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 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 & 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 educational field, online classes and various services were provided all at once, not only in the correspondence education course but also in daytime courses. For research, in the “Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development” (SATREPS) of JST-JICA, the university led project titled, “Establishment of a management method and effective usage process for water hyacinths, which are overgrowing in Lake Tana of Ethiopia—the source of the Nile River” was selected. Also, the Human Glycome Project Japan Group (representative: Kenji Kadomatsu, iGCORE Tokai National Higher Education and Research System, Nagoya University), in which the Glycan & Life System Integration Center 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, students from around the world were able to participate in the university festival and with various activities, showing their potential for the future. 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 university marathon between Tokyo and Hakone held on January 2 and 3, 2021, the Soka athletes touched the hearts of Japan by winning the championship on the outward course and coming in second place overall. Also, a total of 16 students passed the 2020 national bar exam in Japan, and this was publicly announced in January this year, which brought our university up to fourth place in the acceptance rate. 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 “Soka University Grand Design,” announced in 2010. This was an endeavor that aimed to create a “university that fosters ‘creative human beings’ based on the founding spirit” 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: “Super Global University Support (SGU)” and “Acceleration Program for University Education Rebuilding (AP).”

 

In the SGU project, we were able to gain an appraisal of “S,” which is the highest, at the mid-term appraisal announced in February 2018, with another “S” in the mid-term appraisal announced in March of this year. In the AP, the appraisal that we received after the project’s conclusion was “A,” with comments such as: “The project proceeded as planned and the project could reach its goal since achievements were made.”

 

Our university was also able to enter global university rankings such as “World University Ranking Japan Version” “QS Asian University Ranking,” and “THE University Impact Rankings.” With the two spokes of the SGU and AP, we will establish a campus environment that is rich in diversity and will engage in education that fosters global citizens. Details of the results of the “Soka University Grand Design” can be accessed on our website.

 

Also, 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 mid- to long-term 10-year 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 areas: education, research, the UN SDGs, and diversity. The framework for this year’s presidential vision focuses on these four areas. In addition, we will engage in activities to support students as follows.

 

From academic year 2020, in addition to the nation’s “New Learning Support System for Higher Education,” our university improved our own unique scholarship system. This year, we will provide detailed support for students that need financial support amid the pandemic. Also, with the aim of enriching our support for students with disabilities, in March of this year we re-established a “Disabled Student Support Room” within the Student Affairs Office. In terms of career support, we will promote digital transformation (DX), strengthen our ability to disseminate support information, digitalize alumni information, and enrich the career center website as well as our company information, which are all accessible to students.

 

In addition, this year, as part of the 50th anniversary commemorative project announced in April last year, we are preparing the following events.

(1) Holding 50th anniversary commemorative events in line with the entrance ceremony on April 2 to commemorate the university’s founding
(2) Holding a 50th anniversary commemorative ceremony at the Soka University Festival in October
(3) Holding the “11th International Academic Symposium on the Philosophy of Dr. Daisaku Ikeda” in October, where researchers will gather from around the world to present the founder’s ideas, philosophy, and education
(4) Holding a symposium in November that will serve as a 50th anniversary event
(5) Holding the “Value Creation X SDGs” and “Global Citizenship Education” events consecutively in June

 

Furthermore, we are scheduled to publish 50 Years of Soka University and host the 50th anniversary commemorative exhibition in the Central Tower Building (October).

 

To our greatest joy, founder Dr. Daisaku Ikeda contributed an article to 50 Years of Soka University. In it, he raises three points as Soka University’s guidelines that should be carried forth and which were established over the last 50 years:

 

1. “Inexhaustible supply and lineage of compassionate love for ‘humanistic education’”

2. “The brightness of a ‘creative life’ that can triumph over any hardship”

3. “A network of those with ‘global citizenship’ that connects humankind”

 

With each individual as a protagonist, we would like to carry on these three guidelines and create a new history for the development of Soka University as a “university for students.”

 

As we head toward our 60th anniversary, we would like to confirm the university’s basic guideline as a “university for students.” Since the founder Dr. Daisaku Ikeda envisioned the establishment of the university, the founder has consistently advocated that a “university should exist for the sake of students” and has continued to provide countless forms of encouragement over the past 50 years. As “young founders,” students built a foundation for their future life while exerting their all in the establishment of the university. Today, alumni are leading lives of value creation in various locations around Japan and the world. We, the faculty and staff, would like to make efforts based on this basic guideline so as to further develop our abilities in education, research, and business administration in our respective areas, 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 ountermeasures 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 even more 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 common subjects, which will form a new curriculum from the next academic year. We are also considering new curricula for other departments from academic year 2023 onward. In particular, in common subjects, we will enrich the Global Citizenship Education and the value creation education subjects. This will be done so that an appropriate curriculum can be formed based on the university’s founding spirit, educational goals, and diploma policies.


(2) Establishing SDG sub-majors

In this academic year, we will establish working groups to prepare for SDG sub-majors. We will establish a curriculum map so that corresponding subjects can be picked from common and specialized subjects. Students will learn about subjects that are strongly connected to the UN SDGs and will be able to 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 “mathematical, data science, and nature subject groups” and will make the “Introduction of Data Science” compulsory for all students. Soka University established a “Data Science Sub-Major” in academic year 2019 and joined the “Mathematics Data Science Education Strengthening Center Consortium” last year, thus becoming a cooperative school. This year, we will open the “Introduction of Data Science,” and, while preparing to make this a compulsory subject for all students, we will also begin cooperative classes with Japan’s leading IT corporations.


(4) Engaging in new class formats

New class formats are being considered, such as hi-flex-type classes, where in-person and online classes are conducted simultaneously, and hybrid-type classes, where in-person and online classes are combined. At Soka University, we will also enrich training for faculty and staff so that they can conduct class formats that are highly effective educationally, advancing toward a “bring your own device” (BYOD) ethos in which each individual possesses their own PC, etc.

 

(5) Engaging in student improvement in composition ability and in writing papers properly

We have continued to support students in improving their writing skills via the “Academic Composition Method,” which has been compulsory for all students since academic year 2014. Last year, we taught students to write proper papers using plagiarism-checking software. This year, we will roll out this software to the entire university, aiming to improve academic integrity.

 

(6) Using portfolios

We will carry out a full-fledged popularization of a more-general teaching portfolio by developing class portfolios used in conferences that were incorporated in the AP, which was completed in 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 teach and those that are learning can reflect on their own engagement and aim to improve and develop their skills and abilities.

 

(7) Promoting 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 had an external appraisal conducted for the university as a whole and for each department and graduate course, from a wide range of perspectives. This year, while strengthening engagement toward the actualization of educational achievements, we will embark on concrete improvements regarding challenges that became apparent during the accreditation assessment process.

2. Research

(1) Promoting prioritized research

We will position the “Plankton Eco-Engineering Research Center” and the “Glycan & Life System Integration Center,” which are finding great success, as prioritized centers so as to increase our release of international academic papers, and to obtain large-scale external funds. We will also place emphasis on improving the research environments of these centers. We will support these centers so that they can actively apply for national competitive funds and participate in the improvement projects of these centers. We will design a system for the “Soka University Prioritized Research Promotion Project” (tentative name), which will prioritize support for promoting the interdisciplinary fusion of research and research topics that contribute to the UN SDGs.

 

(2) Strengthening international competitiveness

To promote international joint research, we will embark on the “establishment of a Soka University Fellow (tentative naming) program” that aims to organize researchers’ networks, as discussed in the “Soka University Grand Design 2021–2030” plans. We will also embark on designing a concrete system for “international joint research support by accepting honorary faculty members” to which researchers with achievements abroad can be invited. Furthermore, so as to increase our release of international academic papers, we will improve our system for the “English Paper Contribution Support System” and will enrich “Paper Contribution Support Seminars.” Also, while accelerating the large-scale research projects (SATREPS, etc.) that we jointly carry out with institutions abroad, we will widely expand research achievements and improve the environment so that it becomes easier to apply for such large-scale projects.

 

(3) Strengthening the acquisition of external funds

We will consider measures to encourage applying for competitive funds, including scientific research fees. We will also prioritize the strengthening of functions to enrich the content of various seminars and to strengthen the review process of application documents. We will also aim to establish systems that support researchers who apply for large-scale projects or events, in order to promote large-scale research and globalization. 

 

In addition, we will improve the environment for introducing systems regarding paying personnel fees for research representatives and paying costs related to business proxies in areas other than research from the direct expenses of competitive research fees (i.e., a buy-out system), as indicated by the government.

 

(4) Strengthening the research foundation

Aiming for appropriate research fees distribution, we will examine and review calculation standards and the current unbalanced allocation system. To ensure time for research, we will further enrich the research promotion system while preparing to hire URAs (university research administrators) to contribute to our university’s research environment.

 

Aiming to build a research administration system that can flexibly correspond to new risks such as infectious diseases, we will actively promote efficiency and simplification. We will also enrich the expansion of online conferences as well as on-demand seminars. In addition, we will plan training to help improve the abilities of office staff, who support research activities.

 

Other efforts will include discussions on improving our support system for young researchers and PhD students in order to foster outstanding researchers that can shoulder the next generation.

 

(5) Promoting appropriate research activities

To improve researchers’ awareness regarding research ethics, and to prevent the incorrect usage of research fees and incorrect behavior in research activities, we will renew compliance education materials. We will also promote the learning by all full-time faculty members periodically of the “eAPRIN” research ethics educational material. Aiming to ensure a thorough awareness of regulations regarding researcher ethics, we will improve the structure so that we can introduce research ethics education and the use of e-learning materials, as a compulsory subject to all master’s and graduate program students.

 

(6) Promoting research on the founder and on Soka education

In line with the reorganization of the Ikeda Research Institute for Soka Education, we will establish an international center where academic discussions on the founder and Soka education will take place. In fall of this year, Soka University will host the “11th International Academic Symposium on the Philosophy of Dr. Daisaku Ikeda” and the “1st Global Citizenship Education Symposium.” In addition, we will systematically collect, organize, and preserve research on the founder and on the practical application of Soka education for use as research materials.
3. UN SDGs

(1) Promoting the UN SDGs for the entire university

For projects with a high contribution to the UN SDGs and for areas in which we aspire to including them into projects, we will approve the “Soka University SDGs Good Practices.” Regarding “Start-up support” and projects that have a future as a business model, we will support such as part of “sustainable project support.” While examining the level of recognition and contribution to SDGs by faculty, staff, and students, once a year we will request ideas for SDGs in terms of university management. 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 UN SDGs” and establishing and expanding the “network of students, experts, and practitioners of the SDGs”

We will foster capable individuals that can contribute to the achievement of the UN SDGs, including high school and college students, and members of society, as well as experts, practitioners, and members of society outside the university. These will be individuals who all aim to work in international institutions in the future and build their networks. In this academic year, we will hold dialogues with the purpose of establishing such a network.

 

(3) Strengthening cooperation with various UN institutions

We will promote cooperative projects, including internships, and strengthen cooperation with UN institutions such as the UNDP, UNHCR, and FAO. We will play a leading role in UN SDG promotion as a university that participates in UN Academic Impact and as a platform for the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS). Also, through the activities of ASPUnivNet, a university network supporting UNESCO schools, we will also contribute to ESD education, centering on the Tama area of the Kanto plains in Japan, including Hachioji City.

 

(4) Embarking on ampus SDGs and energy planning

We will announce our “Climate Emergency Declaration of Soka University,” and begin energy planning that aims to achieve 100% recyclable energy by 2050. We will also promote the 4Rs and ethical consumption toward carbon neutralization. We will also aim to establish the Sustainable Campus Discussion Committee as well as the “Soka University Sustainable Managements Declaration.”

4. Diversity

(1) Promoting globalization

As a university that has strategically formed a global network by continent and language, in March of this year we were able to open the Soka University Nairobi Office at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, Africa. The opening ceremony took place online, making this the fourth center opened in this global network, following those in Asia (China, 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 with whom we have had exchanges since the founding of our university. In recent years, the content of exchanges with various universities abroad have become multifaceted, and various departments have also been carrying out their own exchanges. With the 50th anniversary project, we will reflect on our history of these exchanges, and envision future exchanges where we consider the expansion of the number of schools with which to hold exchanges and extend exchange agreements.

 

(2) Continuation and development of the Super Global University Support Project

We obtained an “S” appraisal in the last academic year during the mid-term appraisal. This occurred following the “S” appraisal received in the previous term. This shows that the university’s steady efforts are receiving high recognition. However, due to the pandemic, we have been unable to receive overseas students or send our students overseas since last year. We hope to restart accepting overseas students and sending students abroad when the situation improves and makes it possible to do so. On the other hand, due to an increased need for online educational exchange programs transcending national borders, we would like to actively plan and provide not only various classes and opportunities for students abroad, but also, student exchanges with universities abroad and Japanese language education.

 

(3) Promoting gender equality

Providing an environment where women can play an active role is an essential criterion for the diversification of our 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 academic year 2023 as part of the SGU project. However, there is a gap in the ratio of female faculty among departments, as well as challenges in promoting female staff leadership. In this academic year, we will strongly support the increase in female faculty members for each department, and by relying on the “Soka University Gender Equality Promotion Center,” we will continue to support and encourage female faculty members, researchers, and staff members.