SERC recently celebrated its 10th Anniversary of Academic links with the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Toyama College, Japan.

The event, held at the SPACE Campus, attracted representatives who have been involved in making and sustaining the connection for both colleges over the past decade.

Attendees were welcomed by SERC Principal and Chief Executive Ken Webb who discussed the international links between Northern Ireland and Japan and illustrated how the connection spearheaded many of SERC’s current partnerships that are underway today.

Next, David Farrell and Dr Naruse provided an overview of the partnership from its inception. The link between SERC and NIT started thanks to former SERC lecturers David Milford who approached Terry Francis MBE with the idea and in Terrys own words said, ‘let’s go for it.

David Farrell was then appointed as the education links officer in London to help forge the link between the two colleges.

In 2007 the immediate benefits of the partnership were quickly evident to both parties and a formal agreement was signed between SERC and TNCT in 2010 committing the Colleges to a long-term programme. Exploratory visits followed by Professor Naruse, the then Vice Principal of Toyama College.

Under the leadership of David Milford, several student exchange projects have taken place over the years. Since 2012, 88 Japanese students have participated in month-long student exchange programmes at SERC, where they studied English, engineering and business management.

In 2012 David Milford and SERC students spent a week at NIT, attending classes and engaging in joint projects and research.

Next, International Development Manager Janice Cooke paid tribute to all of those who have been part of and have given up much of their time to ensure the continuation of the link with NIT. Janice said “Our partnership has grown, and staff work tirelessly when visits are taking place, integrating the Japanese interns into classes, organising activities or group project work.” As part of joint projects, hugely significant two-year funding was secured in 2015 for SERC and Toyama College to work closer together. SERC was also the first college within the UK to receive Erasmus+ funding for an International Credit Mobility outside of Europe.

In 2013, SERC hosted the third International Symposium on Expertise in Sustainable Society conference on behalf of NIT Toyama college, with speakers from 12 academic institutions. The conference was recognised as the only Japan400 event held in Northern Ireland marking the 400th anniversary of Japan-British Relations.

Trevor Breadon, SERC Head of School for Engineering and Computing discussed the robotic work that has taken place at SERC and has been a common interest of both colleges. Trevor said, “thanks to the link the opportunity to upskill and expose students to the robotics industry has been a great opportunity”. Trevor went onto explain that SERC staff members have attended Robocon in Japan which led to SERC creating and running its own Robocon event in 2017. Which this year SERC hope to invite colleges from Scotland to take part in the event.

Trevor then handed over to Paula Philpott, Head of Learning Academy at SERC who discussed the delivery of training and researching taking place between both colleges and active learning programmes. In 2016 training took place in Imizu Campus and Hongo Campus of NIT where active learning approaches, evidence-based teaching and technology enhanced learning were the focus.

President Takamasa from NIT closed the ceremony praising SERC for their hospitality and discussed his aspirations for the future of the partnership. Following the ceremony, guests were given a tour of the SPACE Campus and got an opportunity to speak to students studying at the college and witness the projects currently underway. The presentation was formally closed with the exchange of gifts.

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