Message from the President

会長理事 武川正吾
Shogo Takegawa

National Federation of
University Co-operative

1844 marked the birth of the first co-operative in the world, which was founded in Manchester, England. The founders were called the Rochdale Pioneers, and their pioneering work led to the establishment of co-operatives throughout the world. Rochdale’s former store is now a museum, still visited by visitors from around the world. I had a chance to visit the museum while I was in the UK.

The origins of student co-operatives in Japan can be traced back to consumer co-operatives in Doshisha before World War II and student co-operatives in Tokyo (with branches at Waseda University and the University of Tokyo). Despite this, it was not until after World War II that university co-operatives developed fully as they are today. Following the enactment of the Consumers’ Livelihood Co-operative Society Law in 1948, university co-operatives were established throughout Japan, and they continue to exist today.

The university co-operative is a unique type of organization. In what ways does it differ from supermarkets and convenience stores?

A university consists of students, faculty members, and staff members. University co-operatives are co-operatives that serve the purpose of providing university members with a fulfilling experience on campus. While there may be other stores on campus, a co-operative is an organization that is funded by its members, who are the consumers.

What does this mean? First, since both consumers and sellers/managers are members of the co-operative, we can be aware of the products that consumers wish to purchase. A Student Committee—a student-led organization within the co-operative—may be able to provide students, who are consumers themselves, with added value that is not available in other businesses’ stores. University co-operatives offer this particular advantage.

Second, it is important to emphasize that the co-operative is owned by its members, in the same manner as a corporation is owned by its shareholders. Consequently, the consumption activities of the co-operative members increase turnover (sales) and ordinary surplus (ordinary income), thereby increasing the assets of the co-operative members. When a similar item is purchased at a non-co-op store, it becomes the profit of that store, while when it is purchased at a co-operative, it becomes the profit of the investor (= member).

A growing number of university co-operatives creates a greater awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of each university co-operative over the others. Does the university fall under the category of a national university or a private university? Is it a science university or a liberal arts university? Is it a university in a large metropolitan area or a university in a rural area? A university can take on many different forms, even within the same word “university”. By taking advantage of economies of scale, we can offer inexpensive products to the members of our member co-operatives, and pool management risks to stabilize their financial standing. Since co-operatives were formed to help each other, it was a natural extension of this logic to have the individual co-operatives assist each other as well.

In 1957, the National Federation of University Co-operative Associations (NFUCA) was formed as an organization to foster solidarity between university co-operatives in Japan. Since then, we have been working toward resolving issues that are common to all our member co-operatives. It has been more than 60 years since the founding of the NFUCA. Challenges that were unthinkable in the past may arise in the future. As a sign of solidarity among its members, NFUCA will continue to work on solving such problems.