I already sent this to the president of UTokyo hoping that he will use some of those ideas in his 2020 vision, and wanted to share it with UTokyo community as well.
Japan has been doing very well on many levels. Whether in robotics, engineering, transportation, infrastructure, arts, medical breakthroughs, in addition to preserving its culture and several other fronts!
Now, more than ever, Japan is witnessing another golden age, and this age will be crowed in 2020 when Japan hosts the Olympics. The University of Tokyo represents Tokyo academically, and to a lesser extent Japan as a whole. It is known to be the best University in Japan and it should be able to portray this image adequately. Nonetheless there are some solvable concerns that we should address. The main issue isn’t hard to fix, especially since the quality of education and research being done at UTokyo, as well as the quality of its graduates are on an appropriate level. What is missing though, is international appeal. At this point, making UTokyo attractive for international student is essential. We should be able to make UTokyo attractive enough to decrease acceptance rate from 35%+ to 20%+ and even less. There are several ways that we may be able to address some of the issues UTokyo is having as depicted below:
- Freeing ‘The University of Tokyo’ outlets. Until now, the University of Tokyo outlets are bots. They are controlled automatically. There are minor human interactions with them. In addition, the people in charge are unable to do anything because of the strict rules they have. No one is able to discuss this because no one wants to be in the spot light. One of my previous projects in KyotoU was to create one of the outreach accounts. The accounts were created free. Meaning that the employees themselves were controlling them. This allows the interaction of UTokyo with other universities, other professors, and students around the world. This also allows the university to be promoted in conferences, symposiums and international events. Now Kyoto University accounts get mentioned on many occasions and there are a lot of interactions between their accounts, their students, their community and the international audience. While UTokyo is still more or less a bot! It is basically not adequate audience or attention. This is hurting UTokyo, and I think the university deserves much more attention than it is getting. Actually, UTokyo is the only university from the top 50 universities worldwide that does this! This should definitely be changed.
- International student interaction and involvement. UTokyo is not encouraging international students to have extracurricular activities and to be involved in making the university a better place for everyone. Many of the top universities choose their students to be well rounded, and they do that for a good reason. There are a lot of international students’ talents that the university can use. Several students are more than willing to help, but the ‘system’ makes it harder for them to do so! The rigidity of such system is what should be modified first in order for students from different backgrounds to be able to properly contribute.
- Interdepartmental collaborations. Back at MIT, I had the chance to check out the Media Lab. The idea of having such platform is not an accessory anymore, it is essential part of any university. So many great ideas come about from collaborative efforts. Many professors are working on similar things in different labs. For example; Nematodes chemistry research, nematodes bioengineering, nematodes molecular and genetic studies are in different labs. Instead of having these scientists in their own laboratories the university should seek to create something like a joint institute or in this example “The Nematodes Research Center”! Of course, Nematodes is just an example here, but we should be able to find which area is our university’s strength, and build upon that! I am already starting to initiate collaborations between robotic department and brain science also between arts and brain science. There should be much more collaborations around campus. This will not happen spontaneously! There should be a university effort to help facilitate collaborations by creating different events around campus. Several cost-effective events with great influence can be created so the “budget card” can’t be played by university officials at all times.
- Student promotion. Unfortunately, students in UTokyo are not promoted properly. There is a website in which UTokyo shows off its students called “Discover our people”. However, when I asked about the selection criteria, they said there is none! Students come up by themselves and ask to be featured. That is not the most appropriate way of doing things. Basically, that university office wanted to do such project just for the sake of it without thinking properly about the scope or impact of their work. When we show off our students to the world, we should be a little bit more selective. That would help us attract other competitive and highly qualified students to our campus.
- Enrich exchange. After further research, I found out that several universities have dropped their exchange agreements with UTokyo. This is definitely hurting our students, especially the undergrads which are the base and future of how our university performs. UTokyo should have a program to investigate which universities are good at a particular subject and send our students there based on the skills they should be obtaining, instead of creating random collaborations based on the university’s general rank per se. Until now, the selection is completely random and the students sometimes choose a program based on the country instead of what they should be learning from that particular program they are applying to (due to the lack of applicants). This is one reason we have been losing international exchange programs.
- International university collaborations. It is of course important to strengthen our relationships with other universities in Asia, but we should not be concentrating on Asia alone! Many of the universities that we have a joint venture with are not central for carrying our image to better heights. Even though the strategy is to focus on Asia, we should have a bigger scope! In addition, having joint seminars and conferences is not enough. We should establish stronger ties with universities abroad. Such as making joint programs, like the NUS- Yale program for example. Finding good universities for such departmental collaboration is key. Since Cambridge is the best in the world in chemistry for example, we should strive to make a UTokyo-Cambridge program in Chemistry. Or since UCSD is the best in neuroscience, then we should go for UTokyo- UCSD program in Neuroscience. Etc.
These are few of the ideas I have to better our university so that it can be a pillar of research and education in Asia, and the world!
Thank you for taking the time to read through this, and for taking the points mentioned above into consideration.