University of Tokyo: UTokyo academic excellence now available anywhere in the world

About 4,000 international students currently study at the University of Tokyo full time, learning from and contributing to a world-renowned university. In the summer of 2021, a new education program allowed even more students to temporarily join UTokyo and study in English. The short, intensive UTokyo Global Unit Courses (UTokyo GUC) were designed so that students from all over the world may experience what it is like to study at the university. All the courses in 2021 were offered online so that students could join without having to travel to Japan. They were given “Global Units” and an official certificate upon completion.

Faith Amanda Siauw was one of the inaugural UTokyo GUC students and chose to enroll in a cultural studies course and an advanced Japanese language course. As a full-time student at the National University of Singapore earning a Bachelor in Social Sciences with a double major in psychology and Japanese studies, she says the UTokyo GUC program allowed her to access the benefits of studying abroad without needing to leave home.

“I wanted to take extra summer classes as I wanted the opportunity to take courses outside my university and interact with students around the world. I felt that taking the courses would complement the content and skills that I have learned in my home university,” Siauw said via email.

A total of 56 overseas students, 19 men and 37 women, from 17 countries registered for at least one course in summer 2021. An additional 11 UTokyo students were enrolled, taking advantage of the opportunity to study in an immersive English environment alongside students from around the world.

UTokyo offers multiple massive open online courses on the edX and Coursera platforms. Instead of a course where students are anonymous and never speak directly with faculty, Professor Yujin Yaguchi, director of the International Education Support Office, says he and the other UTokyo GUC organizers wanted to create an interactive, in-person experience with all of the same academic rigor of a standard UTokyo class.

“Our goal was for UTokyo GUC to offer the same experience as attending UTokyo in person during a normal full semester. Of course, we also hope that after their positive experience with UTokyo GUC, some students might develop an interest in pursuing a graduate degree here,” said Yaguchi.

Yaguchi is a former international student himself, having earned his Ph.D. from the College of William and Mary in the U.S. He is a professor at the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies and taught the “Writings About Japan: Analyzing Cultural Representations, From Orientalism to Artificial Intelligence” course for UTokyo GUC.

UTokyo Global Unit Courses are short summer classes offered completely in English.
Courses were structured as five or 10 sessions, each 90 minutes long, delivered over one or two weeks. Class sizes were small, from seven to 20 enrollees, allowing students the opportunity to have interactive discussions with their peers and professors. The UTokyo GUC program included subjects from political history to media studies to mathematics, as well as four different levels of Japanese for language learners.

“Our market research found that many other ‘study in Tokyo’ summer programs for overseas students generally focus on Japanese cultural experiences. UTokyo GUC takes advantage of the academic and research excellence we have at UTokyo and offers a range of courses, all taught by full-time faculty members who are leading scholars in their field,” said Risako Kondo, assistant manager of the International Exchange Group’s Education and Student Support Department.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions with my professors and fellow students! My fellow classmates and teaching assistants created a very safe environment for sharing opinions during discussion sessions and the online forum. The online format exceeded my expectations of studying at UTokyo, and has made me look forward to being able to take courses on the UTokyo campus, if I have the opportunity to do so in the future,” Siauw remarked.

The university plans to continue and expand the UTokyo GUC program for June, July, and August 2022. The courses will be offered online, including on-demand options, to enable students to join from all over the world and, provided the borders are opened to international visitors, in-person courses may also be available. Alumni and currently enrolled undergraduate or graduate students of any university outside Japan are eligible to apply. In 2022, the total cost will be set at 50,000 yen for a one-unit online course and 150,000 yen for a one-unit in-person course.

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