Joint Program for Sustainable Resources Engineering was adopted as a Special Expenditure Project by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. In this project, in order to cultivate human resources who can contribute to Japan’s resource strategies, education and research departments in resources engineering at Kyushu University and Hokkaido University aim to jointly establish a new collaborative education program in 2017. This is the first of its kind in the resources engineering area among universities in Japan.
The global situation surrounding mineral resources has been drastically changing since the beginning of the 21st century. As a result, resource nationalism, in which some governments use mineral resources in their own countries as trump cards of political and economic issues, has been gaining power. In order to secure stable resources, it is necessary for Japan to develop individuals with advanced expertise and international mindedness who will play a key role in resource strategies for the future.
For this reason, universities and graduate schools involved in fostering specialists need to comply with such social demands. There are, however, only a few universities and graduate schools providing comprehensive education programs for resources engineering throughout the country. In the current situation, therefore, it is difficult to fulfill such demands. Specifically, there are four problems: (1) Due to the shortage of faculty members engaged in training students in resources engineering, there are some academic fields that cannot be covered by a single university. (2) Compared to engineering education, management education is insufficient. In addition, if we see the overall picture of research and education in resources engineering in Japan, (3) the way each university uses its research and education resources (education programs and facilities) is inefficient.
As one of the methods to solve these issues, it is considered that several universities involved in education of resources engineering should work together to develop human resources. Education and research departments in resources engineering at Kyushu University and Hokkaido University (the Kyushu University Faculty of Engineering Department of Earth Resources Engineering and Hokkaido University Faculty of Engineering Division of Sustainable Resources Engineering) have been cooperating and collaborating concerning specific projects and events. In order to make their collaboration more organic and full-fledged, this project aims to establish a collaborative graduate school education program (master’s course).
The collaborative graduate school education program that this project is aiming at is not simply a combination of two existing curriculums in both universities but a new education program, which should be appropriate for fostering students in resources engineering for the 21st century. Specifically, compared to human resources developed by each university, the project aims to develop more excellent human resources in terms of the three following points: (1) to be internationally minded, (2) to be able to get an overview of the resource flow, and (3) to be capable of designing and managing. Moreover, in collaboration with the “KIZUNA (Bond) Program” promoted by JICA (4), it is also important to strengthen the bond between Japanese students in resources engineering and foreign exchange students from resource-rich countries. In accordance with these four items, they are planning to implement a collaborative education program based on the following four viewpoints: “international field surveys” to be more internationally minded, “graduate school exchange seminars” to be able to see things from broad perspectives, “resources management special seminars” to be more capable of designing and managing, and “international human resources exchange debates” to strengthen the ties between Japan and resource-rich countries.
(1) Social significance for both Japan and resource-rich countries
A big feature of this project is that foreign exchange students strategically invited from resource-rich countries and Japanese students are able to study together. In this sense, this education program will reinforce human networks between Japan and those countries and also contribute to securing resources for the future of Japan. On the other hand, in this project, foreign exchange students from those countries will study the methods of resource development using environmental preservation and recovery techniques that Japan has cultivated over many years; therefore, it is expected that this project will also contribute to the prevention of environmental destruction in those countries. It is, therefore, considered that this program has great social significance for both Japan and resource-rich countries.
(2) The effects of educational improvement by university collaboration
Since Kyushu University and Hokkaido University have education programs with different features, it will be possible for them to develop a high level of human resources, which neither of them would be able to realize on their own, by collaborating and sharing their education resources. Moreover, regarding the development of resources management education, which is essential for Japan’s resources education in the future, they will be able to realize top-notch education, although it is difficult for them to do alone, by sharing the connections with business people and overseas teaching staff that they have respectively.
In Japan there are only a few universities offering resources education. Among them Kyushu University and Hokkaido University have education programs with different features. They, however, have common performance of satisfactory international education and roles in “JICA KIZUNA Program” (mainly education for faculties in resource-rich countries). Therefore, there are few obstacles in collaboration between them, which enables them to promptly achieve the high-level resource education required from the society. In the future, they will experiment with the planned education program and verify its effects in order to launch a collaborative education program. Furthermore, this project aims to construct “a KIZUNA that will never be cut” with other resource-rich countries in the world by making the most of the connections formed while Japanese students and foreign exchange students from those countries study together.