United Nations University Rector David M. Malone stressed the importance for Japanese universities to have good business models in a globally competitive market for higher education at an event on 19 October to commemorate the opening of Kanagawa University’s new “Faculty of Cross-Cultural and Japanese Studies”.
The event, titled “The Bridge Between the World, Japan and the Region”, featured a keynote speech by Dr Malone followed by a discussion with Prof. Tsuneo Nishida, former Japanese ambassador to the United Nations.
During his speech, Dr Malone pointed out the challenges countries are facing in regards to the quality and financial burden of higher education.
In the United States and Britain, for example, tuition has increased dramatically in recent years making college education too expensive. On the other hand, in France, university education is basically free for citizens, with some exceptions. But French institutions struggle because the government cannot subsidise at a high level of quality for all faculties.
Meanwhile, in Japan, there are nearly 800 universities nationwide for a population of about 128 million, whereas in Canada (Dr Malone’s home country) there are only 91 universities for a population of about 37 million.
“No country can be complacent. No country can think we are the best self-evidently. That is delusional and leads straight to a decline in quality. Rather, the question always has to be, in my country and in yours, not how wonderful are we, but how could we be better?” Dr Malone said. “And universities provide a reflection of how much better a country is becoming in terms of its global competitiveness.”
Dr Malone, who concurrently serves as UN Under-Secretary-General, also pointed out that one of the biggest global challenges the UN faces today is climate change.
All around the world, people and cities are being affected by extreme weather, from typhoons and droughts to wildfires and heat waves. And as the 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has shown, there are only 12 years to keep global warming at a maximum of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial periods or else the consequences could be devastating.
One young woman has taken a stand to hold global leaders accountable for their actions. Ms Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, gave a scathing speech at the UN Climate Action Summit in September, condemning the leaders for stealing the future from the young people with their inaction and “empty words”.
In his speech at Kanagawa University, Dr Malone praised Ms Thunberg’s actions and words, saying it was “a rare electric moment in debates at the United Nations” and what she said was true.
“We have quite an agenda ahead of us at the UN We have a lot of critics and the criticism is often well-founded as was Ms. Thunberg’s. Rather than rejecting and resenting it, we need to internalise it and constantly strive in the UN to do better,” Dr Malone said.