University of Tokyo: The 4th Japan India Exchange Platform Program (JIEPP) Symposium held

The 4th JIEPP Symposium (held on February 24) featured keynote speeches, presentations of results from each university and an overall discussion under the theme “Achievements and Prospects of the Japan-India Exchange Program by Universities”.

As this is the final year of the Inter-University Exchange Project Platform Building Program (India) that started in 2017, we looked back on the achievements of all Type A and Type B selected universities and consider the future prospects for Japan-India exchanges led by universities.

The symposium was held online and was viewed by 105 people, of which most were university personnel and business professionals. The moderator for the whole event was Ms. YAGIHASHI Mami, Manager of the International Strategy Group, Management Planning Department at the University of Tokyo.

Following the opening remarks by Prof. HAYASHI Kaori, Executive Vice President for International Affairs, The University of Tokyo, congratulatory remarks were delivered by Mr. Mayank Joshi, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of India, Japan, and Ms. YOSHIOKA Michi, Deputy Director, Higher Education Bureau, Policy Division, Office for International Planning, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

In the keynote speech, Prof. Amit Agrawal, Dean of International Affairs, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB), gave a presentation titled “Japan-India Connect”, sharing the rich experience of exchanges between the Japanese universities and IITB and the outlook for the future. IITB was introduced as an institution that has a rich natural environment and has achieved a great deal in terms of entrepreneurship and patents through its extensive research and education, as well as its focus on incubation. He also explained that IITB has many MoUs with Japanese universities, as well as examples of active exchanges with Japanese universities, including Hokkaido University and Hiroshima University. He also introduced that faculty members continue to visit from Japan even under the circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic, and the participants expressed their willingness to further develop research and student exchanges in the future.

Following this, Hokkaido University and Hiroshima University, universities adopted to the Inter-University Exchange Project (India Type A) in the 2017 fiscal year, gave presentations summarizing the results of the five years of the project.

Prof. OKAZAKI Taichiro of Hokkaido University explained the details of the International Research Skills Program for Developing Sustainable Transportation System and Infrastructure (STSI), which is being implemented as the Inter-University Exchange Project (India Type A). The program consists of problem-solving classes using the PBL method and internship training to gain exchange experience. The program was able to be conducted online despite the travel difficulties under the circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic, because classes had been conducted remotely in cooperation with faculty members from partner universities in India even before the start of the pandemic. The number of students participating in the program grew steadily before the COVID-19 pandemic and the program was well received by students. It was pointed out that although the number of students exchanged was sluggish after the 2020 fiscal year due to the program shifting to online, some students were able to complete their internships with the cooperation of the partner universities on the Indian side. Regarding the industry-academia collaboration, he announced that a consortium has been established with the cooperation of universities and companies to build a multifaceted support system for the Japan-India exchange program.

Next, FUJIWARA Akimasa, Vice President and Professor at Hiroshima University, reported on the university’s “International Linkage Degree Program for Developing Innovators Transforming Advanced Technology to Social Goals”. The ILDP program had been providing education programs emphasizing the importance of hands-on experiences. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic and activities were shifted to online mode, they are maintaining the number of participants by broadening the frontage. In addition, when the program initiated a research exchange meeting, it was highly appreciated by students as well as the faculty. Overall, he explained that through the ILDP, they were able to conduct joint research and education programs with Indian universities, leading to participation with industry, government, and the local community, as well as that the exchange meetings attracted many participants from across academic disciplines. He summarized his findings by saying that he believes that seamlessly connecting undergraduate to doctoral studies will lead to a degree-enhancing study abroad channel that he hopes to develop the program in the future.

Next, WATANABE Satoshi, Special Advisor to the President and Professor in the Graduate School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo, reported on the program contents and results of the “Japan-India Exchange Platform Program (JIEPP)”, which was selected as the “Inter-University Exchange Project Platform Building Program (India Type B)” program in FY 2017. The program has been using the website it built as an information sharing and dissemination tool. Symposiums have also been held every year as an opportunity to create new exchanges as well as sharing information. Besides, in the 2020 fiscal year, it started a seminar series as an opportunity for deepening the understanding on specific themes. Furthermore, in the 2021 fiscal year, with the participation of the other member universities of the Inter-University Exchange Project (India), the “Information Exchange Meetings of the Japan-India Exchange Institutes” were held twice. Prof. Watanabe stated that the meetings enabled the participants to share detailed information on good practices and challenges faced by each university in the implementation of their projects and to exchange opinions on the future of the Japan-India exchange platform after the grant program ends. He also expressed that from the 2022 fiscal year onward, the platform program will be further developed in collaboration with the “Study in Japan Global Network Project in Southwest Asia” program, which has been commissioned to the University of Tokyo.

Associate Professor KATO Takahiro, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, the University of Tokyo, moderated the overall discussion where all the speakers came together to answer questions from the audience and discuss the significance of Japan-India exchange by universities and the expectations for the platform project. Regarding the importance of exchange programs with India for Japanese universities, it was noted that the different backgrounds between Japanese and Indian students would enable students to complement each other by taking advantage of each other’s unique characteristics. As one of the points for promoting the appeal of Japanese universities to Indian students, the professors mentioned advanced research themes and Japanese culture and a sense of security of living in Japan. On the other hand, Professor Agrawal mentioned that India’s appealing points include its rich culture and the active nature of Indian students. Regarding the expectations for the platform, the importance of sharing information was confirmed. In addition, there were proposals to conduct “many-to-many” exchanges involving multiple universities from both the Japanese and Indian sides, and to jointly hold seminars by Japanese and Indian universities.

In closing, Prof. Watanabe, the University of Tokyo, expressed his willingness for the “many-to-many” exchanges raised in the overall discussion session and stated that they would continue and develop the platform program with the cooperation of many people involved in Japan-India exchanges in the future.

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