Sylff – 16,000 Fellows from 69 Universities Around the WorldMarking 25 years in China, scholarship program for unique young leaders is building a nationwide network to promote mutual understanding between Japan and China

The Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff) was initially established at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in the United States in 1987, to cultivate human resources who can be engaged in an increasingly complex international society. Over the 31 years since then, 16,000 fellows at 69 universities in 44 countries around the world have received scholarships from the fund.

Sylff’s objective is to “Identify and nurture leaders who will overcome differences in nationality, language, ethnicity, religion, and political systems to tackle global issues.” A fund is established at each university in the amount of one million dollars, and the interest from that fund is used as the scholarship money. The fund is donated by The Nippon Foundation, and the program is administered by our partner organization the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research. Unlike other private-sector scholarship programs, Sylff is exceptional for its broad, global, geographic coverage. To build on this strength, the Sylff Association was launched last year to mark the program’s 30th anniversary.

Ten of the Sylff-affiliated universities are in China, which also accounts for roughly half of the fellows, at 8,000. With cooperation from China’s Ministry of Education and the China Education Association for International Exchange, a national organization has been established, clearing the way for new activities to bring about mutual understanding between Japan and China. Fellows in China are mostly graduate students in the field of humanities and social sciences, and receive 20,000 – 30,000 yuan (US$2,900 - $4,400) annually for two years.

Five Chinese universities joined the program in 1992 – Peking University, Fudan University, Jilin University, Lanzhou University, and Nanjing University – and in 1994 they were joined by Chongqing University, Inner Mongolia University, Xinjiang University, Yunnan University, and Sun Yat-sen University to bring the total to ten. From late June through early July of this year, the five schools that joined the program in 1992 held belated 25th anniversary ceremonies, and representatives of all 10 Chinese universities attended the ceremony at Peking University. There, they agreed to set common criteria for selection to the program, and to establish and strengthen support programs for projects being carried out by fellows outside China or that have a particularly strong social impact.

Group photo of Sylff fellows and persons involved with the program, taken in Beijing on June 29

Although awareness of the Sylff program has seen a relative decline in recent years as China’s economy has developed and numerous other scholarship programs have appeared, the program aims to leverage the fact that it has produced 16,000 fellows at 69 universities in 44 countries to increase its presence and brand recognition further.

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