Press Release

University of Tokyo, UC Berkeley to exchange scholars in cosmology, other areas

| 18 December 2009

The University of Tokyo and the University of California, Berkeley, formalized an agreement yesterday (Thursday, Dec. 17) to encourage research and educational exchanges between the campuses, which are considered to be among the top public universities in the world.

Chancellor Birgeneau signs agreement with University of TokyoBerkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau signs an agreement encouraging more scholarly exchanges with the University of Tokyo, under the watchful virtual eye of UT President Jun'ichi Hamada, who signed the agreement earlier in Japan. (Jackie Jones/UC Berkeley photo)
The agreement was signed yesterday by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau during a meeting with delegates from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, which will fund the exchanges. University of Tokyo (UT) President Jun'ichi Hamada signed the agreement earlier in Japan.

"Berkeley is very interested in enhancing its relationships with Asian universities, and the University of Tokyo is a pre-eminent university in Asia," said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. "I strongly believe that collaboration with UT will be a cornerstone for our enhanced ties with Asia. I am very excited about the developing partnership."

In a statement, Hamada said, "It is highly significant that the world's best universities with the same ideals of public education sign an agreement like this to promote exchanges. It is also very important for UT's international strategies. Berkeley is ahead of UT in terms of internationalization, and we have a lot to learn from them. We will actively exchange information, and hope that we can eventually exchange students for taking each other's classes."

The first beneficiaries of the exchange will be physicists, astronomers and mathematicians engaged in cosmology research, as UT's Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU) sets up a satellite facility in the Berkeley campus's Department of Physics.

"This satellite will be a great foundation for exchanges and collaborations," said Hitoshi Murayama, who holds joint appointments as a UC Berkeley professor of physics, director of IPMU and faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "IPMU policy requires every full-time member to spend at least a month outside Japan every year, and the UC Berkeley satellite will be an obvious place to visit. It is hoped that this satellite will eventually grow to a place for the entire UT community to interact with the Berkeley scientists and students."

IPMU and four other research institutes were created two years ago by the Japanese government through the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science to open up Japan to non-Japanese researchers and improve collaboration and exchanges of scholars and scientists. Called the World Premier International (WPI) research institutes, each receives about $16 million annually for 10 years, and some of the funds are available to seed satellite centers at major research universities around the world.

Murayama expects to receive $100,000 per year through WPI to fund research exchanges between UT and Berkeley. He and two other UC Berkeley physics faculty members have already spent time at IPMU, while four of Murayama's students and many postdoctoral fellows have visited as well.

Once the satellite center is set up in the UC Berkeley Center for Theoretical Physics, Murayama hopes it will eventually "grow to a place for the entire University of Tokyo community to interact with Berkeley scientists and students."

This year, the Academic Ranking of World Universities compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University ranked UC Berkeley as third in the world, and placed UT at the top in the Asia-Pacific region and 20th in the world. UT, a national university with an enrollment of about 29,000, was founded in 1868. State-funded UC Berkeley, enrolling 35,000, was founded in 1869. Each relies on declining taxpayer support.

"Both universities are trying to work within these restrictions to provide a high-quality public education at relatively low cost and compete with the elite private institutions in the world, so they have many issues in common," Murayama said. "I believe that both universities have a lot to learn from each other, and my grand goal is to enhance collaboration."

Akihiko Tanaka, UT executive vice president for international affairs, led the effort to sign the agreement. Hiroaki Aihara, associate dean of the UT Graduate School of Science, and Murayama worked on negotiations and correspondences between two universities.