Toward 2021 and Beyond-- Soka University’s Grand Design

Introduction

Yoshihisa Baba President Soka University
President Yoshihisa Baba
While still ripe with promise, the 21st century remains as challenging and problematic as the previous century. The field of education is no exception. Indeed, the need to develop individuals armed with the skills, aptitude and commitment to prevail over personal adversity and engage in the service to better society is greater than ever.

This is the immutable mission of Soka University, whose purpose have been embodied by the foundational principles set forth by its founder, Daisaku Ikeda, since 1971. Our overriding objective is to foster creative and contributive individuals who will generate new constructive value in every facet of society. Soka University’s Grand Design Initiative was launched in 2010 specifically to facilitate this goal and effort as we head towards our golden anniversary in 2021.

Building on the traditions of success and excellence that we have established over the past fifty years, all of us at Soka University—from the students to members of the faculty and administration—will come together, marshal our insights and develop new, creative solutions and visions to add to and advance further these traditions.

2021 Soka University President’s Vision

Introduction

In the academic year 2020, with the cooperation of students, faculty, and staff, we were able to continue learning and researching amid the unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to express my appreciation for everyone’s sincere efforts. As we are still experiencing the pandemic this academic year, we would like to continue to carry out various activities regarding education and research while making the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff the foremost priority in this significant year marked by the 50th anniversary of the founding of the university. 

 

In the last academic year, we had many achievements in education and research. In the academic field, classes and various services instantly went online, not only in the Distance Learning Division but also for the classes usually held on campus. For research, in the “Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development” (SATREPS) of JST-JICA, the university-led project titled, “Eco-engineering for Agricultural Revitalization towards Improvement of Human Nutrition (EARTH): Water Hyacinth to Energy and Agricultural Crops” was selected. Also, the Human Glycome Project in Japan (representative: Kenji Kadomatsu, iGCORE Tokai National Higher Education and Research System, Nagoya University), in which the Glycan & Life System Integration Center (GaLSIC) at Soka University participates, published the “Fundamental Concepts for Promoting Large Scientific Research Project - Roadmap 2020 -.” I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all those involved.

 

Even amid the pandemic, students played active roles in various fields via their perseverance and by manifesting wisdom. Despite the sudden change to holding remote events, many people around the world participated in the events, showing great potential for future online activities. Students, through their daily efforts, made great strides in many fields, including participating in various business contests, international conferences and conventions, passing qualification exams, proceeding on various paths after graduation, and contributing to their communities. Among these, in the Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip College Ekiden Race held on January 2 and 3, 2021, the Soka athletes inspired the people of Japan by winning first place in the outward route and finishing second overall. Also, announced this January, a total of 16 Soka University students passed the 2020 national bar exam, which accounted for our university having the fourth-highest number of successful examinees from private universities. The students have wonderfully adorned the beginning of the year 2021, which marks the 50th anniversary of our university’s founding.

 

The past academic year was the final year of the “Soka University Grand Design” announced in 2010. This was an endeavor that aimed to create a “university that fosters creative individuals based on its founding principles” and one that allows each student to blossom with their potential based on the theme: “Discover Your Potential.” As a result of upholding concrete goals in nine areas and the efforts made—based on five strategies and four plans—we were able to show many achievements. In 2014, our university was selected in two large-scale support projects: “Top Global University Project” and “Acceleration Program for University Education Rebuilding: AP.”

 

In the Top Global University Project, we were able to receive the highest rank of “S” in the interim evaluation announced in February 2018, with the consecutive rank of “S” in the second interim evaluation announced in March of this year. In the Acceleration Program, we received an overall evaluation of “A” with the comment that the project is expected to achieve its goals as initiatives are on schedule to reach visible outcomes.

 

Our university was also able to enter world university rankings such as “THE Japan University Rankings” “QS Asia University Rankings,” and “THE University Impact Rankings.” With the initiatives of the Top Global University Project and the Acceleration Program as the basis, we will create a campus environment that is rich in diversity and will further enhance our global citizenship education. Details of the achievements of the “Soka University Grand Design” can be accessed on our website.

 

Soka University will celebrate its 50th anniversary on April 2 this year. The developments achieved over the past 50 years were unimaginable at the time of opening. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to each individual that has contributed to the development of the university.

 

This year also marks the start of our 10-year mid-to-long-term plan: “Soka University Grand Design 2021–2030.” Its theme is “A university that fostersglobal citizens’ that can create value.” We have set goals in four fields: education, research, SDGs, and diversity. The framework for this year’s president’s vision focuses on these four fields. In addition, we will engage in the following activities to provide further support for the students.

 

From the academic year 2020, in addition to the nation’s “New Learning Support System for Higher Education,” Soka University improved upon its own unique scholarship system. This year, we will provide more detailed support for students that need financial aid amid the pandemic. Also, to enrich our support for students with disabilities, in March of this year we established an “Office for Students with Disabilities” within the Student Affairs Office. In terms of career support, we will enhance the communication of information related to career support, digitalize alumni information, enrich the career center website, and provide greater access to company information for students through digital transformation (DX).  

 

In addition, we are preparing the following events this year as part of the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Project that was announced in April last year.

 

(1) Entrance ceremony on April 2nd in commemoration of the day of the university’s founding and as the starting event for the 50th-anniversary commemorative events

(2) A 50th-anniversary commemorative ceremony at the Soka Festival in October

(3) The “11th International Academic Symposium on the Philosophy of Dr. Daisaku Ikeda” in October, at which researchers will gather from around the world to present research on the University Founder’s ideas, philosophy, and education

(4) A symposium in November that will serve as a 50th-anniversary event

(5) An event under the theme of “Global Citizenship Education” in June as one of the “Value Creation x SDGs” events

 

Furthermore, we are scheduled to publish 50 Years of Soka University and hold the 50th-anniversary commemorative exhibition in the Main Building in October.

 

To our greatest joy, University Founder Daisaku Ikeda wrote the introduction for the 50 Years of Soka University. In it, he raises the three treasures of Soka University developed over the past 50 years to be carried forth for the next 50 years.

 

1. “The inexhaustible font of compassion that is human education”

2. “The sun of creative life force that can triumph over all adversity”

3. “Vast network of global citizenship that unites humanity”

 

Carrying on these three treasures, as a student-centered university we would like each individual to lead the creation of new history as part of the University’s development as leaders.

 

As we head toward our 60th anniversary, we would like to confirm the university’s basic policy as a student-centered university. Since the University Founder envisioned the establishment of the university, he has consistently advocated that a university should serve students and has continued to provide continuous encouragement over the past 50 years. As young founders, students build the foundations for their lives while exerting their all in the development of the university. Today, alumni are leading lives of value creation in various locations around Japan and the world. We, the faculty and staff, will make efforts under this basic policy to further develop our capabilities in education, research, and work performance in our respective fields in order to contribute to the growth of each student.

 

Education and research activities will continue amid the pandemic this academic year. Each of us would like to uphold the foremost precautions based on countermeasures against COVID-19 while continuing our activities. There may be a need to appropriately combine in-person and online activities in response to the pandemic situation. We would like to ask for further cooperation and understanding from the faculty, staff, and students as we head toward our 60th anniversary and aim to create a “university that fosters ‘global citizens’ that can create value.”

1. Education
(1) Preparing a new curriculum that fosters creative global citizens

We will make careful preparations for General Education Courses and the Faculty of Nursing, which will form a new curriculum from the next academic year. We are also considering new curricula for other faculties from the academic year 2023 onward. In particular, for General Education Courses, we will further enrich the Global Citizenship Education courses and courses on value-creating education. This will be done so that appropriate curricula can be formed based on the university’s founding principles, educational goals, and diploma policies.

 

(2) Establishing an SDGs course group

In this academic year, we will create a working group to prepare for the establishment of the SDGs course group. We will establish a curriculum map so that corresponding subjects can be picked up from General Education Courses and Major Courses. Students will be able to learn about subjects that are strongly connected to the United Nation’s SDGs and pursue systematic studies. 

 

(3) Data science education becoming compulsory for all students

In order to correspond with Society 5.0, from the next academic year, we will establish a “mathematical, data science, and nature course group” and make “Introduction to Data Science” a required course for all students. Soka University established a “Data Science Sub-Major” in the academic year 2019 and joined the “The Inter-University Consortium for Mathematics & Data Science” last year thus becoming a cooperative school. This year, we will begin offering the “Introduction to Data Science,” and, while preparing to make this a required course for all students, we will also begin cooperative classes with Japan’s leading IT corporations.


(4) Initiatives to incorporate new class formats

New class formats are being considered, such as HyFlex model classes, where in-person and online classes are conducted simultaneously, and blended learning classes, where in-person and online classes are combined. At Soka University, we will also enrich training for faculty and staff so that they are able to conduct class formats that are highly effective educationally, advancing toward a “bring your own device” (BYOD) ethos in which each individual uses their own laptops and devices.

 

(5) Initiatives to improve students’ composition skills and academic writing

We have continued to support students in improving their writing skills through the “Academic Writing” courses which have been required for all students to take since the academic year 2014. Last year, the instructors utilized plagiarism detection software to instruct the students on how to write academic papers properly. This year, the software will be implemented university-wide, with the aim of improving and enhancing academic integrity.

 

(6) Utilization of portfolios

We will carry out a full-fledged popularization of a more general teaching portfolio by developing the class portfolios used in the peer discussion, which were incorporated in the Acceleration Program completed in the academic year 2019. By making the trend toward “bring your own device” (BOYD) as our impetus, we will also encourage students to use learning portfolios. With this, both those that are teaching and those that are learning can reflect on their engagement and aim to improve and develop their skills and abilities.

 

(7) Promotion of the education improvement cycle

While preparing for the third-term accreditation assessment, which we applied for in April of this year, we carried out an overall examination of our university’s education including the three policies (diploma policy, curriculum policy, and admissions policy). We also received evaluations from a wide range of perspectives through external evaluations conducted for the university as a whole and for each faculty and graduate school. This year, while strengthening engagement toward the actualization of educational achievements, we will embark on making concrete improvements regarding challenges that became apparent during the accreditation assessment process.

 

2. Research

(1) Promoting prioritized research

The Institute of Plankton Eco-engineering and the Glycan & Life System Integration Center (GaLSIC) have made a great number of research achievements. We have assigned them a significant role to take the initiative in boosting the publication of international academic papers and obtaining large-scale external funds while placing emphasis on improving the research environment. We will support these centers in actively applying for and participating in the government’s competitive research grants and its initiatives to establish and develop research hubs in Japan. We will create a master plan for the Soka University Prioritized Research Promotion Project (tentative name) which provides more focused support for promoting the interdisciplinary research and research topics that contribute to SDGs.

 

(2) Strengthening international competitiveness

To promote international joint research, we will start creating a concrete plan for the Soka University Fellow program (working title) to organize the network of researchers and the support system for international joint research with visiting scholars who made tangible research results outside Japan, both of which were delineated in the Soka University Grand Design 2021–2030. To increase the number of internationally recognized academic papers, we will further develop the financial support system and seminars to publish academic papers in English. Also, while accelerating the large-scale research projects (SATREPS, etc.) that we jointly carry out with institutions abroad, we will take initiatives to widely disseminate and apply research outcomes and improve the research environment to encourage and facilitate applications for such large-scale projects.

 

(3) Strengthening the acquisition of external funds

We will consider measures to encourage faculty members to actively apply for competitive funds including the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (kakenhi). We will also prioritize the strengthening of a system to provide seminars with more varied and improve the content and to review application documents. In addition, we will aim to establish a system to support researchers who apply for large-scale projects and to promote large-scale and international research activities.

 

Furthermore, we will prepare for the introduction of a system where the salary of a principal researcher can be expensed from the direct cost of a competitive research fund and a “buyout” system where costs relevant to non-research duties (for courses and other duties) can be expensed directly from a competitive research fund.

 

(4) Strengthening the research foundation

For the sake of appropriately allocating research funds among faculty members, we will inspect and review the current research fund calculation standards and prioritized fund allocation system. To ensure research time, we will further improve the research promotion system while considering the hiring of URAs (university research administrators), which corresponds with improving the research environment of the university.

We will make research-related administrative offices more streamlined and efficient so that we can cope with this new type of crisis caused by a contagious disease, etc. in a flexible manner. We will promote online meetings and increase online content including on-demand seminars. In addition, efforts will be made to hold training programs to raise the competencies of staff members who support research activities.

Other efforts will include discussions on improving our support system for young researchers and Ph.D. students in doctoral programs in order to foster outstanding researchers for the next generation.

 

(5) Promoting appropriate research activities

To enhance research ethics among researchers as well as to prevent the misuse of research funds and fraudulent research activities, we will renew compliance education materials and require all faculty members to take a research ethics education program, eAPRIN, on a regular basis. To ensure a full understanding of research-related regulations and codes of conducts, we will prepare for the introduction of a required course on research ethics utilizing e-learning materials designed for all graduate students in both master’s and doctoral programs.
 

(6) Promoting academic research on Soka Education and the University Founder

In line with the reorganization into the Ikeda Research Institute for Soka Education (IRISE), we will assume a central role in the international arena to promote academic discussions on Soka Education and the university founder in a broader context. Soka University will host the 11th International Academic Symposium on the Philosophy of Daisaku Ikeda this fall and the 1st Global Citizenship Education Symposium (tentative English name) next fall on campus. In addition, we will systematically collect, organize, and preserve research results on the university Founder and the practical application of Soka education to be utilized as research materials.

3. SDGs

(1) Promoting University-wide projects related to SDGs

Projects with a high contribution to the achievement of the SDGs and plans which we wish to develop into projects will be recognized as “Soka University SDGs Good Practices.” Support for the projects will be provided as “Sustainable Project Support” for those that have the potential to become a business model and as “Start-up Support.” While investigating the level of recognition and contribution to the achievement of the SDGs by faculty, staff, and students, we will request ideas related to the SDGs in terms of university management once a year. Ideas that are adopted will be put into practice with the cooperation of faculty, staff, and students.  

 

(2) Fostering capable individuals that can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs while establishing and expanding a network of students, experts, and practitioners of the SDGs

We will foster capable individuals that can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs such as high school students, college students, and members of society who aim to work at an international organization in the future, and together build a network with experts and practitioners outside the university. In this academic year, we will hold dialogue sessions for the purpose of establishing such a network.

 

(3) Strengthening cooperation with various UN institutions

We will strengthen cooperation with UN institutions such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and promote cooperative projects including internships. Also, we will play a leading role in promoting initiatives to achieve the SDGs as a participating university of the UN Academic Impact and the UNU SDG-University Platform (SDG-UP) of the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS). Through the activities of ASPUnivNet, a university network supporting UNESCO schools, we will also contribute to the field of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) centering on the Tama area of the Kanto region in Japan which includes Hachioji City.

 

(4) Creating campus systems that contribute to the achievement of the SDGs and developing energy planning

We plan to announce a “Climate Emergency Declaration at Soka University” and begin energy planning that aims to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050. We will also promote the 4Rs (refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle) and ethical consumption toward a carbon-neutral society. In addition, we will proceed with our preparation to establish the Sustainable Campus Discussion Committee (tentative English name) as well as to announce the “Soka University Sustainable Management Declaration.”

4. Diversity

(1) Promoting globalization

As a university that has strategically formed a global network by continent and language, we will be opening the Soka University Nairobi Office at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, Africa, making this the fifth center in our global network, following those in Asia (China, Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines).

 

We were able to receive a gracious message congratulating the 50th anniversary of Soka University from Rector Victor A. Sadovnichy of Moscow State University, a university with which we have had exchanges since the founding of our university. In recent years, the content of exchanges with various universities abroad has become multifaceted, and each faculty has also been carrying out its own exchanges. Taking the 50th anniversary commemorative project as an opportunity, we will reflect on the history of our exchanges and envision future exchanges where we consider increasing the number of partner schools and continuing exchange agreements long-term.

 

(2) Continuation and development of the Top Global University Project initiatives

We received an “S” evaluation in the last interim evaluation, following the “S” evaluation received in the previous term. This shows that the university’s steady efforts are receiving high recognition. However, due to the global pandemic, we have been unable to receive overseas students or send our students overseas since last year. We hope to restart the process of accepting overseas students and sending students abroad when the situation improves. On the other hand, due to an increased need for online educational exchange programs transcending national borders, we will actively plan and provide not only various classes and opportunities for students taking classes while in their own countries, but also, student exchanges with overseas universities and Japanese language education.

 

(3) Promoting gender equality

Providing an environment where women can play an active role is essential for the diversification of the campus. In this academic year, we are approaching our final goal of 33% female faculty members and 40% female staff members, which we set for the academic year 2023 as part of the Top Global University project. However, there is a gap in the ratio of female faculty among different faculties, as well as challenges in promoting the appointment of female staff for leadership positions. In this academic year, we will further strengthen the support to increase female faculty members for each faculty. In addition, with the “Soka University Center for Promoting Gender Equality” playing a key role, we will continue to support and encourage female faculty members, researchers, and staff members.