Ever since establishing its College of International Relations in 1988, Ritsumeikan University has distinguished itself as a leader of global education in Japan, with world-class education and research initiatives across 16 undergraduate schools and 22 graduate schools in campuses in Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka.

Continuing its legacy as a leader of global education, April 2018 saw the establishment of a groundbreaking new degree program at the university, offered by the College of International Relations in collaboration with American University's School of International Service. The Joint Degree Program will see students enrolled at both universities, and will lead to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global International Relations. With a curriculum specifically designed for students to learn about Western and non-Western approaches to international studies, Ritsumeikan University will work together with American University to cultivate globally minded leaders who are ready and prepared to take up active roles in international fields.

This year, the university has continued to challenge itself to innovate with the establishment in April of its College of Global Liberal Arts (GLA). Featuring a dual degree program with the Australian National University (ANU), Australia's top university — ranked 29th in the world according to the QS World University Rankings 2020, GLA is the first of its kind in Japan to offer a curriculum where collegewide contents are specifically designed around the program.

Envisaged to welcome around 70 international students and 30 Japanese students per year, with all courses conducted in English, GLA will create a diverse environment in which students from around the world can thrive as they share their perspectives and learn from each other. The partnership with ANU is the result of Ritsumeikan University's commitment to creating a global learning environment where students can expand their horizons and examine topics from a renewed perspective centered in the Asia-Pacific region.

Situated in Osaka — a cultural, historical and commercial center of Japan — GLA provides a unique learning environment on and off campus. The rich culture and history of Osaka, as well as nearby Kyoto and Nara, are the perfect settings to explore topics introduced in GLA's curriculum. These settings in Japan, as well as ANU's rich educational environment in the multicultural landscape of Australia, give students access to a unique set of resources that they can utilize on their path to becoming global citizens equipped to take on the challenges of the times.

Central to GLA is the concept of a shared curriculum, developed collaboratively by Ritsumeikan University and ANU, that will see all students have access to the same courses irrespective of whether they enroll initially at Ritsumeikan University or ANU; leading ultimately, upon successful completion, to the award of a bachelor's degree in Global Liberal Arts at Ritsumeikan University, in addition to a bachelor's degree in Asia-Pacific Affairs from ANU.

Students who enroll at Ritsumeikan University will not only spend a year taking ANU courses in Australia, but will also take ANU courses taught by ANU faculty for a full two years of their study at Ritsumeikan University's Osaka Ibaraki Campus. This will be led and monitored by ANU course convener Christopher Hobson, who will be based in Japan.

The curriculum will be centered on three pillars: cosmopolitan studies, civilization studies, and innovation studies, under the guidance of expert faculty from around the world. It also features courses in Japanese studies, in which students will learn about Japanese history, culture and society, as well as comprehensive Japanese language courses to help international students transition into Japanese society.

At ANU students will have access to the abundant education and research resources of Australia's top university while experiencing the country's multicultural environment. In Japan, students will be based in the Kansai region — a cultural and historical hub of Japan — where, on and off campus, they can explore topics introduced in GLA's curriculum. Ritsumeikan University's "gateway to Asia," Osaka Ibaraki Campus is an ultra-modern campus that blends seamlessly with the city, with high-quality amenities and a new on-campus international dormitory slated to open in September.

GLA offers a wide array of internship opportunities for students to acquire practical experience and skills in finance, manufacturing, as well as other traditional industries in Japan. Featuring partnerships with corporations that conduct business in English and Japanese, these opportunities are perfect for students who want to develop their Japanese language proficiency in business contexts.

The college's goal is to empower students to find solutions to challenges facing the international community. By studying at two of the top educational environments in the Asia-Pacific region, students will cultivate global sensibilities that will enable them to reconsider and develop their perceptions of the region. Similarly, by providing a bridge between continents, the Joint Degree Program between Ritsumeikan University and American University will seek to provide the leaders of tomorrow with the skills and awareness required to step out onto the international stage.

In our current global society that faces a myriad of challenges — environmental, social and economic — this kind of global citizen is indispensable. Ritsumeikan University has taken on the mantle of leadership in global education and is nurturing world-class leaders capable of addressing the world's most pressing issues.

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