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As state subsidies decline, Nagoya University turns to crowdfunding to support student activities

Chunichi Shimbun

Amid cuts in government subsidies for national universities, Nagoya University has turned to crowdfunding to support student activities and educational projects.

So far the university has raised roughly ¥5 million — more than the targeted amount — for five projects, including the development of a race car by a student team and the restoration and digitization of historical documents by its affiliated library.

The university hopes to expand crowdfunding to other projects so the method will offer an independent source of revenue, as well as a way of strengthening its brand image amid increasing competition to attract students.

Since national universities were made into incorporated administrative agencies with increased autonomy in 2004, the government has been reducing subsidies for the institutions’ operational expenses.

Government subsidies to Nagoya University amounted to ¥31.7 billion in fiscal 2016, down almost ¥5 billion over 10 years, making it more difficult for the university to help fund student activities and educational programs other than research projects.

Crowdfunding is the practice of raising money for projects online through small contributions from a large number of individuals. There are different types of crowdfunding, including loans, reward-based or donation-based funding. In many cases collected funds are refunded if a campaign does not meet its goal. Nagoya University is using a donation-based system.

Crowdfunding has also been adopted by other national universities, including the University of Tsukuba and Tokyo University of the Arts.

Nagoya University sought out suitable projects and registered five on a crowdfunding site. They received contributions from graduates of the university as well as companies and individuals.

Formula Team FEM, an auto racing team made up of Nagoya University students, set a target of raising ¥650,000 to help them develop an electric race car and managed to collect nearly ¥900,000 from 26 people.

The team has been developing a new electric vehicle for next year’s Student Formula Japan, which is expected to cost a total of about ¥6.5 million. Team members decided to use crowdfunding because support from the university and local firms would not be enough.

“We are thankful that many people whom we don’t know made contributions,” said Hironori Nagata, 22, the leader of the team who is studying at Nagoya University’s Graduate School of Engineering. “They made us even more determined to achieve a good result.”

According to the team, a woman from Fukushima Prefecture donated ¥200,000 and wrote in her email: “I have been interested in cars for a long time. I want to donate money which I won’t be able to use for traveling because I have to care for my parents.”

The team plans to send gifts to contributors and display the names of major donors on the vehicle.

Nagoya University also plans to use crowdfunding for other projects, such as the development of a cognitive ability test for children in Mongolia.

“(Through crowdfunding,) we believe Nagoya University can increase its presence outside the Tokai region,” said Vice President Shogo Kimura, 55. “We also hope donations of small amounts of money will lead to large contributions in the future.”

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Aug. 21.