On Sunday, the next day of the MIT D-Lab which I have reported in my previous posting, I was on a plane again, now heading to Abu Dhabi for the KUSTAR Board Meeting. KUSTAR is, as I have written repeatedly, a highly ambitious project which aims to become the center of higher education of science and technology of United Arab Emirates and the Region. Human resource development was one of the important requirements in the competition of nuclear power plants of the Emirates, won by Korea, the issue which I have commented on several times in January in this web site.
At this Board meeting we had a very important agenda of selecting the President of this University, so we spent 5 hours with just 2 or 3 short breaks. Tow of four candidates came to the meeting for interview; to express their visions, and discussion with the Borad. Every candidate was wonderful and highly qualified. I expect that the decision will be reached shortly.
Abu Dhabi is making a steady move towards nuclear energy. They are trying to secure good human resource with collaboration with IAEA. I would like to see more Japanese come and work in various ways at Abu Dhabi on this project. It was good to have had an opportunity to see several key people in this regard. A meeting of IAEA on development of human resource took place just a couple of days ago where several Japanese participated.
Then, two days after I returned Japan, I flew to Okinawa to attend the Board of Directors’ meeting of OIST. Here again, the big issue was selection of the President. OIST is basically planned as a new type of ‘private university’ that is expected to run with the support of the Japanese government. However, the process has been so difficult in doing anything because there are no precedents to follow. Apparently, although the Board openly speaks about ‘University and Institution of the Global World’, in reality, even universities of Japan are still yet in the state of ‘intellectually closed country’, ‘Cartels of the Mind’
With rapidly growing Asia and the world moving forward to globalization, it seems obvious that the value and competitiveness of higher education system of Japan is wearing down: ‘nails that stick out’, youths who goes beyond old framework are being hammered down. Business, policy makers, governments, universities, none of these sectors will be able to change under current circumstance.
During these 10 days I have been at A*STAR board meeting in Singapore, introduced the D-Lab of MIT in Tokyo, joined in the board meetings at Universities of Abu Dhabi and Japan (Okinawa) to discuss issues of universities and scientific research. Based on these experiences, I feel more concerned about the lack of speed and strong leadership quite clear when ‘Japan is viewed from outside’.