Tohoku University recently played host to the General Assembly of the Top Industrial Managers for Europe (T.I.M.E.), a network of 53 technical and engineering institutions from around the world.
Members took the opportunity to share thoughts on industry developments, strengthen bi-lateral ties and encourage more student mobility through the Double Degree Program.
The Double Degree Program is an arrangement which allows graduate students to earn degrees from their home university as well as a partner university abroad. It was set up to give students exposure to different methods of teaching and learning, as well as the chance to experience full cultural and linguistic immersion.
"Young people these days are used to travelling. They want to discover far off places that are very different, places where they can learn more about life and themselves," says Paul Crowther, the Secretary General of T.I.M.E. Association. "The Double Degree Program is not just about intrinsic skills, it's also about broadening your experiences and your market access."
Tohoku University currently has Double Degree Programs with institutions in France and Sweden.
"If you have a French degree, it is good in France. But if you want to work worldwide, it is better to have one degree from your home country and one from abroad to show that you are interested in things outside your own world," says Guillaume Lacaille, a French student from Ecole Centrale Lyon who is currently finishing his double degree at Tohoku University. "This open mindedness is quite important. I think many companies are looking for that."
Yoko Tanabe, a Japanese student from Tohoku University who had spent two years at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, agrees.
"At first I had concerns about living abroad, but I thought that if I have the confidence to do it, maybe I will be changed as a person. My life would change, my thinking would change. That possibility was interesting to me, so that was my motivation for going."
Tanabe's initial hesitation about studying abroad is not uncommon in Japan and is reflective of a problem currently faced by Japanese Universities trying hard to globalize.
"Within T.I.M.E., we have three members in Japan. The exchanges are very popular, but at the moment it's a bit one-way," says Crowther. "There's a lot of interest among European students who want to study in Japan, but it is difficult to find Japanese students who want to study abroad."
"We are aware of the problem and we are trying to change that," says Professor Hiro Yugami, Associate Dean of Tohoku University's School of Engineering. "The problem is that many Japanese companies do not give advantage to students who study overseas, so students think it is better to stay here. We are trying to tell them that going overseas can expand their thinking and that is very important too."
To encourage students to consider opportunities beyond Japan, the School of Engineering is stepping up its efforts to promote foreign cultures on campus, offering French language classes and hosting international events such as the recent France Week.
T.I.M.E. members were also given the chance to further promote themselves to Japanese students and academics at a poster session at Aobayama Campus held during the conference.
We've come a long way in the last 25 years," says Crowther, referring to the increasingly global nature of innovation and collaboration. "T.I.M.E. may have started in 1989 as a European network but we're now at the stage where the game is more about cooperation between Europe and other continents, like Asia."
Network members wrapped up their Sendai meetings with a day trip to nearby Matsushima and Ishinomaki, before moving on to Tokyo.
Contact:Student Exchange Division