In response to issues such as the declining birthrate, a harsh economy, and universalization, universities have begun to focus on strengthening relationships with their alumni. Alumni form a significant group of university supporters. Today, universities seek cooperation from their alumni in various ways, asking them for their views on educational achievement, involvement in management and operational matters, as well as financial donations and student support. Alumni often greatly contribute to their alma mater by providing such services. However, although the universities are enthusiastic in seeking support, they often do not offer beneficial services to their alumni. This results in the alumni's dissatisfaction with their alma mater.
To encourage more alumni involvement, it was conjectured that the "Alumni Services" provided by universities could be more effective. Universities could offer continued support to their alumni, which would in return, motivate the alumni to support their alma mater. For national universities in non-Tokyo areas, "Alumni Services" could become a tool to responsibly ensure that graduates who work locally are competent members of the work force. This might lead to the formation of a network involving universities and their local communities.
Based upon this hypothesis, a research project, "A Demonstrative Research on the Significance and Potentials of Alumni Services by Universities in Non-Tokyo Areas", was conducted, which positioned "Alumni Services" as "a system effective in building sustainable, mutually-supporting networks involving universities and their alumni."
This is a report on the present state of, and the various issues related to, Alumni Services offered by national universities.
1. The Present State
In March 2010 a questionnaire was sent to all 86 national universities in Japan. Forty-eight responded, all of which indicated that they provided Alumni Services in some form. In addition, about half of the universities that responded commented that they "emphasized the importance of Alumni Services," indicating an increasing awareness of the need for Alumni Services. However, although 75% of the large national universities replied that they "emphasized the importance of Alumni Services," only 31% of the smaller, universities in the non-Tokyo-area did so.
From these survey results, it became clear that there was a difference in the awareness and availability of Alumni Services in the large national universities when compared to the national universities in non-Tokyo areas.
2. Alumni Services as Described in Medium-Term Goals and Medium-Term Plans
National university corporations frequently included projects for the provision of Alumni Services in their medium-term targets and proposals. Specifically, the most common item was "strengthening the relations with alumni," followed by "donation requests," "building a network with alumni," and "establishing a reunion committee." Large national universities and national universities in large metropolitan areas especially emphasized "strengthening the relations with alumni."
Alumni Services were also included as part of the "globalization project" of the universities, with specific items such as "support for international alumni" and "organizing overseas reunions." Some plans included items of direct benefit to alumni, such as "employment support," "career enhancement support," and "lifelong learning opportunities".
3. Issues Regarding the Implementation of Alumni Services
The implementation of Alumni Services was greatly affected by the environment and circumstances pertaining to each university. Implementation is especially difficult for national universities in non-Tokyo areas. Operational subsidies have been cut and it has become increasingly difficult to secure funding for new projects. In addition, criticisms have been made about the cost-effectiveness of Alumni Services. There is some hesitation about implementing projects that focus only on alumni. Furthermore, many universities have had one or more predecessor institutions, resulting in multiple reunion committees; coordinating these committees is often a vexing issue for these universities. Finally, the handling of personal data was a large issue for all universities.
Today universities tend to expect a lot of their alumni. However, if universities want their support, beneficial services should be offered in return.
It is important to identify what the alumni expects of the universities, and what universities can offer as "sustainable alumni services."