JIN-201 -- Government Struggles to Make Universities More Relevant

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business and Technology News
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Issue No. 201
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Tokyo

CONTENTS

++ Viewpoint: Government Struggles to Make Universities More Relevant

++ Noteworthy News
- NTT-ME To Launch Wireless IP Phone Services
- FSA Gives Improvement Orders to UFJ and Asahi Bank
- Omron, Mobilecast Announce Telematics Alliance

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++ Viewpoint: Government Struggles to Make Universities More Relevant

Koichi Tanaka's winning of this year's Nobel Prize in chemistry was a
pleasant surprise for Japan. Coupled with Masatoshi Koshiba, who also
won the prize in physics, Tanaka suddenly became one of the hottest
celebrities in Japan. Tanaka's ordinary appearance -- which Tanaka
himself joked about -- was especially appealing to the Japanese
masses; TV programs repeatedly showed him wearing his company uniform.

Holding hands with the two Nobel winning scientists, even struggling
prime minister Junichiro Koizumi looked happy. But in order for Japan
to use its scientific discoveries to make its economy more
competitive, Japan needs to go through more reforms, especially in the
area of university education. The Koizumi Cabinet says university
reforms are one of its priorities.

Earlier this month, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science
decided to award research grants for 113 programs at 50 universities
under the Education Ministry's "21st Century COE (Center of
Excellence) Program." The program came into existence last year as
part of the much-debated structural reforms pledged by the Koizumi
Cabinet. The aim of the program is to allocate a budget to doctoral
research projects so that Japan's universities become internationally
competitive. For the first year, the government has allocated 18.2
billion yen for the program. The grants will be distributed among
these 113 programs, and the breakdown of which project gets
how much will be announced early next week, says an Education Ministry
official.

The University of Tokyo and Kyoto University each won grants for 11
programs -- the highest number -- followed by Nagoya and Osaka
universities with seven programs each, and Tohoku, Waseda and Keio
universities with five apiece.

The ministry official explains that the selection was done by the
society's five working committees, independent of the ministry. The
selection committee is headed by Leo Esaki, a 1973 Nobel laureate in
physics. But the way in which the awards were granted poses some
questions.

Out of the 113 programs, 84 were from national universities (74.34
percent), four were from other public universities (3.54 percent) and
25 were from private schools (22.12 percent).Tokai University dean
Kiyoshi Kurokawa reportedly said that it was quite natural for
national universities to win so many awards because they are already
subsidized by the ministry.

Another criticism of the grant program is that methods and criteria
for the selections weren't made public. There were some obvious
winners -- like Meiji University's nanotechnology program led by a
world leading scientist, Sumio Iijima, who discovered the atomic
structure of carbon nanotubes. But the public was generally left with
no clue why some programs were awarded and not others.

Structural reform of national universities is a pressing issue for
Japan because of its plan to transform national universities into
independent administrative corporations by fiscal 2004. Although
details of the proposed plan are subject to further discussion, and
the change would not involve the immediate privatization of national
universities, it is certain that these schools will be exposed to at
least some form of market competition.

In the meantime, Japan's prolonged economic difficulties combined with
a declining student population are forcing private entities to
review the costs and benefits of massive research projects. This seems
to point to the need for university reforms, but more debate is needed
on how the government will support that process.

-- Sumie Kawakami

Source:
Nikkei Net (password protected)
http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/AC/TNKS/Search/Nni20021002D02JF996.htm

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/houdou/index.htm

Link:
"Special Report: TLOs" from August 2001 issue
http://www.japaninc.net/article.php?articleID=46

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++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS
(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)

** NTT-ME To Launch Wireless IP Phone Services

In Brief: Instead of using your cellular, you can now make calls from
your PDA. NTT-ME announced Monday that it will start wireless IP phone
services combining wireless LAN hotspots from NeoMobile with IP phone
technologies. The new service will be available for free on a trial
basis from mid-October to mid-December.

Source:
NTT-ME News Release
http://www.ntt-me.co.jp/news/news2002/nws021021.htm

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** FSA Gives Improvement Orders to UFJ and Asahi Bank

In Brief: The Financial Services Agency (FSA) said last Friday that it
gave UFJ Holdings and Asahi Bank business improvement orders to
increase their lendings to small-and-medium-size enterprises (SMEs).
FSA reasons that the two banks' lendings to SMEs drastically decreased
during the past fiscal year, making it hard to believe that they had
done enough to achieve the lending goals the banks submitted.

Commentary: With the Nikkei average plunging under 9,000 again,
Japan's economy is showing more deflationary signs. Money is in the
hands of banks and not going anywhere. In order to boost capital
spending and new investment, the FSA needs to get the money out of the
banks and into the businesses.

Source:
FSA Press Release
http://www.fsa.go.jp/news/news.html

Link:
"Financial Authorities Pack a Punch" from December 2001 issue
http://www.japaninc.com/article.php?articleID=534

** Omron, Mobilecast Announce Telematics Alliance

In Brief: Omron and Mobilecast of Tokyo announced that they will team
up in the telematics field to produce a server for cars. The server
would contain a CDMA2000 1x module from KDDI and provide an array of
entertainment and security services, the companies say. The first
service, to be on the market next May, would allow drivers and
passengers to request songs by voice -- a service called on-demand
radio, an Omron spokesman said.

Commentary: Cars are quickly becoming entertainment centers, and
Omron's latest venture will add to the list of titillations available
when you're on the road. Nothing wrong with that. But we're more
interested in the safety and security measures Omron can develop. It
already has a very interesting anti-theft system that contacts your
keitai as the thieves make off with your car and traces the car's
whereabouts via satellites. Also look for a system that uses
sensors to give your car a routine checkup -- it's in the works and
sounds truly useful.

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STAFF
Written and edited by J@pan Inc staff (editors@japaninc.com)

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