Message from the Director of the Program
The Human Sciences All-English Undergraduate Programme was launched in 2011 as part of the Global 30 government initiative to internationalize Japanese university campuses by focusing on qualitative rather than quantitative issues. Previous government initiatives had tended to focus on numerical targets for bringing students to Japan based on the assumption that if international and local students are studying in the same place the surrounding campus will automatically or magically be internationalized. However, experience has indicated that a focus on numbers alone does not provide the right mix for internationalisation to happen, however this may be defined. Put simply, you can place students with diverse backgrounds on the same campus and even in the same classroom, but this provides no guarantee that these different student groups will mix. Strategic intervention is needed to stimulate international exchange.
The G30 project sought to attract a broader range of students to Japanese campuses and enhance the teaching and learning environment through the creation of English-medium degree awarding programmes. The hope was that the process of creating and delivering English-medium programmes, recruiting and preparing the environment for four-year undergraduates students who may or may not have Japanese language proficiency, would stimulate internationalisation at a deep rather than simply surface level. As such, the G30 Project reflected recent evidence about the process of internationalization. In some very important ways this ambitious G30 initiative has been spectacularly successful.
The Human Sciences International Undergraduate Degree Program is one example of this new approach and we like to think that we have created a model G30 programme. Over the past five years we have developed and delivered a new Human Sciences degree programme with two integrated majors, Global Citizenship and Contemporary Japan. With a highly motivated and dedicated staff, we have pushed for excellence in the teaching and learning environment. Our students are highly appreciative of the interactive learning environment, the high quality of the programme and the many opportunities that are afforded them as a result of studying here. As the incoming director of the programme, I share with other members of the team a delight and deep sense of satisfaction at what we are doing here, what we have achieved and the way in which we are able to really nurture the potential of our students.
From 2012 we opened up many of our courses to the wider student body to ensure that our English programme students are not isolated in modern-day ‘Dejima’ on campus. This creates demands on professors as well as students as we all work together. My role and goal is to ensure that we deliver high quality courses that are also accessible to students from the mainstream Japanese-medium programmes with sufficient English proficiency. We have monitored carefully this recent move to open up classes to make sure that all students benefit, but especially to ensure that G30 students benefit from the presence of other students in their classes. The data we have collected shows a high level of satisfaction on all sides, and we are constantly drawing on what we know to further improve courses.
At a time higher education has become a necessity for any young person who wants to have some degree of choice in their career trajectory, the university experience has moved from being an elite to mass one. Many students today find themselves in classes where they feel they are invisible due to large numbers. In some universities here and overseas it is not unusual to have many hundreds of students sitting in the same class. In contrast, our classes have an intimacy rarely seen in universities today. A class of 30 would be considered large. Professors know their students’ names and know each as individuals. Sometime this is not such a good thing. When a student is late for class or decides to skip one altogether – and there are many wonderful excuses to skip classes when you have access to some of Japan’s most popular tourist sites almost on your door step – she or he may wish we didn’t know everyone’s names! Generally, however, the small class size is seen as a major bonus.
From today, April 1st, 2014, we move into a new phase as the G30 funding cycle comes to an end. Although we will continue to use the G30 name, in reality our Human Sciences programme has become a regular programme offering funded by the regular Osaka University budget. We expect to be able to watch our programme grow somewhat over the years ahead. It is with great pleasure that I take on the role of the director of the programme and look forward to working with students, professors and other staff to make the experience here at Osaka University one that opens doors on the world.
Beverley Anne Yamamoto (PhD)
Professor and Programme Director