Director’s Interview with Professor Tsutomu Kanayama, Dean of the College of Global Liberal Arts (GLA)

-- Interviewer (Director Kosugi): Dean Kanayama, thank very much for sharing your precious time during this busy season.

Dean Kanayama: You are most welcome. Your keen interest in our new college is highly appreciated.

Dean Kanayama replying to the interviewer.
Dean Kanayama replying to the interviewer.

-- First, would you please tell us the purposes and objectives of establishing the GLA?

Dean Kanayama: It's a great accomplishment to have achieved the establishment of a truly globalized liberal arts college at Ritsumeikan University after five years of cooperation with the Australian National University (ANU) in the Asia Pacific age. Higher education is tremendously significant in today's globalized world, and we are striving to provide the highest quality of education.

There are several reasons and purposes for establishing the GLA. One reason is to continue with Ritsumeikan’s tradition of always leading the innovation in education. For example, we were the first to develop a Faculty Development Program (FD program) in Japan.

There are other programs in Japan that have an All-English program, but these still spread students' learning experience broadly yet thinly.

-- Broadly yet thinly? How?

Dean Kanayama: It is because students in Japanese universities usually take about twelve or sometimes up to nineteen courses a semester. There is simply not enough space provided for students to learning in a concentrated way. On the other hand, the standard course load at GLA is four courses per semester. Classes meet twice a week for each subject, for a combination of a lecture and a tutorial. This helps students absorb the knowledge acquired in class and build dynamic problem-solving abilities. With too many courses the time spent on each class is limited, even with simple math, if you take twenty-four hours and divide them by 12 or 4, you can see how much potential this switch can provide.

GLA’s faculty and the first intake students, April 2019.
GLA’s faculty and the first intake students, April 2019.

-- True. It is often said that the students are too busy to deepen their thinking.

Dean Kanayama: This move can also overturn the stereotype prevalent about Japanese universities abroad, that the students do not study much. Also, we actively hired faculty members who have solid teaching experiences either in Japan or abroad, who are up to date with the latest pedagogical practices. We aim to distinguish GLA as standing apart from the others and provide a great educational model that is convincing not only domestically but globally.

-- Sounds very ambitious, and promising!

Dean Kanayama: Through these distinguished educational practices at Osaka Ibaraki Campus (OIC), the so called "Gateway Campus to Asia and the world" the college of Global Liberal Arts will initiate the next stage in global education and attract as many educators and scholars as we can. I also desire that the synchronization of education and research will occur between the Asia-Japan Research Institute and the College of Global Liberal Arts.

-- Our Institute and the College of Global Liberal Arts share a number of common features. "Gateway Campus to Asia and the world" is certainly among them. I agree strongly that our synchronization will benefit not only OIC but the entire University.

Dean Kanayama: It would be great to think about future collaboration with the Asia-Japan Research Institute and its potential.

-- Certainly. Now, what is the significance of establishing an English only college in Osaka Ibaraki campus? Is this related to the role of the OIC as the gateway to Asia and the world?

Dean Kanayama: Historically speaking the incoming students' English level has always been an issue when universities seek to set up a global program. This is simply because Japan is not an English-speaking country. If English learning is mixed with an intensive liberal arts education, this makes it doubly difficult for both students and faculty members. This is solved when we implement an all-English Education where incoming students' English level is competitive so faculty members can concentrate on offering content-based material rather than language support.


The significance of the location of Osaka-Ibaraki is that it is a hub that symbolizes Asian interconnections as well as global interconnections, Osaka is multi-cultural and diverse, but it also has a color and tradition of its own that students can experience, and it is also a “merchants’ city” which means that it has always been cosmopolitan in one way or another. Therefore, in an age where the center of major global changes is shifting to Asia, it is only proper that Osaka-Ibaraki Campus is a gateway to Asia and the world.

-- What is meant by Global Liberal Arts? How do they differ from Liberal Arts (without the adjective 'global')?

Dean Kanayama: Traditional Liberal Arts education emerged in Europe and North America and has always been the domain of the elites. Adding the term “Global” is at once a critique of the latent Eurocentrism of this educational system and an expression of the intent to actually globalize what liberal arts education can become by practicing this in Asia, that is, outside the Euro-American context.

-- That’s ambitious and exiting!

Dean Kanayama: Furthermore, with the Dual Degree Program in partnership with the Australian National University, we provide students with the best aspects of both the Small Liberal Arts College (SLAC) and one of the top R1 universities with a very high research activity reputation in the world, as well as the chance to think and study about Asia from two different locations. This makes GLA a dynamic and active liberal arts education from Asia, especially from OIC.

-- I understand that, in this dual degree program, students will obtain two degrees from Ritsumeikan University and Australia National University at the same time. What is the significance of such a system?

Dean Kanayama: As I mentioned earlier, different universities have different strengths in different locations. A single degree from Ritsumeikan has value in Japan and Asia, but less so in the West, whereas the Australian National University is appreciated in the West but less so in Asia. This means that students, earning the two degrees from the two universities in this program, will have vast reach in terms of the worth of their degrees and this therefore opens up far wider career opportunities in the future.

From scenes of the Australian National University1 From scenes of the Australian National University2
From scenes of the Australian National University

-- What do you expect from your graduate students, and what kind of careers do you see them pursuing?

Dean Kanayama: The College of Global Liberal Arts emphasizes the need to cultivate a lifelong learning experience, that is, students continue learning and growing even after they obtain their degree. This means that they will be equipped to quickly adapt and grow in diverse environments and careers, and the essence of liberal arts education such as critical thinking, ethical reasoning, an ability to articulate one's position in multiple media settings are all relevant in careers as diverse as working for consulting agencies, governments, policy forums, even becoming a global art curator. We provide students with the momentum to move on with their lives and their transferrable skills.

-- I am sure that all the intellectual and educational “adventures” are fascinating in a brand-new college such as the GLA. What are the most fascinating things for you at the GLA?

Dean Kanayama: The most fascinating thing not only for me but also for all of our faculty and staff members at the GLA is that every step we have taken will be recorded as history, meaning that we are doing what no one could experience before.

This is the first undergraduate dual degree program between an Australian and a Japanese institution in which all students study in the program to earn two bachelor’s degrees in their four years of study. The GLA offers a unique opportunity in Japanese and Australian higher learning, which is fascinating and exciting.

-- Beside fascinating things, I am sure that all “adventures” are accompanied by formidable tasks. What are most important challenges for you now?

Dean Kanayama: The GLA faculty and staff members should not forget the real heart of quality education. Highly qualified education needs to be sustained by the wide breadth and depth of the research conducted by each faculty member at the GLA. Currently, all our faculty members have eagerly taught classes with a firm understanding of the significance of global liberal arts. However, we need our research field and expertise to increase more and more in depth. Under this environment, any opportunity given by the Asia-Japan Research Institute will become a great encouragement factor to cultivate, practice, promote and disseminate our research.

(from left) President Nakatani, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs Director Toni Erskine, and Dean Kanayama
(from left) President Nakatani, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs Director Toni Erskine, and Dean Kanayama

-- Certainly. Let’s encourage our colleagues to be engaged in such activities. Is there anything that you would like to add that we may have missed in this brief interview?

Dean Kanayama: Integration of the roles of the Asia-Japan Research Institute and the GLA may be considered in the future. Currently, the GLA has focused on realizing high quality education for excellent and highly motivated students from around the world, but five years down the road, the GLA would like to develop our own original research dimensions and culture. For AJI and GLA, located on the same OIC campus, it is necessary to create a common platform for realizing education and research on the Asia-Pacific region in a globalized setting.

And if I may add, thank you for your interesting questions.

-- Dean Kanayama, thank you for sharing your precious time with us for this interview. We appreciate your informative answers. Our sincere good wishes for the GLA’s rapid development and a swift global recognition.