CONFIRMATION that Japan’s Nihon University has chosen Newcastle as its first bricks-and-mortar Australian campus is another sign of this city’s economic and social rebirth.
Although details of the proposal are yet to be made public, Nihon’s track record – especially its extensive international links – bodes well for its future. Founded in 1889 as the Nihon Law School, this privately owned institution has about 75,000 undergraduate students across various colleges and campuses, studying a full suite of subjects from medicine and dentistry through to science, technology, economics and the arts.
At this point, it is unlikely to perceive itself as a direct competitor with our home-grown institution, the University of Newcastle. With plans for just 200 or so students at the Church Street campus, it would be the smallest of minnows to a Novocastrian whale. Indeed, in his opening remarks, Kichibee Otuska, the university’s president, stressed Nihon’s desire to collaborate and cooperate with other institutions.
With Newcastle University’s futuristic NeW Space building moving closer to completion, and with an innovation hub planned for the nearby former TPI House site in King Street, the Newcastle CBD is building an increasing presence as an education destination.
The arrival of a Japanese university – and its decision to choose Newcastle for its first Australian campus – can only help put Newcastle on the tertiary education map.
At a time when universities are increasingly international, it is worth remembering that Newcastle University already has a presence in Singapore, as well as a centre in the Sydney CBD offering a range of courses aimed mainly at graduate and international students.
It will take some time for Nihon University’s Novocastrian vision to take shape, but there is every reason to expect that its plans for the site will respect the courthouse’s heritage importance, while giving new life to a group of buildings that the state government was no longer interested in owning.
It is worth noting, too, that this is not Newcastle’s first modern tie-up with Japan. In 1980, Newcastle began a sister-city relationship with Ube – a relationship that was particularly strong during our steelmaking years. As Newcastle feels its way forward in this post-industrial era, a new relationship, fostered with Nihon University, may prove to be even more important.