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August 21, 2002

New Graduate School to Use English

A new 70-billion-yen graduate university is planned for Okinawa. Planned to open within the next four years, it will have a total staff of 500. Its goal is to study the interaction of life sciences and information technology and to put Okinawa at the forefront of Japan's push to shift its focus from that of a manufacturing nation to one of a world leader in technology. What is truly groundbreaking about the new university is that half of its faculty and student body are to be made up of non-Japanese and lectures are to be given in English. Generous "ex-pat" packages are expected to be used to attract the best of foreign staff. Also, both the administration and the filling of teaching posts are to be in keeping with recent moves to reform national universities. Though the government is providing funds to the tune of 15 billion yen plus another billion a year for research, lecturers will be hired under contract, rather than being technically bureaucrats as at other public institutions. There are those who question the project however. Critics of the university project say it is destined to be just another infrastructure white elephant. Previous efforts to help bridge the gap between Okinawa's economy and that of the mainland, such as hosting the G8 Summit there in 2000, have had little impact.

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