Tokyo-based Showa Women’s University (SWU) and Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) have announced a unique campus-sharing agreement that could offer a model to other Japanese schools.

The universities first announced their plan to share SWU’s Setagaya campus in June. According to a press release, “This agreement to share a campus is the first of its kind between Japanese and American universities and marks an unprecedented step to promote the globalization of Japanese universities.”

By September 2019, TUJ will move to a new six-story building on land that SWU owns just outside its campus gates. SWU will construct and own the building, which TUJ will pay to lease. TUJ, whose current campus is located in an office building in Minato Ward, will gain shared access to SWU facilities such as sport fields, gyms, auditoriums, a pool and cafeteria.

During her opening remarks to the audience at TUJ’s 35th Anniversary Symposium held at SWU last month, SWU Chancellor Mariko Bando said, “SWU, through professional education, has been making various efforts to foster global female talent who can survive in the 21st century, and this will be a huge boost.”

TUJ Dean Bruce Stronach told the attendees that the partnership isn’t just about gaining access to campus facilities,

“We are so happy to be on a campus finally and have our own building and all that is really, really great. But the real thing is the education, and I think that in the end this relationship is just going to be tremendously supportive of the global nature of the education of both SWU students and TUJ students.”

In a phone interview, Stronach elaborated on the benefits of the tie-up. The partnership will also see stronger collaborative academic programs. SWU and TUJ students will more easily be able to take and receive credit for courses offered by the other college.

Universities allowing their students to transfer credits for courses taken at another school isn’t a new idea in Japan. Since the 1990s, universities in different cities and regions have been members of credit-transfer consortiums. The consortiums became increasingly popular in the 2000s and there are now at least 15 throughout the country, including five organized by Tokyo-based universities.

Individual Japanese universities have also signed reciprocal credit transfer agreements. For example, several departments at Osaka Prefecture University and Osaka City University allow students to take courses for credit at the other institution.

However, Stronach says he hopes to take credit-sharing one step further with something he calls “undergraduate-three-plus-two.” The two schools are working on a plan to allow students to study for three years at SWU, plus two more at TUJ, with the goal of graduating with degrees from both universities.

TUJ currently has just over 1,300 undergrad and graduate students, of which approximately 40 percent are Japanese, another 40 percent are American, with the remaining 20 percent coming from 60 other countries.

SWU didn’t negotiate its partnership with TUJ because of declining enrollment. Unlike some other women’s universities, SWU isn’t struggling to attract students. In 2015 and 2016 the school exceeded its ministry-set enrollment quota by 18 percent. In 2016 the school received permission from the education ministry to open a new Department of Food Safety and Management as well as increase its total intake quota. The school currently has about 5,600 students.

While it is a women-only university, SWU isn’t overly concerned about sharing space with co-ed TUJ. SWU Chancellor Bando told attendees at the TUJ symposium, “We accept all the TUJ students, women and men.” Bando did estimate that melding the cultures of the two universities would take about two years and that SWU and TUJ students would both need to learn the other institution’s code of conduct.

Stronach says he isn’t aware of any Japanese universities with a similar campus-sharing arrangement. But he agrees the partnership could provide a model.

“The conceptual idea of this kind of collaboration between Japanese universities as they find themselves with larger and larger problems because of decreasing enrollments and population — this kind of campus-sharing may be something that Japanese universities may want to do.”

For the future, SWU and TUJ plan to discuss tie-ups in the areas of extra-curricular student clubs and joint workshops and research projects for faculty and staff. Potential collaboration between SWU, their Showa Boston campus, TUJ and Temple University’s main campus in Philadelphia are another possibility.

However, Stronach says there are no immediate plans to seek a similar campus-sharing agreement for TUJ’s Graduate College of Education Osaka Center.

James McCrostie graduated from TUJ’s Master of Science in Education program in 2001.

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