Pepperdine University is still pursuing a controversial plan to build a campus in Japan and expects to sign a contract to build the new college by the end of next month.
University officials, who were approached by members of a Japanese education task force more than a year ago, are scheduled to travel to the Orient next month to complete negotiations to build a small campus in Kumagaya, a Tokyo suburb. If the contract is signed in March, the campus could be ready to open as early as the fall of next year.
Attract U.S. Capital
Although early plans called for the Malibu-based college to build a $60-million campus in Japan, university Provost William Adrian said the proposal has been scaled down to $35 million. Adrian said financing continues to be the biggest stumbling block, adding that the university is trying to get Japanese investors to bankroll the entire project.
If the deal is completed, Pepperdine would become the first university in the United States to own and operate a campus in Japan.
"I'm optimistic that we're going to work it out, but until we sign on the bottom line, there's always a possibility things could change," Adrian said. "The group we're working with has indicated a great desire to have a university in Japan."
The proposal is part of a Japanese program to open up cultural and education centers for American and Japanese students. The education task force was established in 1987 by the Japanese government as part of a program to attract U.S. capital and ease trade friction between the two nations.
However, the program has received much criticism by officials from other U.S. universities that have been courted by the Japanese. Richard Lariviere, director of the Center for Asian Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, said earlier that although the Japanese contingent offered "lots of enticements," the school rejected the offer because financing was questionable and the proposal did not have the support of the Japanese Ministry of Education.
The Japanese education task force has also contacted officials at the University of Missouri, Southern Illinois University, Boston University and Bryn Mawr College. Pepperdine is the only school to express strong interest in the program.
Pepperdine was chosen because one of the task force members, Keiko Hirabayashi, attended the school several years ago and recommended it.
University officials have remained tight-lipped about negotiations. One Pepperdine administrator said that a story in The Times about the proposal last year nearly caused the Japanese to back out of the deal. He said that, among other things, the land set aside for the campus went up in price immediately after the story appeared.
Pepperdine President David Davenport declined a request to be interviewed about the negotiations.
Financing for the campus would be handled in part by Sumitomo Bank and by private investors. Pepperdine officials hope the Japanese government will contribute funding for the campus.
Adrian said plans for the campus include classroom facilities, a dormitory, a cafeteria, a conference center and recreational facilities. "It won't be a full-blown college campus," he said.
Adrian said the university had received assurances from the Japanese Ministry of Education that the college would be accredited to offer degrees. However, he said, the university initially would offer only certificate programs for Japanese students.
Like the university's overseas programs in London and Florence, Italy, Pepperdine students would be able to attend the Japan campus during their sophomore year. It would be open to Japanese and Pepperdine students, and classes will be taught in English.
In an interview last year, Davenport said the school would accommodate between 200 and 500 students.