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New Year’s Address 2012.1.4

New Year’s Address 2012.1.4

January 4, 2012

Happy New Year! As the New Year starts, I dearly wish that 2012 will be happy, healthy and prosperous for all of human society.

Last year, Japan had to face the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, which was a disaster for the whole country. Hiroshima University supported the afflicted areas by sending not only relief supplies,financial aid and student volunteers, but also by continuously dispatching healthcare teams and radiation disaster emergency response teams. However, it is assumed that it will take many years to complete recovery and to contain the aftermath of the nuclear accident. In the United States and Europe, there is financial instability, while in Greece, Spain and Italy the Prime Ministers have changed, and the influence from all of these has been felt around the world . The movement for democratization in North Africa and in the Middle East rather constituted a serious destabilizing factor for the security of society. Furthermore, in 2012, there will be elections or changes of leadership in the USA, Russia, China and other major nations. Human society will be seriously destabilized, and we will enter a period of upheaval around the globe. We must think about how we will continue to live in this changing environment.

Last year, the possible existence of the Higgs Particle as a base substance of mass was highly publicized. In last year’s December issue of Chuokoron, James Watson, the discoverer of the double helix DNA molecular structure, said that it will soon be possible to defeat cancer, one of the greatest challenges of humanity, and that our next goal in the field of biology will be to define the development and mechanism of the brain and combat aging and obesity. A group of researchers at Kochi University had precious results in animal testing and declared that at the beginning of this year they have started to make clinical trials in order to cure cerebral palsy, a rare condition that affects newborns even in case of normal delivery, by using stem cells from the blood of the umbilical cord.

The development of academic research shows us that one new discovery follows the next, and we hope that the results will contribute to human society.

The “Phoenix Leader Education Program (Hiroshima Initiative) for Renaissance from Radiation Disaster” was adopted for the 2011 Program for Leading Graduate Schools. Hiroshima University’s program overcame the hard competition, competing with 63 universities and 101 proposals, where only 13 universities and 21 proposals were selected. Our university’s efforts to help the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake were highly praised. Our program is a Degree Program for development of interdisciplinary human resources, including the fields of humanities and social sciences and playing a leading role in the recovery process, especially in responding to radiation disasters. The whole of our university will fully support the operation of this program to fulfill our obligation.

A global human society is quickly developing, and along with it there are many new and complex issues for mankind that have also arisen, such as environmental pollution, energy, food and water crises, conflicts, terrorism and more. Human society must come together and make efforts to overcome these issues. I think that there is a great need for “coexistence” in human society. However, there is no simple answer. We must face the problems head on, and resolve to address them one after the other.

Our university’s task is the “fostering of human resources able to build a society which is filled with hope in the future.” That means through world leading research on solving the problems of mankind, educating professional human resources that are able to be active in a global society.

For future young leaders of human society it is absolutely necessary to have the basic skills of behaving themselves as proper members of society. It is important that the university not only pursues specialized education, but also improves liberal arts education in order to train social ability.

University education should train broad-minded “strong manpower” with high spirits, ready to understand foreign cultures and overcome all kind of difficulties.

Of course, I don’t think that all of these features can only be provided at university through the lessons, but it is important to be familiar with these kinds of thoughts, to accept them and to acquire the ability and experience to make serious efforts while you are students.

International exchange is developing rapidly, and our university makes efforts to educate global manpower that is able to be active in a global society.

Hiroshima University promotes the acceptance of international students and the creation of a ‘global campus’. Our university will also consolidate the systems of overseas language study, short-term study abroad programs and of INU-network long-term study abroad. Furthermore, we have started supporting presentations of Graduate Students at international conferences. I believe that efforts to foster global human resources are connected to the development of basic skills for members of society; they happen together.

It has already been 8 years since the incorporation of the National Universities. There have been several reforms such as the improvement of hospital operations or the introduction of the flexible personnel system, but the environment has become highly competitive and we must make evaluative efforts even though we have less time to spend on education and research. I feel these are clearly issues. We will make the greatest efforts to solve these problems, and we have the responsibility of defining what the role of a National University is to the public.

There are many demands and questions about Japanese higher education: “Are Japanese universities on a world-class standard?” –“Are there too many universities?” – “Do the universities have the ability to cultivate proper human resources?” The importance of universities’ existence is called into question and there are loud voices demanding improvements of the personnel training for teachers and medical staff, a future vision of a Law School and university reform in general. Currently there is great need for financial assistance after the Great East Japan earthquake and a tight strain on public funds that requires careful fiscal restraint, and as a result of this conflict in needs, our nation must come together to overcome these difficulties and the role of universities needs to be questioned. The National Universities must fulfill their duty and make efforts toward building a “society that cherishes the human bond that is filled with hope in the future.” I think, it is the task of our university to contribute to that. Therefore, we must raise the level of education and research as under consideration, and promote university reforms.

I hope that 2012 will be fruitful for Hiroshima University and human society. Let’s start the New Year together and never forget to reflect our original intensions of doing our best for the future society.

Toshimasa Asahara
President, Hiroshima University


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