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Money woes to slow graduate school opening by four years

Date Posted: 2006-01-12

The long sought international graduate university for Okinawa is running behind schedule.

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology has been a political plum, attracting top names within the scientific communities as supporters, allies and faculty, but it’s hit a snag. OIST was to open in 2008 on a new campus near Onna Village, but that’s run afoul of money problems.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi broke the bad news this week, telling the public “If we can open in 2012, that’s a great success story.” Koizumi’s Trinity Reform Plan introduced across Japan a year ago has forced belt tightening at all levels of government, sending many projects to oblivion and others to a slower development pace. Koizumi hinted there’s more to the slowdown than just money, pointing out “there is concern about finding the special workers we need, and that takes time.”

Dr. Sidney Brenner has been selected President of the new international graduate school. His deputy as vice president is Dr. Masao Ito. The two are working closely with the Board of Governors, to recruit a world class faculty. The eight-mmber board itself is distinguished. Dr. Akito Arima is Chairman of the Japan Science Foundation, Dr. Steven Chu is Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Dr. Jerome Friedman and Dr. Susumu Tonegawa are professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the chairman of the board, is President of the Science Council of Japan, Dr. Jean-Morie Lehn is Professor at Louis Pasteur University, Dr. Torsten Wiesel is Secretary Genral of the Human Frontier Science Program Organization, and Dr. Hiroko Sho is Professor Emeritus at the University of the Ryukyus.

Even as the board conducts its faculty search, it is seeking additional budget. The board notes construction costs are escalating, and could damage even a 2012 opening day. One fear board members are expressing is a backlash from the central government caused by Okinawa’s governor, Keiichi Inamine.

Inamine has been pounding the Tokyo government over plans to move Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to the Nago City area, alienating many politicians and government leaders in the capital. They say they’re afraid the budget pipeline will tighten or dry up as Tokyo retaliates against Okinawa for resisting the military bases changes.

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