Building a Stronger Partnership of “Like-Minded” Universities

Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger, President of Vienna University of Economics and Business

Satoshi Nakano, President of Hitotsubashi University

October 2, 2023

* The positions are as of the time of the interview in May 2023.


Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) is one of Hitotsubashi University’s international exchange agreement partners and a founding member of Societal Impact & Global Management Alliance (SIGMA),*1 a global network of universities to which our university belongs. On the occasion of President Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger’s visit to Japan for the SIGMA Annual Meeting held at Hitotsubashi University’s Sano Shoin Hall in May 2023, a talk was arranged between Professor Hanappi-Egger and our president, Satoshi Nakano. This article covers the two president’s discussion on such topics as President Hanappi-Egger’s personal history, the significance of SIGMA, and her expectations for Hitotsubashi University.

*1: Past articles on SIGMA can be found at:

532_img01Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger
Professor Hanappi-Egger studied at the University of Technology Vienna where she earned a master’s degree in computer science in 1987 and a PhD in technical sciences in 1990. After serving as a guest researcher at Stockholm University in Sweden and the University of Toronto in Canada, and as an assistant researcher at the University of Technology Vienna, she became an assistant professor at the Institute of Design and Software Engineering at Vienna University of Technology in 1992, and associate professor for Applied Computer Science in 1996. Professor Hanappi-Egger was a guest professor in 2002 and full professor in 2004 at the Department of Management at Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU). Since 2015 she has served as WU’s president, the first female in the university’s history. One of her main publications is “The Triple M of Organizations: Man, Management and Myth,” Interdisciplinary Studies in Economics and Management, 2011, Springer-Verlag New York.

532_img02Satoshi Nakano
Satoshi Nakano studied at Hitotsubashi University, where he graduated from the Faculty of Law in 1983, completed a doctoral program without a degree at the Graduate School of Social Sciences in 1990, and earned a PhD in social sciences in 1996. His fields of research are area studies, American history, Philippine history, and contemporary Japanese history. After working from 1990 as an assistant professor in the College of Liberal Arts and as an assistant professor and associate professor in the Faculty of Cross-Cultural Studies at Kobe University, he became an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1999 and a professor in the Graduate School of Social Sciences in 2003 at Hitotsubashi University. Satoshi Nakano served as Dean of the Graduate School of Social Sciences from 2014 and Vice President from 2016 before being appointed as President of Hitotsubashi University in 2020.

From computer science to gender research

532_img04Nakano: Today I am happy to welcome the president of Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), Professor Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger. Hitotsubashi university and Vienna University of Economics and Business keep a strong and positive relationship both as international exchange agreement partners and as fellow members of the SIGMA alliance. And President Hanappi-Egger has kindly accepted to serve as one of the three advisors of our university’s international advisory board. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we didn’t hava a chance to have an in-depth discussion, so it is a great pleasure to talk to you today.

Hanappi-Egger: Thank you. I am very happy to be here, too.

Nakano: For starters, what can you tell us about your personal history?

Hanappi-Egger: Early on I was interested in computer science. After studying at universities in Canada and Sweden, I obtained a PhD in technical science from Vienna University of Technology in 1990, and my PhD thesis received the Hrabak Dissertation Prize from the university. While conducting research towards my degree, I began to take an interest in gender issues around the world. Today, my area of specialty is gender and diversity in organizations.

Nakano: So gender was not your original area of research?

Hanappi-Egger: No, it wasn’t. I have conducted research on system-development and workflow modelling. and was guestprofessor at several international research institutions such as Stockholm University, the University of Toronto, the Center for Welfare and Labor Research at Oslo , the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, Goethe University in Frankfurt, and more recently, at the London School of Economics Within my research I had to do a lot of organizations studies and observed massive gender-dynamics. So I became interested in avoiding gender stereotyping in computer-models.

Fieldwork at the largest hospital in Vienna

532_img03Nakano: What kind of research have you done on gender in organizations?

Hanappi-Egger: My first huge research project was on surgery planning and I did fieldwork, addressing efficiency in surgery planning and work flow management at the largest general hospital in Vienna. It became clear that the cooperation of several different professionals caused some problems: A gender-specific distribution of tasks with different ways of visibility.

Another issue involved the cooperation and time-management between surgeons and anesthesiologists. Generally, patients are given theanesthesia after the surgeon enters the operating room. Many of the hospital’s surgeons, however, complained that the waiting time for the anesthesia to take effect was wasting their time. They wanted the patient already anesthetized when they came in so the surgery could begin right away. The anesthesiologists, meanwhile, argued they didn’t know when the surgeons would actually show up in. There was a discrepancy in how the surgeons and the anesthesiologists perceived the time in question, and a close study found the anesthesiologists to be right. This is just one example of organizational issue playing a crucial role in work flow management.

Nakano: It seems the surgeons harbored an unconscious bias that their position was higher than that of the anesthesiologists.

Hanappi-Egger: And even more, there was an unconscious gender bias ignoring the importance of “female” tasks such as preparing the patient or cleaning the surgery room. Gender perceptions exist everywhere, and biases are based not just on gender but job roles as well.

“The Triple M of Organizations”


Nakano: I was intrigued to read your 2011 book, “The Triple M of Organizations: Man, Management, and Myth.”

Hanappi-Egger: Thank you. As the title states, the “Triple M” refers to “Man, Management, and Myth.” The book aimed to identify the important issues that frequently arise in discussions on gender in management and organizations and to reveal that those are really myths creating barriers for women and reproducing the power of male professionals.

Nakano: I was also quite impressed by how the cover page of each chapter cites a quote from William Shakespeare and the introduction begins with a quote from the Vienna-native economic sociologist Karl Polanyi. They certainly demonstrate the depth and breadth of your knowledge.

Hanappi-Egger: I am flattered.

Motivating students to study

Nakano: Another question I would like to ask you, from one university president to another, is about university management. About half of Hitotsubashi University’s total revenue derives from government grants, a quarter from student tuition and fees, and another quarter from external sources such as donations. Can you tell us about your university’s budget?

Hanappi-Egger: More than eighty percent of WU’s revenue comes from government grants. But this is a lump-sum so based on a performance contract with the ministry we are autonomous how to spend the money – within a legal framework of course. We do not have tuition fees, so students from the EU, including Austria, can study tuition-free.

Nakano: That’s incredible. What about international students from countries outside the EU?

Hanappi-Egger: They pay around 700 euro, which is not too expensive.

Nakano: That converts to around 110,000 yen. I presume your university hardly faces any financial issues, but what other challenges do you face?

Hanappi-Egger: Our main challenge is motivating students to actively study and to graduate since we do not have any instrument to force students to take a course or to complete their programs.

Nakano: I understand. When I was a student at Hitotsubashi University, from the end of the 1970s to the early 1980s, the annual tuition was approximately 100,000 yen. Students were not eager to get their money’s worth from the education offered; the low cost was definitely one reason why they spent a lot of time on activities other than academics. Today the university’s tuition is around 600,000 yen per year, and I believe this higher tuition is a factor driving students to take their coursework more seriously.

The story behind “like-minded universities” and the expectations for Hitotsubashi University


Nakano: Now, let us turn to the SIGMA alliance comprised of WU Vienna, Singapore Management University, Universität St. Gallen of Switzerland, Copenhagen Business School of Denmark, Université Paris Dauphine-PSL of France, ESADE Business School of Spain, Fundação Getulio Vargas of Brazil, Renmin University of China, and Hitotsubashi University of Japan. This initiative aims to enhance the global presence of nine “like-minded universities” around the world by further strengthening exchanges and cooperation in research and education. The name “Societal Impact & Global Management Alliance” expresses the network’s aspiration to deeply explore the various challenges surrounding management—not in a narrow sense of management as in business management but in a broad sense of management in a global context, including social, economic, political, and global environmental dimensions—while emphasizing the societal impact of the knowledge that universities disseminate. Of SIGMA’s nine university presidents, you have been a member of the network since its founding. Given that history, I would like to ask how SIGMA’s predecessor alliance became a gathering of “like-minded universities.”

Hanappi-Egger: When the founding members first discussed what kind of universities should be invited into the alliance, it was agreed that the criteria should not be vague and that the network should have clear standards, so we decided to gather “like-minded” universities. In other words, our prime concern was that the members shared the same priorities and values. And those priorities today are focused on research and on leadership development education based on research results. The network is also committed to sustainability. In our business courses, for instance, we teach economic and corporate theories of course, but we also emphasize on the impacts on society in terms of sustainability. It is fair to say that SIGMA members understand and share the same values.

Nakano: "Leadership development education based on research results" is a spirit that has been a part of our university's identity since its founding, and I resonate with this "Like-Minded" spirit. What are your future expectations for SIGMA going forward?

Hanappi-Egger: SIGMA is a small yet very strong network, having been a group of like-minded institutions since its founding, as I mentioned earlier. Today, the world faces the common, grave challenge of sustainability, and addressing this challenge has been one of SIGMA’s goals since its establishment. I have high expectations for the alliance to demonstrate a greater commitment to sustainability and take action. The member institutions, for example, organized a group of teaching staff to create a course dedicated to sustainability and more recently to digital transformation. I also hope to raise sustainability as an agenda item at SIGMA’s annual meetings to discuss solutions from a university management perspective.

Nakano: Can you tell us your expectations for Hitotsubashi University as a SIGMA alliance member?

Hanappi-Egger: Hitotsubashi University is an extremely valuable member of SIGMA and has built a strong partnership with WU for ten years. Comments from WU students who have studied at Hitotsubashi University reflect their appreciation of the personal as well as academic growth achieved during their time at your university.

Nakano: What exactly did they say?

Hanappi-Egger: It seems that experiencing a different culture had the greatest impact. They said they learned a lot from that experience. Japanese people are generally very polite, as is often said, and the students felt we could learn more from them. They were also very proud to have attended Hitotsubashi University as exchange students. On the academic front, the students wanted to take as many courses of interest as possible to earn the required credits, so they wished there were more courses taught in English.

Nakano: I see. I once taught a course in English where half the students were international, including some exchange students from WU. The students appeared to find the course stimulating, having discussions on Japan, Austria, and other countries as well as engaging in group work, and I also enjoyed teaching the class. We hope to increase the number of courses taught in English so that more students can have such experiences.

Hanappi-Egger: Please do. We look forward to such courses.

Recommended experiences for Japanese exchange students


Nakano: Conversely, do you have a chance to meet students from Hitotsubashi University at WU?

Hanappi-Egger: I myself don’t have much opportunity to talk to them directly, but I do make sure that the vice president and deans submit reports on the exchange students for my review. We assess factors like which university collaborations are going as well as the balance between outgoing and incoming exchange students, in relation to all our partner institutions including Hitotsubashi University. And we always read the feedback from the exchange students who come to WU. Hitotsubashi University students provide wonderful feedback, with some saying they feel welcome here, others saying they are learning a lot in a different culture. Many of the comments from our professors who teach them are also positive. I believe WU and Hitotsubashi University have a good partnership underway.

Nakano: What kind of experiences do you recommend for Japanese exchange students during their year-long stay?

Hanappi-Egger: First, I want them to enjoy our beautiful campus and the diversity of our student body. About half the students in WU’s master’s programs are from outside Austria, coming mostly from central and eastern Europe, and almost 90 percent of e.g. the doctoral students in international taxation or finance are international. Also, the city of Vienna has so much to offer culturally and scenically, so I would like our Japanese exchange students to enjoy the city to the fullest. There is opera, for example. What’s great about Vienna is that ticket prices are reasonable enough for students to afford, so I encourage them to attend a performance or two. Furthermore, there are many museums, art galleries, and concert halls. Each January, WU hosts a ball that provides an excellent opportunity to meet and interact with students from various countries. It would be a great pleasure to have you attend the ball, President Nakano.

Nakano: Thank you. I would love to attend one day.

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of Hitotsubashi University


Hanappi-Egger: I would like to extend my warmest congratulations on the upcoming 150th anniversary of Hitotsubashi University. We hope to further deepen our ties with your university, not just with respect to the SIGMA commitments but also the collaborations between our two institutions. We could, for instance, promote the exchange of researchers and joint research projects.

Nakano: Thank you. Just as you said, Hitotsubashi University will be marking its 150th anniversary in 2025. Our university’s tradition is characterized by its focus on leadership development and research that contributes to solving social problems, as Dr. Hanappi-Egger described in reference to the attributes of “like-minded” universities. Universities with this kind of tradition are rare in Japan, and I am proud to say Hitotsubashi University is the only one among our country’s national universities.

Hanappi-Egger: I see.

Nakano: My first involvement with SIGMA was in my capacity as vice president for international affairs at a conference held at Singapore Management University in 2016 with Koichi Tadenuma, Hitotsubashi University’s president at the time. I remember well the discussions at the conference; I was truly delighted to learn there were universities elsewhere in the world that shared the same values as ours. In that sense, being part of the alliance has great significance for us. It is a tremendous honor and privilege for us to organize the SIGMA Annual Meeting and symposium in Tokyo this year. I strongly wish for SIGMA’s continued growth and further development of the partnership between our two institutions.

Hanappi-Egger: I thank you very much for hosting our meeting – and I could not agree more.

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