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Meidai as Mecca for the World's Automotive Engineering Students

  • Read in Japanese
  • 2017/07/28

Institute of International Education and Exchange

Designated Prof. Atsuko Tsuji

"Meidai's automotive engineering programs have become an object of global interest, and have even made a name for themselves in India," says a friend of mine who works as head of the India office of one of Japan's national universities. While, he admits, Meidai seems also to benefit from its association with Toyota, the world's largest automaker, it's the programs that are gaining in prestige. Even the son of a professor of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), a premier university system in India, has enrolled at Meidai.


The automotive engineering programs my friend in India mentioned are not at the School of Engineering, but rather can be taken on an undergraduate or graduate level as part of the Global 30, a series of programs that are offered entirely in English. There isn't the automotive department at the School of Engineering. Instead, the contents of automotive engineering such as mechanical engineering and many other subjects are spread all over the school and taught. It is further testament to attraction of the word "automotive engineering in Nagoya".


I had a chance to see the source of that attraction by observing this year's Nagoya University Summer Intensive Program (NUSIP), titled "Special Topics in Automotive Engineering." The program is open to international students for a fee of 2,000 dollars; factor in travel expense and the cost per student comes to about 500,000 yen. Despite the price tag, the program is competitive, with two to three-times more applicants than it can accept. A program that attracts this many students working on a private budget seems a bit rare. The success of the program, which began in 2008 and celebrated its 10th year this summer, was even a contributing factor in the opening of the Global 30 automotive engineering programs.

The idea for NUSIP originated in discussions inside the School of Engineering about how to correct an imbalance in the movement of students between Meidai and the University of Michigan's College of Engineering in the U.S., with which Meidai is partnered. Nearly all students involved in the exchange were from Meidai going to UM, with very few UM students coming to Meidai. The solution that emerged was a summer program focused on automotive engineering, one of Nagoya's regional strengths. Not only is the field gaining steam as an industry, but the Tokai region, of which Nagoya is part, is also home to such automakers as Toyota, Honda, and Suzuki, and related companies such as Denso. These companies are important employers for Meidai students and have strong connections with the university. Classes in the program would be taught by Meidai professors and industry experts, and would cover the entire range from fundamentals to state-of-the-art. Classes would be held in English, of course, and students required being at least in their third year of undergraduate study or graduate school to attend. The program was first offered to students of UM and other partner schools, but later expanded to other universities. According to Designated Professor Yukio Ishida, "Virtually nowhere else can you hear from such a range of lecturers, including experts working on the front lines of industry." The number of participants has quickly grown, and since so many want to attend relative to the program's current capacity of 40, each school is now asked to limit their participating students to three or four.


NUSIP students listen to an industry expert lecture on automobile market trends (July 7, at Meidai School of Engineering)


This year NUSIP took place in the six weeks from June 14 to July 20. Participants from overseas were a truly diverse group: Broken down by affiliation, there were 20 students from 9 schools in the US, five students each from one school in the UK and two schools in Hong Kong, three students from two schools in Canada, two students from one school in Italy, and one student each from Sweden and China. Many were from Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, and India studying abroad at Western universities. Quickly scanning the lecture room, I recognized about half as Asian. There were seven women -- just under a fifth of the class, or about twice the less than ten percent of students in Meidai's School of Engineering who are women.

After orientation, the program began with excursions to Kyoto and Nara. Japanese cultural immersion is another important objective of the program. Students then returned to Meidai, where they attended Japanese language classes in the morning, and lectures by Meidai faculty and industry experts in the afternoon. The lectures covered a range of topics, from planning and manufacturing, to design and safety, market trends and future outlooks. A special lecture is also held every year. This year, a director of the Japanese subsidiary of Bosch, a German company, spoke on new endeavors in today's world of uncertainty. Back in 2010, it was Toyota Honorary Chairman Shoichiro Toyoda who joined the class to speak with students......> read more on the Meidai Watch


Atsuko Tsuji: Earned B.A. in Arts, College of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo in 1976. Joined The Asahi Shimbun Company in 1979 as a journalist and wrote many articles in science and technology area for newspaper and magazines published by the company including editorial pieces. Knight Science Journalism Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989 and Reuters Fellow at University of Oxford in 2014. Designated Professor of Nagoya University's Institute of International Education and Exchange since October 2016.

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