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HOME > No.16, Feb 2019 > Feature Story : What's needed for educating students and young researchers

What's needed for educating students and young researchers

Kazuhiko Terashima

Education at national universities and graduate schools is currently at a turning point. Since the privatization of national universities in 2004, each university has had more autonomy and independence. At the same time, they have faced difficulties because of decreasing grant money for school management and serious competition in obtaining research funding. In this pressurized situation it is hard for universities to remain inventive, which in turn has made it difficult to maintain and keep improving the quality of research and education. Also, the type of person desired in the real world is changing as globalization keeps expanding, and universities and graduate schools are expected to produce graduates who are even more diverse and innovative.

In such a changing environment, what is Toyohashi University of Technology working on? We spoke with Dr. Kazuhiko Terashima, a researcher of robotics and system control and the executive trustee & vice president of the university, who has produced many graduates and instructors and has been actively involved in educational reform for a long time.

Interview and report by Madoka Tainaka

"The best feature of our institution is that we are truly a science and technology university. Eighty percent of our students transfer to our institution from Kosen (National Institute of Technology) for their junior (third) year. Many of our students are great at producing things, programming, and working with their hands.

TUT provides higher education to graduates of KOSEN (Institute of Technology) to foster engineering and research leaders with practical and creative ability

There are many foreign students and working adults attending our school, and in this diverse environment, we are trying to train our students to learn technologies properly, analyze them scientifically, and build theories that can be used universally. So, you can say that we are a university with a very unique character," says Dr. Terashima.

Number of TUT students per grade and multiple admission paths

This unique character can be seen its university rankings.

  1. Out of 770 colleges and universities in Japan (according to Asahi Shimbun's 2019 university rankings), the university is ranked third in research grant money, KAKENHI (Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research) per instructor (among universities established between 1966 to 1980)
  2. First in the total amount of collaborative research money shared with companies (for research projects under 300 researchers).
  3. In the passed years, our university has become champion 6 times in the NHK Student ROBOKON (NHK Student Robot Contest), and won second place in 2018.
    We know that this university offers an environment in which students can really focus on their research.

A wide variety of support to cultivate young researchers

Dr. Terashima claims that the university's accomplishments, as seen in its rankings, are all the result of the steady and diverse efforts that are focused on global society and based on the university's strengths.

"We offer a six-week English training course at Queens College in the U.S. to faculty members and a study abroad program, of either one year or three months, to young researchers under the age of 50 in accordance with the 'The Top Global University Project' established by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology."

"Also, we have many researchers who participate in and present at international conferences. On average, each researcher travels abroad once or twice a year. There are many collaborative research projects conducted with domestic and overseas companies and other institutions, and one of our advantages is that we receive a large amount of external funding for research."

Further, the university offers about one million yen in financial support to ten promising, young (up to 38 years old) faculty members for their research. The university has also implemented a "tenure-track system" to provide an environment in which younger researchers can be engaged with their research more independently. About 10 years ago, the university received funding from the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) and hired ten young researchers as tenure track faculty members of the university's Electronics-Inspired Interdisciplinary Research Institute. The university initially gave the tenure track faculty members 10 million yen, and later another six million yen for an additional five-year period. When the program funded by JST ended, another program was developed in which, every year, one assistant professor in order and per division was supported. They continued with this system for five years and it has just ended. Currently, a whole new program is being developed to hire associate professors on the tenure track.

"In addition to this sort of support, we receive research funding from outside the institution. So overall, the research environment we provide is one of the best in the country. For example, we have specialist university research administrators (URA) working at the Research Administration Center (RAC), with whom we are preparing a system to offer strong support for all research."

Enhanced support to develop global talent

Toyohashi University of Technology supports an environment for diverse learning for its students.

"We actively recruit students from overseas and prepare a good environment for them. Our current total student body numbers are around 2,000, and 269 of them, about 13%, are from overseas. These students come from 32 countries, many from Malaysia and other Asian countries, while others come from Germany and France for example. Many of them are pro-active about their experience with us, such as by starting their own venture companies by applying the knowledge they gained here. Naturally this provides a good stimulus to our Japanese students.

Our university provides bilingual Japanese and English education, partly due to our large foreign student body, and partly as one of our stated goals when we were chosen as one of the universities to carry out The Top Global University Project. So, for example, both textbooks and classroom instruction are provided in both languages for global courses. Also, there is a unique program involving about 180 students who are enrolled in our new Global Technology Architects Course (GAC). Under this program, almost all of them live in shared housing in groups of five which have a mix of Japanese and foreign students. It should also be noted that a six-week internship at a corporation is required in the student's senior (fourth) year.


As a leading graduate school, Toyohashi University of Technology adopted the "Brain Information Architects" project for its doctoral students. In this program, a two-week trip to Malaysia and a six-month overseas internship are included. There are also double-degree programs available that produce elite education. These programs enable students to earn degrees at both Toyohashi University of Technology and at other institutions overseas, such as the University of Stuttgart in Germany and the University of Eastern Finland.

"These various efforts are resulting in an increased number of foreign students and Japanese students who can succeed globally. Many of our foreign graduates work at Japanese companies or assume the role of connecting Japan and their home countries."

Instructors' attitudes that are essential to education

Dr. Terashima mentions that, in addition to a wide variety of programs already being offered at the university, the the instructors’ attitudes to educate students is very important in order to produce promising talent.

"One unique characteristic of science universities in Japan is that a student joins a lab in his or her senior (fourth) year and is involved in research with instructors in a more hands-on environment (like a "temple school" in the Edo period). The concept of the Humboldt's educational model of 'teaching through research' is being truly carried out."


"What I think is essential here is the vision of the instructors. I myself have displayed to my students the roadmaps for five, ten, and twenty years from now for the research fields of robotics and system control. I have always been showing my students what kind of research we need to be involved in so that we can produce the best results in the world."

Another important point is making efforts to motivate the students. Experience in presenting at international conferences as well as domestic while in a master’s program not only helps bring students' motivation in research to a higher level, but it also trains them in their presentation skills and broadens their knowledge.

"It is also important to build a character with personality while engaging in self-study and self-learning in a free atmosphere. For this purpose, we need to have our students decide spontaneously their research subjects, research plans, and how to manage their labs on their own. Of course, during such processes, the instructors must provide full support while having constant communications with their students."

Thanks to these supportive education policies, Dr. Terashima's lab has already produced 341 graduates. Out of those graduates, about 30 of them have earned their doctorate degrees, and some have become instructors at universities and technical colleges.

"We are now in the so-called era of the 100-year-life and lifelong learning. Learning while you are young is particularly important. In my twenties, a research paper carrying my name as the first author was published in the world's leading journal. That experience made me want to become a researcher who can build theories of control that can be useful to people. I hope that the students and young researchers who learn at our university will be successful and help Japan and the rest of the world with the knowledge they gain here."

Reporter's Note

After the interview, Dr. Terashima showed me "Tera’s Sayings" (Teragoroku) titled "50 Tips for Adults." These are some of the tips he wrote while he was sick in bed at home for two days in his mid-forties, which he later posted on his blog. When I took a look at these tips, I read messages such as, "Have your own policies and philosophies about things. Don't be opportunistic," and "Have an area of specialty and deepen it. Nurture it with great care. 'Continuity leads to success.'" These messages were written for young people, but even at my age, I was deeply moved by many of these words. Dr. Terashima himself says with a smile, "I want young people to live freely without being too consumed by these guidelines. But, when they feel confused or stuck, I hope that they can draw some guidance or comfort from the blog." I do hope that many people have a chance to read it.


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Researcher Profile

Dr. Kazuhiko Terashima

Dr. Kazuhiko Terashima

Dr. Kazuhiko Terashima received his PhD degree in engineering in 1981 from Kyoto University, Japan. Since 1982, he started his career at Toyohashi University of Technology and had been involved in the development of robotics and mechatronics. In this period, he was a visiting researcher at Technical University of Munich in German from 1990 to 1991. Currently Dr. Terashima is engaged in education and research as vice president at Toyohashi University of Technology.

Reporter Profile

Madoka Tainaka

Madoka Tainaka is a freelance editor, writer and interpreter. She graduated in Law from Chuo University, Japan. She served as a chief editor of "Nature Interface" magazine, a committee for the promotion of Information and Science Technology at MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology).