Special Tripartite Discussion (2016): University Reform and New Faculty
|Mr. Masahiko Isobe
President, Kochi University of Technology
|Mr. Toshiro Takeuchi
President, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology
|Mr. Akira Tateno
General Manager of Corporate Research & Development Division and Chief Executive Officer, IHI Corporation
In 2014, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (TUMSAT) established an advisory board for university reform consisting of outside experts, and has received a wide variety of advice since then regarding our mission of "creation of organizations to develop human resources for marine-related industries in order to enhance international competitiveness".
We had a valuable opportunity to have a tripartite discussion by inviting two advisors, Mr. Masahiko Isobe (President of Kochi University of Technology) and Mr. Akira Tateno (Chief Executive Officer of IHI Corporation), so that Mr. Toshiro Takeuchi, President of TUMSAT, could listen to their opinions about our reform project and our new faculty to be launched in April 2017.
TAKEUCHI: Thank you very much for attending the meeting today. As the president of TUMSAT, I would like to make the most of this valuable opportunity to listen to the advisory board members. I really would appreciate your thoughtful opinions.
TAKEUCHI: First, I would like to ask both of you to introduce yourselves, including some experiences as advisory board members.
ISOBE: I'm an expert in civil engineering, and more specifically in coastal engineering. I have been engaged in research into and education about shallow oceans. To put it symbolically, I have been dealing with oceans where I can touch the bottom. Since shallow oceans are closely related to the land and naturally deep oceans at the same time, I have had working relationships with many researchers, including oceanographers. That's why I believe I was invited to join the advisory board this time.
TATENO: I originally majored in mechanical engineering. I have been involved in aero-engine technology since I joined IHI about 30 years ago. I didn't have a close relationship with the ocean. Then, just three and a half years ago, I was transferred to the Corporate R&D Division from Aero-engine & Space Operations. The new division deals with a very wide range of technologies covering all the IHI products, including unique ones for the future. For example, it researches ocean current power generation utilizing the energy of the Black Current, and unmanned underwater vehicles for exploration of marine resources. Since IHI started from shipbuilding, we still have a lot of products related to ships and marine structures, which requires us to develop related technologies. This way, I think my relationship with the ocean has been getting deeper.
About the new faculty
TAKEUCHI: We started a project to promote "National University Reform" 18 months ago, with a view to "creation of organizations to develop human resources for marine-related industries to enhance international competitiveness". Specifically, we have targets of organizational reform, governance reform and human affairs reform including changes in the salary system.
So, I would like to ask you about one of the targets: organizational reform, more specifically, about education at the new faculty.
ISOBE: The newly established faculty, the School of Marine Resources and Environment, has two undergraduate courses: the Department of Ocean Sciences, which is environment oriented, and the Department of Marine Resources and Energy, which is development oriented. I think it is very interesting that these two courses are in the same faculty group. For example, the new faculty will deal with El Niño and La Niña in addition to the flow of the Black Current, and these phenomena have close relationships with the atmosphere. Furthermore, considering topography, they are related to the ocean floor. As we have obtained plenty of such information, it becomes very important to properly communicate structured well-organized information to young people, because giving only partial information will be useless in terms of human resource development and we won't be able to produce competent people in such way.
Some students are enrolled in the Department of Ocean Sciences, while others are enrolled in the Department of Marine Resources and Energy; nevertheless, I hope that they will broadly learn from each other.
TAKEUCHI: Thank you very much for your comment. Indeed, one is environment oriented and the other is development oriented. What do you think about this arrangement, Mr. Tateno?
TATENO: I also think it is excellent to provide a system for students to learn about matters related to resources and energy as well as related to the environment. They are inseparable. It was mentioned "from the atmosphere to the ocean floor", and currently, locations of ships are defined clearly by satellites and such data is utilized as useful information. So, I think the subject matter can also be extended to outer space.
TAKEUCHI: This new faculty has two courses with common subject groups that should be studied in the first two years. Then students will advance to specialized studies from the third year. Existing faculties have used this system and it has proved to be successful. I believe it will also work with the new faculty.
TAKEUCHI: We consider one of our main features is the internship program, in which we dispatch our students not only to places in Japan but also in foreign countries. We have a special program called "overseas expedition team" for global human resources development. For this new faculty, I would like to ask you for any suggestions regarding overseas training or domestic training and internship programs.
ISOBE: Because we are talking about education at a university, basically, the learning is focused on theories, and that is part of classroom lectures. Since a theory comes into existence by simplifying complicated phenomena that actually exist, there is a process to cut off details. This process is inevitable for any academic subject; however, doing so has two different aspects: students can comprehend the whole picture without being distracted by details, while actual phenomena are different from the theory. Then, internship and training come in and I hope that students can understand the theory through actual experiences.
TAKEUCHI: I noticed that after our students experienced overseas expeditions, their eyes sparkled. Then, they became very active in many activities after the expedition. I wonder how employers in industry view the internship.
TATENO: IHI, especially my division, Corporate R&D, has actively accepted interns. Especially, we have a very close relationship with Ecole Centrale de Lyon in France. We have accepted more than 150 interns in total for over 30 years. Although the training period was short at first, it has recently become longer, occasionally exceeding three months. This is because both sides enjoy the advantages of the internship. The interns feel they better understand the work and life in Japan, while we can entrust some jobs to them. This way, I come to think the duration of an internship should be three months or longer for students to really understand the company and society to which the company belongs to.
TAKEUCHI: We think they need at least three months to learn things sufficiently. So, we send out our students, especially those who are in advanced courses from the doctoral degree, to three-month programs. As a result, half of them were employed by the companies in the programs. I think the intern programs are excellent.
TATENO: As for developing human resources with doctoral degrees, recently, it has been discussed at various occasions, and I sometimes joined those discussions. Observing the doctors who joined IHI, I noticed they are very talented.
TAKEUCHI: The overseas expedition program I mentioned previously is only for undergraduates, but since those students will go to the master and doctoral courses afterwards, we will start a new course for masters next year under a new system. It is important that the educational system has continuity. We have already talked about the exit side, but I think the entrance side is also important. Then, if we consider the duration of a course, one month or three months, we cannot avoid discussing the quarter system or four semesters. I hope Mr. Isobe will provide us with some advice.
About the quarter system
ISOBE: In fact, our university adopted the quarter system at the time of its opening, and it is only 20 years now from that point. Generally speaking, an ordinary course in a university in Japan has only one class a week. So, students tend to forget what they learned the week before and it is difficult to build up educational results. On the other hand, the quarter system we adopted has two classes a week. Therefore, because the next class comes before students forget what they learned, they tend to acquire knowledge more easily. In addition to that, we noticed the quarter system had another advantage after we implemented the system. It provides us with twice as many PDCA cycles. In other words, in the two-semester system, in the case of Japan, the first one starts in April and ends in August. Then, students are evaluated for their performances. However, in the second semester, because the summer vacation starts after that, they tend to forget what they have learned in the first semester. On the other hand, they will have the results after about two months in the quarter system. If their performances are not so good, we can tell them to make more effort, and if their performances are good, we can praise them for taking another step-up.
TAKEUCHI: Do you mean the advantages you mentioned apply to both the liberal arts course and the professional course in the same way?
ISOBE: Yes, I do. Although we call it the liberal arts course, actually it doesn't only deal with liberal arts but also deals with science and technology, and then culture. It reminds me that TUMSAT has the Department of Marine Policy and Culture.
TAKEUCHI: I think the quarter system has an advantage for studying abroad. If you include a spring or summer vacation in addition to a semester which you skip, you will easily have about three months for studying abroad.
ISOBE: Yes, if you include a summer vacation, you will have a rather long period for studying abroad by skipping the second or the third semester. It can be as long as half a year, so it will provide a chance for students to do various things. Actually, the system also has another effect. It also provides a good opportunity for teachers to take a sabbatical. The quarter system enables you to take a rather long period to focus on something you want to do.
TAKEUCHI: From the viewpoint of employers, Mr. Tateno told us that about three months would be good. So, I wonder if you would prefer graduate students to undergraduates considering the duration.
TATENO: If you consider a specific research theme or a particular laboratory, graduate students will have more leverage. However, as I mentioned earlier, students from abroad were mostly third-year undergraduate students. From my experience, they were so talented that we entrusted some blocks of work to them.
TAKEUCHI: Do you mean you accepted them for one month?
TATENO: We accepted them for three months. I am not so familiar with the systems of foreign universities; however, recently they often send out undergraduate students for three months.
TAKEUCHI: I see. I think it would be very nice if the quarter system becomes useful when we send our students overseas. I can say we have finally become able to do this.
TAKEUCHI: As for partnerships, we seek them with companies and other universities. And universities have introduced core curriculum.
I would appreciate it if you give us some advice about partnerships.
ISOBE: In terms of partnerships, single university cannot cover everything. Each university has its own areas of specialty, and it also has areas in which it is not so good. For those areas, it can look for outsourcing. Cooperation can bring about new things and I think it is very important that universities look for such partnership internally and externally.
TAKEUCHI: Partnership somehow depends on how it is organized. So, universities have to share ideas. I think members of the advisory board are in a good position to provide us with some ideas.
ISOBE: Partnership covers a wide range of matters. For example, there is the matter of human resources, facilities, and collaboration among students. You can collaborate in many ways.
TAKEUCHI: When it comes to human resources, we also think it is important to have instructors with expert experience. We expect companies to supply such instructors to us. When you look at our education programs, what do you think about them?
TATENO: For example, I was told that you are a little short of instructors who have experience in the field of drilling for petroleum natural gas.
TAKEUCHI: It is very difficult to invite an instructor from that field.
TATENO: Although there are various reasons, I think it is important to build good relationships with several companies. It is also a matter of timing. If you are lucky, you might find someone who has experience and ability suitable for the subject when he or she has just quit the company and wants to become a university teacher.
TAKEUCHI: A university cannot afford to change its system so often. If it creates a program, it should continue for about five to ten years. Under such conditions, we cannot be satisfied with just having someone join us; however, we should develop such an instructor good enough to continue the program.
TATENO: If your target field is a field that the company has many talented individuals for, it won't be so difficult to send someone into education. However, some fields depend on only one expert with a disciple. There is only a thin line for continuation. Therefore, it is necessary for universities and companies to cooperate with each other following an explicit plan.
Experience of being a member of the advisory board
TAKEUCHI: As members of the advisory board, both of you must have noticed various things, because you viewed our university from the outside and inside. What differences did you observe and what issues were you aware of regarding how to operate the board in the future?
ISOBE: Considering what I can do as an advisory board member, I think I can provide opinions from a bird's-eye view. If you are one of the internal members, you are well aware of things around you; however, you may have only an obscure view of the whole picture.
TAKEUCHI: How about from a businessman's standpoint?
TATENO: An Advisory Board is one effective way; however, I think that it should be considered as one of many channels. There are many other channels to communicate with other universities, companies and laboratories, and the information network including those channels should be maintained. Information coming from such channels is very important.
TAKEUCHI: As for this advisory board, basically, it is considered that it will finish when the new faculty is established. However, I think it will be necessary even after the new faculty is established. Do you have any ideas about that?
ISOBE: There might be the need for a follow-up after the launch of the new faculty. I will be willing to help you if you need my support in the early stage of the new faculty operation and until it really stably works.
About unification of personnel affairs
TAKEUCHI: Before the reform, there was a research institute in the graduate school and teachers belonged there. Then, we created a new organization called the Academic Research Institute and all teachers now belong there. I think this unification reform will enable us to decide upon the arrangement of teachers more easily in the Strategic Council of Arrangement of Teachers. Regarding this reform, is there any advice, Mr. Isobe?
ISOBE: It is not a direct effect of the Strategic Council of Arrangement of Teachers, but is linked to it, so, the organization of Academic Research Institute has brought about flexible management of the university, so that it can more effortlessly respond to changes in society in many ways. The flexibility of the management has increased.
TAKEUCHI: I understand business people are not familiar with teacher attitudes. Is there any opinion about this?
TATENO: I think teaching is a really tough job. Students are recognizing the attitudes of their teachers. Thus, I think that teachers themselves should be enthusiastic, and then they will foster motivated students.
TAKEUCHI: I agree with that but in some cases, too many instructions may not produce good results. So, we will carefully discuss the balance between guidance and self-motivation in the council. In addition, we have external members for evaluation, which is another significant factor.
About annual salary system
TAKEUCHI: Next, I would like to ask about the annual salary system and its evaluation.
ISOBE: The annual salary system aims at giving teachers an incentive through evaluation. It is necessary to be objective for evaluation. To be objective, a quantitative method is required. However, quantitative evaluation cannot cover everything. So, there should be also an analog way, or a qualitative evaluation. Then, we should carefully keep a balance between them.
TAKEUCHI: I guess that the business world also has an annual salary system, doesn't it?
TATENO: I have a similar feeling with Mr. Isobe. IHI has not yet adopted the annual salary system; however, considering global trends, the salary will tend to increase more by capability or performance than just age. It is also inevitable for a business organization to properly evaluate employees and their performance. Thus, we are trying quantitative evaluation by using the goal management system, etc. However, as a matter of fact, it is likely to rely on the subjective views of managers. When I evaluate employees myself, I pay attention to the satisfaction of the individual as well as that of other people in the organization.
ISOBE: I have the same feeling about the satisfaction of other people in the organization that Mr. Tateno just mentioned. For TUMSAT, a much larger organization than my university, I think it is better to introduce it very carefully. You should implement it in a limited range at first.
TAKEUCHI: After all, it is critical to implement this while building up a relationship based on trust. I am aware that this is a very challenging task.
ISOBE: So, I think the system has a positive aspect in a different way. When you invite someone from outside, the system will work well. In the past, firstly, you had to consider the years that the person spent on research, which was ambiguously called research performances. In the new system, you don't have to stick to the research performances (or years). You may evaluate the person based on actual experience or if the person has excellent research achievements, you can ignore the research years. This way, the new system will provide flexibility in a good sense.
Since your university really needs someone with practical experience, such experience should be properly appreciated and you can utilize the system for successful matching.
TAKEUCHI: We are running out of time. So, I would like both of you to provide us with your expectations for TUMSAT, or anything else you want to mention as a conclusion.
ISOBE: As the name of your university suggests, your first mission should be research into and education about the ocean to contribute to society. For the research, because the ocean is the frontier in the 21st century, I expect TUMSAT to explore it further and deeper. Speaking of the ocean, I study it as deep as I can, that is, until I touch the bottom, and my field has a rather long history. However, studying the deep part of the ocean is challenging because you cannot even identify the location. If you are on the land, it is much easier to tell the location by using GPS, and in the shallow ocean, you can use ships to transport things by floating them on the surface. However, how many heavy things can you transport deep in the ocean? We do not have much technology for that. Including such question, we can say that the ocean is the frontier of the 21th century. As a member of the advisory board, I think one of the missions of TUMSAT is to engage in research to clear new paths in this frontier.
TATENO: I understand TUMSAT focuses on "practical sciences" as its principle. I think this is very respectable. IHI often uses the term 3G, namely the genba (actual place), genbutsu (actual thing), and genjitsu (fact) principle. You have to understand these three important factors before starting your work. We tell employees that 3G is the basis of work. I feel the spirit of TUMSAT, that is, to value practical sciences, is similar to that of 3G.
Therefore, I expect TUMSAT, including the new faculty, to help the students to acquire basic academic skills in a well-balanced manner and to acquire cultural understanding to become global talents. I expect TUMSAT to maintain the strength of "practical sciences" as the base.
TAKEUCHI: Thank you very much for your opinions. For practical sciences, I will emphasize their essence in the vision 2027, we are determined to advance with them. In other words, we will take over the traditions of Tokyo University of Mercantile Marine and Tokyo University of Fisheries as they are.
You have provided so many valuable opinions today. I have been encouraged many times. Thank you again for your time.
Masahiko IsobePresident and Professor, Kochi University of Technology
1977 Master of Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, the University of Tokyo
1992 Professor of Civil Engineering, Department of Engineering, the University of Tokyo
2006 Professor of Department of Socio-Cultural Environmental Studies, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, the University of Tokyo
2007 Special Advisor to President of the University of Tokyo (Special Assistant)
2009 to 2011 Vice-president of the University of Tokyo and Special Advisor
2015 President of Kochi University of Technology
Akira TatenoGeneral Manager of Corporate Research & Development Division and Chief Executive Officer, IHI Corporation
1980 Master of Engineering, Department of Engineering, the University of Tokyo
1980 Joined Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. (currently IHI Corporation)
2002 Technical Director of Private Engine Department, Aerospace Business Division
2009 Member of the Board of Directors, Director of Defense System Department, Aerospace Division
2013 Executive Officer, GM of Corporate R&D Division
2016 Chief Executive Officer