Ritsumeikan University, Japan’s third largest private university, offers a wide range of courses in advanced studies. By Sonali AcharjeeThe history of Ritsumeikan University dates back to 1869 when Prince Kinmochi Saionji, an eminent international statesman of modern Japan, founded Ritsumeikan as a private academy on the site of the Kyoto,Ritsumeikan University, Japan’s third largest private university, offers a wide range of courses in advanced studies. By Sonali AcharjeeThe history of Ritsumeikan University dates back to 1869 when Prince Kinmochi Saionji, an eminent international statesman of modern Japan, founded Ritsumeikan as a private academy on the site of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Today, Ritsumeikan University offers a wide range of courses in advanced studies at its Kinugasa Campus in Kyoto and Biwako-Kusatsu Campus (BKC) in Shiga. The university currently has a student population of 35,000 and is Japan’s third largest private university. Students can opt for courses in a variety of disciplines such as law, social science, international relations, image arts and sciences, economics, business, engineering, sports and health care, pharmaceutical science and humanities. Aside from the excellent facilitites on campus, students at Ritsumeikan also have the opportunity to experience the culture and sights of Kyoto.”Japan by itself is so rich in heritage and culture. Kyoto takes this one step further. It’s such a student-friendly city – safe, fun and engaging,” says Mahima Roy, 19, a geography student from Kolkata. While many know Kyoto as the cultural epicenter of Japan, most are surprised to find that it is also the country’s foremost university town. With 25 universities operating in the city, Kyoto’s 1,40,000 students account for nearly 10 per cent of the overall population.This diversity creates a unique atmosphere where ancient culture, values, and tradition exist side-by-side with contemporary culture, cutting-edge research and industry, and the latest technology. Kyoto is unique in the fact that you can meditate in a Zen temple, shop for the latest fashions, visit the headquarters of Nintendo, walk through various UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or dance the night away at one of the city’s nightspots.advertisement”I was in Kyoto to tour various universities last year. People were very helpful. I not only made new friends but also picked up a lot of interesting information regarding my course,” adds Roy. And when you need to take a break from studying, Kyoto provides a multitude of sanctuaries, beginning with the nearly 2,000 temples and shrines that make it famous. While everything a university student could need is available in the city itself, when you are ready for a change of scenery, Kobe and Osaka are both located within a 60 minute train ride. The Tokaido Shinkansen Line also makes travel to Tokyo, Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Hakata easy and convenient.Active learning is keyKiyofumi Kawaguchi, chancellor of Ritsumeikan University talks about the highlights and benefits of education reforms in JapanToday, reform at Japanese universities are focused on a ‘shift in the quality of education’. That is to say, a shift from university as a place where professors teach students uni-directionally to a place where students learn among themselves; the ultimate goal of which is to prepare our students for a world of lifelong learning. To realise this, it is important that we place active learning at the center of the curriculum. Specifically, this means introducing education techniques centered on team-oriented problem solving, project-based learning, debate, and presentations. On the other hand, society, in particular, the world of business, is looking to universities in Japan seeking what are called ‘global human resources’. These are described as individuals who possess not only foreign language skills but also the capacity to take initiative and tackle problems within foreign and multicultural contexts. In other words, our shift in education must occur alongside the globalisation of education.Until recently, international partnerships in higher education primarily took the form of student exchange wherein the premise is that the participants study within the curricula of the host university. The next step is to shift the quality of such education, and to actualise this we must develop together programmes centered on active learning. At Ritsumeikan University we are currently implementing two such global joint programmes. The first is the ‘Campus Asia Programme’. In this programme a total of 30 students made up of groups of 10 each from three universities – Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in China, Dongseo University in South Korea, and Ritsumeikan University – spend three months at the campus of each university living and studying alongside each other over the course of two years. The second programme is a joint course that started this academic year involving several member universities of the ASEAN International Mobility for Students Program or AIMS programme, namely the University of Indonesia, Gadjah Mada University and the Bandung Institute of Technology of Indonesia as well as Mahidol University and Thammasat University in Thailand. The course utilises ICT such as video on demand and online technology and is centered on project-based learning PBL.advertisementWhile there remain many issues, such as differences in credit systems and academic calendars across countries, students remain eager and we have high hopes for the educational value of this shift. Going forward, Ritsumeikan University plans to take such efforts to greater heights, and furthermore, to see the realization of joint programs with universities in Europe, America and Asia.