As an international institution the University continues to strengthen partnerships across the world. Our partnership with Nagoya University in Japan is a testament to the benefits of creating strong international links.
By Samantha Allan
Founded in 1871, Nagoya University is an innovative institution. Ranked 111th in the world and 6th in Japan (QS Rankings), it was the first university in Japan to offer a joint degree program. Nagoya University currently has 10,000 undergraduate students and 6,000 postgraduates. It is located in the city of Nagoya, approximately half way between Tokyo and Osaka.
Our partnership with Nagoya covers a wide range of activities including research, student exchange and other forms of teaching and learning.
Both universities have a strong interest in research, co-authoring more than 700 publications between 2013 and 2018. With strong links between the universities' science departments, most of the research papers are on the subjects of astronomy, physics and chemistry.
“Our partnerships at the University take many different forms, but there are relatively few examples of our University partnering with another university across research, student exchange and other forms of teaching and learning.”
Stuart Easter, Senior Partnership Officer
Degrees from two universities
Both universities recently signed an agreement to offer joint PhD programmes in the areas of Chemistry, Physics, and Biological Sciences.
The students spend six to twelve months at the partner institution and have supervisors based in both Edinburgh and Nagoya. Having the ability to study at two institutions gives students the opportunity to work with different research technologies, share knowledge and create new international connections that can help benefit their future careers.
Joint PhD student Arai Shun from Nagoya University is currently in Edinburgh conducting research for his PhD in the field of cosmology and gravity. Arai was attracted to the programme as he felt it would give him the chance to find out more about research being conducted in other parts of the world.
“I started my PhD in Japan three years ago and during the second year I found this programme. I applied to this programme because it’s really attractive. At the time I thought in the future I’d like to study outside my country and it was a good opportunity for me to see how research was going outside Japan.”
Arai Shun, Joint PhD student
Arai feels that the programme is beneficial for Nagoya students as it gives them the chance to collaborate with others in a way that they might not otherwise have had the chance to.
“From my experience at least, I would like to say that this programme is really nicely designed for Japanese people. As Japan is quite distant from the rest of the world there is less opportunity to meet with people overseas, but this programme offers the chance to do this. It’s quite beneficial to understand different ways of thinking and collaborate with other people, so in my experience it’s great.”
Arai felt that the research facilities in Edinburgh were very welcoming and could easily be used by a diverse range of people. He said that although Japanese laboratories are getting better, there are still some ways that they could be improved. He is hoping to share some of the knowledge that he has learned here in Edinburgh.
There are currently four PhD students, making it one of the largest joint degree programmes at the University. Edinburgh currently has about 50 joint PhD agreements around the world, however most of these have a smaller number of students undertaking them.
An increasing number of universities across the world are deciding to offer joint degree programmes in order to allow students access to a range of facilitates to enhance their student experience and also their career prospects.
Other universities offering joint degree programmes include Murdoch University and the University of Hertfordshire, Trinity College London and Columbia University, and Macquarie University and the University of Bristol.
Building on existing connections
Both universities are building upon the existing connections within the College of Science and Engineering (CSE). CSE have an exchange agreement allowing students to spend time at Nagoya University working on a project. The School of Chemistry has particularly close links with Nagoya, with Professor Neil Robertson and Professor Kunio Awaga having a longstanding collaboration working on research in the area of materials in Chemistry.
The first joint workshop between Edinburgh and Nagoya chemists, “New Horizons in Chemistry and Materials Science”, will be held in Nagoya and attended by 30 academic staff, post-doctoral researchers and PhD students from the Edinburgh.
“Every year one or two of our final year MChem students undertake a year abroad placement at Nagoya University, and it is our aim that this exchange partnership can help to nurture collaborative projects between our two universities; this internationalisation of the undergraduate degree experience is something that we are very keen to encourage due to the benefits for students who take part.”
Dr Christopher Mowat, Director of Internationalisation at the School of Chemistry
The workshop will also allow the team to continue to look for ways in which the partnership and joint degree programme can be strengthened.
Dr Mowat said:
“In addition to this we will explore the possibility of making further use of the Edinburgh-Nagoya Joint PhD programme, and we see this workshop as a way of facilitating this. Taken as a whole, the workshop and the activities of those involved demonstrate the value of having excellent global partners like Nagoya University, and the benefits afforded to students, both UG and PGR, and staff as a result.”
Both universities aim to build on the partnership and have proposed to establish a Clinical Elective exchange agreement. Usually medical students are unable to take part in exchanges, but this agreement will allow students to undertake clinical experiences at the partner institution.
Stuart Easter said:
“Students who study medicine don’t normally have the ability to formally participate in exchange agreements because they can’t take a year out, but what they do have are four to six-week elective periods, where they gain experience working in another hospital or medical setting somewhere. With this exchange agreement we’re trying to help students to go places they might not have been able to go to by themselves.”
Partnerships throughout East Asia
With both universities being heavily research focused, Edinburgh and Nagoya are part of the research network RENKEI. Edinburgh joined the RENKEI network last year and has since seen an increase in the level of engagement with Japanese universities. RENKEI, standing for Research and Education Network for Knowledge Economy Initiatives, is also the Japanese word for collaboration.
Formally launched in 2012, the network aims to share best practice on establishing partnerships across sectors to develop new ways to address common societal problems. During the seven years that it has been established, many of the member institutions have gone on to develop individual partnerships. Of the twelve members, Edinburgh is currently the only Scottish institution.
Edinburgh Global’s regional centre in East Asia helps to facilitate partnership building in the region by connecting staff in the University with other universities and industry leaders.