Dean’s Message

URATA, Shujiro
Dean and Professor, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University 

Increasing Importance of the Asia-Pacific Region in the World:
The need for nurturing highly-skilled human resources for achieving further economic development

urata_shujiro

The Asia-Pacific region has been achieving high economic growth for more than half a century since the end of the World War II, contributing to global economic growth. According to future projections of economic growth for the various regions in the world that consider crucial demographic factors, the Asia-Pacific is likely to remain to be a growth center of the world economy at least for the remainder of this century. This means that the Asia-Pacific will have strong influence on not only economic but also political and social aspects of the world.

As a result of rapid economic growth, people’s income has increased remarkably in the Asia-Pacific. There is no doubt that this increase in income has led to an material improvements in daily life. However, there still remain a number of serious problems, such as poverty, the income gap, the gender gap, environmental problems, territorial problems, and national security problems, all of which have strong impacts on our daily lives. Behind these problems lie various factors involving economic, political, social, cultural, historical, and other issues. In the globalized world, where products, services, people, money, and information actively cross the borders, those problems that may appear to be of domestic nature are often found to be international problems.

The Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies (GSAPS) is providing education and training to the students interested in and concerned with understanding and finding solutions to the problems noted above. Alfred Marshall, an eminent scholar with enormous contributions in economics, once said that the economists need to have “cool heads but warm hearts” to tackle with the social problems. These words apply not only to the economists but also to the researchers in other social sciences. I myself have been teaching at GSAPS with an aim of nurturing students with not only high analytical skills but also kind consideration for others.

The problems we face result from various factors involving a number of different academic disciplines. Recognizing this point, we need to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to solve such problems. Having pointed out the importance of a multidisciplinary approach, I would like to argue that the students need to develop highly competitive capability in one of many disciplines including economics, political science, international relations, history, sociology, and others. It is also important for us not only to realize but also to accept the diversity in the ways of understanding and dealing with the problems, because even the seemingly same problems are likely to have different historical and social backgrounds reflecting different regions and countries.

I have presented my personal view on the desirable students that should be nurtured at GSAPS. At GSAPS, we offer a program that aims to achieve this objective, with many notable features, which will be explained below.

First, at GSAPS, you will find a bilingual learning environment. Almost all the lecture courses are offered both in English and Japanese. You can pursue your academic degree either in only English or only Japanese. However, you are encouraged to study both in English and Japanese.

Second, GSAPS is an intellectual community of more than 400 graduate students (approximately 300 MA students and 150 Ph.D. students) coming from more than 50 countries. Approximately 20% of the students are from Japan, while 80% are international students from Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, North America, Europe, Africa and other regions. Some of our international students are sponsored by the Japanese Government through the Ministry of Education (MEXT) Scholarship, the Japanese Grant Aid for Human Resource Development Scholarship (JDS), the Project for the Promotion and Enhancement of the Afghan Capacity for Effective Development (PEACE), the African Business Education Initiative for the Youth (ABE), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) long-term training program, as well as the World Bank Scholarship. In addition, some mid-career Japanese professionals come to join us after working at international organizations, embassies, JICA, international NGOs or the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV).

Third, a number of lecture courses are offered both in English and Japanese. These lecture courses fall within 3 categories: “Area Studies” in which you assess the situations in countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific; “International Relations” in which you analyze the inter-state relations and transnational relations of non-state actors such as private firms and NGOs; and “International Development and Policy Studies” in which you are challenged with how to tackle specific regional and global issues. In addition, there are several courses offered by lecturers who have experience in international cooperation, diplomacy, and journalism, which can help you translate the research into practice. You can also earn credits by participating in off-campus internships. 

Fourth, each student pursuing his or her academic degree will have one academic supervisor. All the faculty members who supervise research focus on graduate studies and organize a research seminar session every week convening all the students under his or her supervision to guide their research progress.

Fifth, we encourage you to study abroad for a few months. You can study for one semester at one of our partner graduate schools. It is also possible for you to conduct research related to issues in Southeast Asia, with a field research grant from the Haraguchi Memorial Research Fund.

Sixth, we are currently pursuing the exciting vision of the East Asian University Institute (EAUI) with our 4 partner graduate schools in East Asia. GSAPS alone cannot develop effectively the regional and global talent capable of promoting regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. Therefore, based on our existing semester exchange program, we are building a new framework in which 5 partner graduate schools can work together to promote joint education and research. We have tried to complement each other by offering a sufficient number of lecture courses related to regional cooperation and integration in East Asia that build on the strengths of each partner school. In addition to initiating bilateral semester exchange programs, we have jointly launched an annual multilateral summer school and winter school where students from the 5 graduate schools can learn together.

Lastly, how are GSAPS graduates evaluated in society and what sorts of career paths do they pursue? First of all, after passing a stringent review, GSAPS has become an affiliate member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA). This indicates that GSAPS’s program is highly evaluated internationally, and its graduates are internationally recognized. As a matter of fact, our alumni can be found in international civil service at the United Nations, the Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the European Union(EU), both national and local civil service in many countries all over the world, international cooperation agencies (JICA, Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), etc.) NGOs (International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), Save the Children, Japan Committee for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), etc), in addition to various positions at universities, research institutes, private firms, and mass media organizations.

I truly hope that you join us to become a highly skilled talent of the future, who can solve or ameliorate the problems in the Asia-Pacific and other regions, through learning and conducting research at GSAPS.