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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:31 03/09/2007
Debate: Comment

Extending university-private sector partnerships

Daniel Dolan (Founder, Seattle Communication)

The discussion about challenges and promises of university-private sector partnerships is important and timely. I also think that the scope of such collaboration can and should be extended beyond scientific research outcomes to areas such as communication training, economic models, and entrepreneurship.

For example, the December 27 Japan Times online article ( referenced by Professor Yamada in his earlier Platform comment mentions that in the United States, "universities and affiliated organizations fund startups and serve as incubators for venture businesses, while also acting as intermediaries between companies and university researchers." However, the University of Washington, which is located directly between Microsoft's offices and downtown Seattle, has crafted a more direct relationship with businesses by launching a Center for Technology and Entrepreneurship on campus. The purpose of the Center is to encourage conversation and development of ideas between IT companies in the area and students with entrepreneurial aspirations. The Center acts as a training ground for future entrepreneurs without concerning itself with trying to sell specific technological expertise to industry. Even so, businesses benefit in a number of ways, including the prospect of future graduates of the Center's activities bringing their skills to local businesses in need of talent. Stanford University's Center for Entrepreneurial Studies has similar goals, and also encourages MBA students who use the Center to interact with students of law, medicine and engineering.

In Japan I also can imagine communications training collaboration between universities and industry. In recent years the public has been shocked at Japan's bottom-rung English skill test rankings. What is missed amid such panic is that TOEIC tests do not test actual speaking ability. Assuming that it is clear by now that what Japan needs is goal-specific English conversation skills training rather than more grammar practice, universities could develop departments of communication studies such as those found at almost all US universities. These departments should be grown with the guidance and participation of experienced communication experts from the United States.

Presently, only a few schools in Japan such as International Christian University and Tsuda College offer any human communication courses at all, and I am not aware of any autonomous Departments of Communication. Once instructors are trained to effectively teach courses such as public speaking, organizational communications and intercultural communications, training could be extended from university students to businesses through various forms of collaboration. Similarly, business schools could share economic model development and other industry-relevant skills through partnerships with companies.

Let the walls come down.

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