebrate its 25th anniversary, we look forward to future collaborations with Japan’s government, businesses and community, and welcome the continued opportunity to help develop our students into future international leaders.”

In 2005, a significant indicator of the Japanese government’s acceptance came through its formal designation as the first Foreign University, Japan Campus, by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

It was a long way to come, and official recognition brought perks, such as the commuting-pass discounts students of Japanese universities receive — critical for a population that relies on public transit for their daily 1.5 hour (one-way) commute — and, perhaps most important, the right for TUJ to sponsor student visas, meaning students from the United States and around the world can now complete full degree programs there.

In TUJ, Temple operates probably the only full-scale foreign campus in the world that is recognized by both home and host country educational authorities and that provides undergraduate, graduate and non-degree programs to both local and foreign students, Patterson said. Most universities’ foreign campuses are designed for study-abroad, and do not accept local students. TUJ, on the other hand, is a fully accredited campus of Temple University that provides Japanese students and students from around the world with a U.S.-style education.

“Temple can take special pride in being way ahead of the curve to establish a campus like TUJ,” Patterson said. “In international education, everyone else was looking mainly at the movement of students, not at the movement of institutions.”

The institution that Temple set up in 1982 has grown from a single non-degree program — the Intensive English-Language Program — to a full-fledged university with seven programs and 11 majors based out of four Temple schools and colleges. TUJ has particular strengths in business, law, Asian studies, TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), art and psychology. TUJ is also highly regarded for its Continuing Education, professional programs and mid-career training offerings.

Over the past five years, enrollment has increased dramatically. TUJ’s total enrollment has doubled to about 3,000 since 2002. That includes nearly 800 undergraduate students, up from about 450 five years earlier. The biggest jump in undergraduate enrollment — nearly 20 percent in one year— came after TUJ’s 2005 official designation as a foreign university campus.

About 60 percent of today’s undergraduate students come from Japan, and another 27 percent are from the United States. The remaining 14 percent of students represent almost 50 other nationalities.

Located in Minato City, an area in central Tokyo with many embassies and corporate headquarters, TUJ’s success has created one problem: space. Classrooms and offices are scattered in three different buildings, and there is not enough room to accommodate the increasing number of students, faculty and staff. To address the space shortage and accommodate future growth, TUJ is working on plans to build its own, large facility in central Tokyo.

As a sign of its commitment to the community, in 2006 the campus signed an agreement with Minato City to carry out joint projects and activities, such as teacher training programs and English-language camps for junior high school students. The TUJ library is part of the local interlibrary loan system, giving residents access to the university’s 50,000-volume collection. In addition, students volunteer in Minato City festivals and visit local classrooms to expose Japanese youth to other cultures.

Despite their incredible diversity of backgrounds and experiences, students of Temple’s Japan Campus share at least two traits in common: They are willing to work hard and they defy convention. Like that of the campus, their path is not an easy one.

The American model of higher education, with its focus on individual student achievement, career-specific skill sets and a high standard for graduation, is markedly more rigorous than that of many Japanese universities.

“By coming to TUJ, our students have shown themselves to be willing to take on the challenge of leaving their comfort zone to achieve their goals,” Patterson said. “Such students, when they leave TUJ and go into society, will be real stars.”