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An organization of universities in Asia and the Pacific is promoting “life-long friendships” among young scholars to contribute to peace and prosperity in the region, one of the group’s top administrators said.

“We are trying to foster friendship among young faculty members, which will lead to joint ventures in the future,” Richard Drobnick, secretary of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, said in a recent interview with The Japan Times.

The association was established in June 1997 with 34 charter members. It was proposed by four universities in California following the success of the Association of American Universities.

From Japan, Kyoto University, Osaka University, the University of Tokyo and Waseda University have joined up.

Drobnick, vice provost of international affairs at the University of Southern California, said that in order to promote exchanges of young scholars, the association sponsors annual seminars over several weeks.

This year, a program on the environment and development was jointly hosted by the University of Washington and Chulalongkorn University in Thailand between Aug. 6 and Aug. 19.

Drobnick said that by having two venues, participants could see what kind of approach each country can take to similar problems — in this case, environmental pollution.

The APRU is also working to foster distance learning through the Internet. Drobnick said the association could help bridge the digital divide.

He said member institutions in developing nations could serve as vehicles for carrying out various tech-related projects pledged by governments, including Japan.

Asked about the prospect of new memberships, he expressed the association’s desire for expansion but warned that the standards for applicants are quite high and entries must be approved by three-quarters of standing members.

The APRU has imposed a temporary freeze on new entries until it completes a plan on how to finance the association. Currently, member institutions pay no dues and the running cost of the secretariat is shouldered by USC.

“The specific criteria will be determined after the financial matter is fixed, but applicants should be very strong, research-oriented institutions,” he said.

“We have already received quite a few inquires from schools in Latin America, Asia and the U.S.,” he said.

Drobnick expressed optimism for the organization’s future.

“The APRU is very young, only 3 years old, (and) just finished using its diapers,” he said. “But we made some progress and we think, over time, we will have more projects involving a greater number of students and faculty members.”

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