Ritsumeikan University’s College of Policy Science was established in 1994. It is the third college in Japan that carries the name “policy” with it. In order to understand today’s complex social issues and seek solutions for them, it is necessary, in addition to studying in a wide variety of academic fields, to learn methods commonly used in information science for research and analysis. The purpose of the College of Policy Science is to nurture people equipped with such abilities and skills.
In 2013, 20 years after the college was established, a new English-based program, Community and Regional Policy Studies (CRPS) Major, started. Because of the growing importance of English as a working language for activities accompanying globalization of the international community, the program offers policy science classes in English, aiming to educate people who have global perspectives and skills to translate policy into action.
This month, the first class of CRPS Major will graduate from the university. Kimiko Shiki, associate professor of Policy Science in charge of CRPS Major and vice dean of the College of Policy Science, has answered some questions.
―What is it that makes the College of Policy Science and CRPS Major at Ritsumeikan University different from others?
In CRPS Major, three academic disciplines―Multi-level Governance, Regional Economy and Development and Sustainable Urban Policy―stand out as unique. Each student is able to acquire knowledge appropriate for his or her research interests while taking a combination of a broad range of specialized courses focusing on these academic disciplines. In CRPS Major, we consider learner autonomy as important. In the curriculum, beginning in their first year, students each write their own research proposal, go deep into their areas of study through lectures and group work while learning research skills and then work on their graduation projects at the end.
Another major characteristic is that students take the course Introduction to On-site Research, conducted in the Problem-based Learning (PBL)-style, in Japan or in other countries during their first and second year. In the course, the students on Japanese- and English-based programs form groups together, prepare research proposals on actual policy issues, conduct research and write a report on the results. Fieldwork is considered to be important. Incorporating their experiences in policy-related situations, the students can shift from a passive learning stance in class to a positive one. To date, we have carried out fieldwork in Osaka and Kyoto in Japan as well as in Thailand, Indonesia and Italy.
―What do the students actually do in field work? What makes it so interesting and what is its special appeal?
Selected faculty members each launch research projects in their special fields of study. The students submit their own research proposals, form groups and then conduct research under the guidance of their instructors. In the 2016 academic year, for instance, we carried out the following five projects in which the CRPS students participated.
• Osaka Metropolitan Area Project: a study of urban problems in the Osaka area
• Thailand Project: a study of slum problems and environmental education in Thailand
• Aqua Tourism Project (PS): a study of regional tourism in communities in Shiga, Fukui and Toyama prefectures using water resources
• Indonesia Project: a study of regional problems in Semarang, Indonesia
• Italy Project: a study of opera theaters and foreign language education in Italy
Not only CRPS students but others on Japanese-based programs take part in these projects. Students of various nationalities join hands and work together. In group work, different ideas sometimes clash, making it difficult to go on with their research. Then some of them will find that they can’t make any progress if they do only what they are interested in and start to take the leadership. Eventually, each of the students will recognize his or her role in the group and learn to go ahead with their discussions.
The real joy of field work lies in deepening the understanding of a problem through experiences in an actual policy-related situation and coming to be able to analyze the problem. For instance, I was in charge of the Osaka Metropolitan Area Project last academic year and did research together with the students on the problem of vacant houses in Ibaraki City. We walked around in the area and checked the conditions of vacant houses and interviewed the city hall staff in the relevant section to find how they were dealing with this problem. Through the research, the students learned that there were various kinds of vacant houses and that there were very few of them that looked obviously run-down from the outside. They realized the difficulty of getting an accurate picture of the situation surrounding vacant houses in urban areas in Japan.
―CRPS Major will produce its first graduates this month. What do you think they have learned and what sort of ability and skill do you think they have gained?
There are faculty members in a variety of academic disciplines in the college. They are not supposed to offer answers to the students but to give them advice and help them find the answers themselves. CRPS majors have developed “the ability to work together with others” and “the ability to take action” they will need in society while going through a cycle of approaching problems, issues and people concerned, learning from these interactions, thinking with their own heads and taking practical action. Belonging to an organization means a continuous series of efforts to create something together with other people, whether it is a company or a local public entity. At the same time, none of us can resolve social problems alone. We can clear the way for solving a problem by going to the place where it is happening, meeting a variety of people and connecting them together. I hope the students will take advantage of such skills they have developed and play active roles in a variety of fields in Japan and overseas.
―Can you give a message to the students in the fifth class who are enrolling in the college this autumn, and also to the preparatory students who are thinking of majoring in CRPS?
The college has many professors and instructors in a variety of academic fields. In the first and second years, students can gain basic skills such as analytical ability and research capacity. There are also many learning opportunities such as PBL where they can become better aware of problems in society and improve their ability to solve them. In addition, internships are available in the regular curriculum. We welcome all students with awareness of problems, as well as those who want to gain such awareness or who want to play effective roles in society.