President, World Maritime University
The World Maritime University (WMU) was established in 1983 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations. In the words of its Charter, it was set up “in recognition of the vital need to establish an international centre of excellence for the advancement of maritime and ocean education, research, capacity-building and economic development while promoting the role of women in the maritime and ocean sectors”. Over almost four decades, the University has been more than successful in this endeavour. As envisaged in its Charter, WMU is today recognised by the United Nations General Assembly and other stakeholders as the centre of excellence in maritime and ocean education, research, capacity-building and economic development.
Underpinned by the ten core values of leadership, integrity, respect, accountability, collaboration, innovation, transparency, efficiency, compliance, and sustainability, this unique University has succeeded in making available to the maritime and oceans community a context for superlative education. The University is proud of its 5,634 graduates (of which 1,254 are female) from 171 countries. They now occupy leadership positions across the world and continue to significantly impact policy and action at international, national and corporate levels. Of these graduates, 3,145 are from Asia (47 from Japan). Numerous others have benefited from WMU’s executive development courses, high-level policy interventions in States and signficant research outcomes. WMU’s impact over its short period of existence (rivalling those of more historic universities) shows the massive effect of global collaboration and the positive impact of the dedication of key stakeholders both internal and external to the University.
The University, however, cannot rest on its laurels. In its drive to produce global leaders in the maritime and ocean sectors, WMU has to acknowledge the unprecedented changes occurring on a number of fronts globally and be positioned at the forefront of proactive anticipation and response to the challenges presented by these changes. The United Nations has sought to address many of the significant challenges facing humanity through the seventeen UN SDGs. While all the UN goals are linked, goals 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 16, 17 are particularly relevant to the World Maritime University. In this brief article, the first two of these goals are highlighted.
By definition and per the University’s mandate, Goal 4 on Quality Education as applied to maritime higher education, is particularly relevant. It is critical that a continuous process of quality education is implemented. Such a quality paradigm will continue to be based on rigorous verifiable, transparent and innovative approaches to curriculum development, delivery and evaluation in respect of all its programmes.
Another goal of extreme relevance and importance to the University is Goal 5 on Gender Equality. As can be seen from the alumni figures, 30% of current alumni are female. The University is striving to reach gender parity (as regards enrolment into programmes) as quickly as possible. The general trend is positive with recent years seeing an increasing percentage of women enrolled. Currently institutional gender parity (numerical) has been achieved for the staff of the University. However, there is a distinct imbalance with respect to faculty. This is not surprising given that female representation in the maritime industry as a whole is only about 2%. However, the University is working assiduously towards gender parity with respect to faculty in the shortest possible time. We are pleased that as a whole, the total workforce of the University has achieved numerical gender parity.
Just as important as these internal targets is the University’s focus on awareness creation and education for women’s inclusion in the broader maritime and oceans industries. In the last few years, WMU has had many interventions to facilitate these. They include two major conferences (on “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community” and “Maritime Women: Global Leadership”), the establishment of a WMU Women’s Association for students, numerous workshops, papers and forums for discourse on improving women access to the maritime industry as a whole and ship operation in particular, and significant contributions to IMO’s projects on a “Global Strategy for Women Seafarers: Resourcing the Maritime Sector” and “Gender Evaluation and Auditing”. It is noteworthy that one of the key persons involved in this work is Dr. Momoko Kitada (Associate Professor) from Japan. There is also an ongoing research project on Empowering Women for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development at the WMU Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute, which has also been endorsed as an Ocean Decade Action by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO).
In summary, the future will see the University developing and implementing high-quality research and programmes appropriate for a wide range of adult learners and which are responsive to the needs of relevant stakeholders and global trends. The University will continue to build enhanced and effective partnerships and increase our significant power to convene: a place for engagement and dialogue between leaders in academia, governments, industry and other civil society actors such as non-governmental organizations, foundations and associations.
To do this, the University will continue to place high value on optimising its work environment, the development of our people and the optimisation of our internal process, meeting and exceeding the requirements of our double accreditation status.
WMU is working purposefully to impact the future even more than it has already done. The University wishes to thank the generous sponsors/donors who have supported it over the period of its existence. In this regard, Japan as a whole, and specifically the Nippon Foundation, has been exemplary. From granting of fellowships, provision of professorial chairs, institutional capacity-building (such as the very significant contribution in the setting up of the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute (GOI) in 2018), the hosting of field visits and in many other ways, the Nippon Foundation has been outstanding in its support of the University. The University gratefully acknowledges the leadership and contribution of the Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, Dr. Yohei Sasakawa in this respect. With gratitude, we also acknowledge the generous contributions of other Japanese corporate entities. The University has also been delighted by the ongoing contributions of Japanese alumni as representatives of Japan at forums of the IMO and elsewhere, including in the local Japanese context. WMU believes it can continue to count on Japan’s support and goodwill for WMU, and looks forward to increased collaboration and partnership (in the spirit of Goal 17 of the UNSDGs) as we all work together for a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world.