This chapter examines how collaboration among university, Indigenous community, and private sector companies can promote Ainu participation in higher education, drawing on a case study of the Urespa Project at Sapporo University, Japan. In this project, the university offers scholarships to Ainu students, requiring them to take a special course in Ainu Culture and History and develop collaborations with partner private sector companies.
We suggest that the mutual learning approach that the Urespa Project advocates signifies a challenge to the conventional approach to Ainu education, which has long centred on the majority Wajin providing unidirectional assistance to the Ainu in order to help them achieve the national educational benchmarks. The ‘mutual learning’ approach (sodateai in Japanese, urespa in the Ainu language) stresses a nurturing environment in which both Ainu and non-Ainu students feel included. That such initiatives came from private universities rather than the national government is indicative of how Ainu education is perceived as a local rather than a national issue in Japan.