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Akita Pref. to build U.S. business school-type university.

AKITA, Japan, Feb. 6 Kyodo

Akita Prefecture in northeastern Japan is aiming to establish a prefectural university specializing in international business that offers a U.S. business school-style curriculum, according to prefectural government officials.

The plan is meeting opposition, however, due to fears of low enrollment in light of Japan's declining birthrate, and the ghost of a failed U.S. university-owned school in the town of Yuwa in the prefecture, the officials said.

According to the plan, the new university would offer three courses of study, including one in Northeast Asian studies. The officials said they also want to offer small language classes, limited terms for professors and exchange programs with foreign schools.

The international business education course will employ a curriculum similar to those at U.S. universities, and classes will be conducted primarily in English, the officials added.

The prefecture devised the idea after the Minnesota State University-Akita campus said it was closing down next year following its failure to attract students and its high dropout rate of nearly 50%, leading to more than 400 million yen in total losses.

The U.S. university opened the school in 1990, at the town's invitation, to capitalize on the trend of U.S. universities setting up Japanese campuses during the assets-inflated bubble period, beginning in the mid-1980s.

''The (U.S.) school is unpopular among prospective students as its undergraduate degrees are not recognized in Japan. Also, the university's (U.S. educational) system, which is difficult to graduate from, has increased the dropout rate,'' the officials said.

The prefecture intends to take over the failed U.S. university and reopen it as Japanese university incorporating some educational programs of U.S. universities as part of the prefecture's plan to build the international business university.

A local chamber of commerce expects the international appeal of the planned university will spur economic growth in the area.

The prefecture, however, must compete for students with a large number of Japanese universities, about 130, which have an ''international'' department.

Another problem is whether enough prospective students can pass a high-level English proficiency exam which the prefecture intends to require when admitting students.

The prefecture estimates some 600 million yen will be lost annually, which has caused concern among some prefectural assembly members.

''It's a big gamble (for the prefecture), as it is not known whether a U.S.-style business school will attract prospective students,'' said a guidance counselor at a Tokyo preparatory school.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Feb 11, 2002
Words:409
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