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New Year’s Address 2014.1.6

New Year’s Address 2014.1.6

January 6, 2014

New Year’s Address
“A University of Continual Growth” 2014

Happy New Year!

As the New Year starts, I dearly wish that 2014 will be happy, healthy and prosperous for all of you, for our university, our country and for all of human society.
Rapid changes in the environment surrounding human society makes these less predictable and so there are many new issues we must overcome: Energy issues due to the earth’s limited resources, depletion of resources such as food or water, and escalating air pollution and global warming increasingly causing natural disasters etc. Solving those environmental problems is extremely important for the future of the human society, and so a joint effort on a global scale is required to cope with them.
Also issues of democratization and territorial disputes have to be solved with a future-oriented long-term approach.
On the other hand, in both advanced and advancing nations, concentration of wealth is progressing, and the gap between the rich and the poor widens. We have to become aware of the fact that the interests of a few rich people greatly influence the whole human society. Prioritizing an economy seeking “material wealth” and “convenience” etc. has caused distortions. In order to correct them, we should heighten sensitivity and aim for a society where everyone shares the values of “spiritual richness” and each and every person is respected.
The delayed reconstruction of the disaster-hit areas in the Great East Japan Earthquake needs a lot of material and moral support. One more urgent issue is the problem of an aging society which is expected to assume serious proportions quite rapidly even in urban areas. We have to establish a multifunctional network supporting the needs of medical and nursing care in local communities and to create a society where strong human relationships function properly. To cope with issues such as falling birth rate and the decrease in population, we should take a serious look at the increasingly important roles of elderly people and women. We must also share our ancestors’ wisdom with the young to build an even stronger “mutually-supportive regional community” to provide a safe and secure future society.  
In a rapidly changing environment like this, the role of national universities is called into question. I think now is the time to accelerate the “Hiroshima University Reform” without following stereotypical patterns and work to increase the university’s educational and academic quality.
Needless to say that cultivation of human resources is very important for our society. In order to let students adopt the “attitude of lifelong learning” before graduation, it is important to offer productive programs to propel “proactive learning”.
Society requires young people who are able to overcome difficulties with not only specialized education, but also with knowledge of etiquette and social norms. Furthermore, in a continuously globalized world, the young should establish their independence and be aware of their identity as Japanese.

To cope with globalization, some big companies have established in-house liberal arts education courses and so the importance of general education for members of society has come to be recognized once again. What are necessary for world-wide active people are enough knowledge and wisdom to understand changes of social environment and a personality strong enough to accept these. But the most important thing is being independent, able to use one’s own judgment and to act according to one’s own will.
Hiroshima University has made efforts towards better liberal arts education, but even we have to improve the level.
Furthermore, the Leading Graduate Education Program which has started in October 2012 is a graduate school education project characteristic of Hiroshima University. I wish programs like this help to enrich graduate school education even more and make the University attractive for students.

Last year, Hiroshima University was selected as one of 19 leading research universities involved in the “program for promoting the enhancement of research universities”. This fact shows that society has high expectations with us and we have to respond to them. To raise the level of research, we are determined to build a world-class research base by selecting DP (Distinguished Professors) and DR (Distinguished Researchers) personnel and supporting them totally, as well as choosing and developing incubation bases providing them research rooms as priority. Also we will provide assistance to them utilizing URA (University Research Administrators) and technical personnel. To reach this goal, we should explore possible incubation bases after expanding our horizons of fundamental study and establishing a basis of research. Moreover, in order to create a structure which is complex, interdisciplinary and enables to promote fusion domain research, reforming the structures and establishing a research base beyond the borders of universities and states are necessary.

To foster global active human resources, it is important to give ambitious and capable students the opportunity to study abroad and to let them develop the mental force to cope with living conditions different to Japan. We have to implement our various overseas study programs, as well as cooperate with partner universities to promote common postgraduate programs and common degree programs. Students studying overseas should receive financial support from the government, but it is also necessary to expand assistance by external funds and from companies. The START program which was established in 2010 will be extended to a project able to absorb 250 students until 2014, which is 10% of the newly enrolled.

At the same time, we will also expand the number of foreign students. Accepting international students to graduate schools will improve the research ability. Therefore, we will verify the effects of studying abroad fairs we did at the end of last year and reinforce our information transmission capacity to reach the double number of 2,000 international students within 4 years. To accept foreign students, it is essential to design more attractive educational programs. Not only that, we have to take full advantage of the government’s financial support for international students.

Another important mission of the national universities’ is the contribution to community health care by educating medical specialists and through medical care network. In parallel with acting as a bastion of regional medicine in a comprehensive medical care system, we have to make an international contribution to the developing countries particularly in Asia through the cultivation of medical specialists.
We are expected to contribute to regional vitalization through joint researches with companies, enhancement of consignment studies and researches on regional contribution in partnership with local community. It is essential for us to revise old structures and enforce our efforts towards these local contributions.

According to the “national university reform plan” published by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in November 2013, national universities are required to reinforce their functions of governance, as well as to establish flexible personnel management and payroll systems taking advantage of being a corporate body. These requests correlate with the building of an educational research structure able to cope with the changes of social environment.
Aiming for a university that continues to progress, where students and faculty members study and act with vigor and enthusiasm, we are now implementing reforms in a unified manner and will show its clear direction early this year. I expect the university staff to work with clear goals and manage the university with the consciousness that contribution to the future society will bring them satisfaction.
I believe that if you never lose the resolute aim of fostering human resources, then you will not be influenced by the big changes in social environment.

It is our important mission to contribute to the future society by recognizing the position of our country’s future in the global society with its progressively aging population and declining birth rate, understanding very well the role it has to play, brushing up our command of English which is an international common language but after learning enough about Japanese culture and language, gaining a broad view and deep vision, and by producing excellent members of society who possess a rich humanity.

 I wish that our university will progress in this New Year and that the students, the faculty members and the whole of humanity will have a bright and hopeful year.

Toshimasa Asahara
President, Hiroshima University