New Year’s Address “We are great, Hiroshima University!” Let's proudly march forward
Happy New Year! I sincerely hope that all teachers, staff, and students have a wonderful year ahead of them.
Looking back at 2015, the year commemorating 70 years after World War II, to sum it up in few words it has been a year of chaos and anxiety. In international affairs, there were frequent terror attacks worldwide by Islamist extremists. Many citizens have become victims to such violence such as in France. And in conjunction with the increasing formation of and infiltration by terrorist organizations, many refugees have fled from the flames of war to European countries. This situation is shaking the foundations of democratic societies across the globe.
Turning our eyes on domestic affairs, the National Diet enacted security-related laws. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations have also reached a broad agreement. Furthermore, land reclamation work for the U.S. military base has started in the coastal area of Henoko, Okinawa. I think there is no doubt that the year 2015 will be regarded as a year with historical turning-points.
In a situation like this, and with the Third Midterm Goal Period starting this April, national universities have been forced to make drastic changes. The Ministry of Finance proposed at the Fiscal System Council meeting that management expenses grants be cut down by 1 percent each year and, in turn, that universities should increase their self-generated income by 1.6 percent each year to cover the budget cut from the fiscal year 2016. Fortunately, the budget proposals for the fiscal year 2016 have been released, and the University will likely receive the same budget as the previous year. However, there is little hope that the harsh situation for universities will change anytime soon considering Japan's current financial situation.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) issued a notice to all national universities regarding faculties and graduate schools of teacher training, humanities, and social sciences. They were requested to draw up an organizational reform plan of such programs given the decreasing 18-year-old population, demand for human resources, quality assurance in education and research, and the changing role of national universities. They were also called on to take “active steps to abolish organizations or to convert them to serve areas that better meet society’s needs”. It is still fresh in our minds that the notice caused significant ripples both in and beyond national universities. I believe that knowledge of humanities and social sciences is the foundation of a liberal arts education and is essential for one to perform well in any society. This does not mean, however, that we should remain unchanged. It is indispensable for one to have an open-minded attitude throughout life as well as a willingness to improve oneself no matter one’s field of specialization. Whether you are here in Japan or living overseas, it is your consideration for others, and the depth of your liberal arts education, that will help to determine whether you will stand out, and be respected, as an individual. I hope the students here at Hiroshima University will grow to be specialists with a broad education beyond their field of specialization.
I am going to submit a proposal for the Third Midterm Goals and Plans to MEXT this month. The Midterm Goals will be set by MEXT in March and the Midterm Plans will be approved. We must enhance the university's structure so as to make optimum use of our strength and characteristics recognized by the “Redefinition of the Mission of National University”. It is indispensable to realize the "Hiroshima University Innovation Initiative" to steadily achieve the target values published in concept statements of “Program for promoting the enhancement of research universities”, and the “Top Global University Project” (Type A). We must make appropriate achievements as a national university that has selected the framework of the Priority Support No. 3, “Principally, a national university that ranks among overseas universities that are creating excellent results, and puts core values in university-wide distinguished educational research and promotion of approaches for society implementation”.
Furthermore, the much awaited Academic Association will start this April. It is strongly expected that all teachers will demonstrate their highest performance despite having limited resources. It is also expected that a new system under the president’s leadership, where all teachers take part in developing the university's education and research beyond their own department, will be established. The separation of educational and research organizations is nothing but a part of our university’s reform plans. I hope to improve such processes even by just a little bit while overseeing them. Rather than creating “superficial measures” in response to current times and trends, I would like to consider real innovation that looks ahead to the next hundred years.
How should Hiroshima University move towards the future? I believe we can only answer this question by merging different points of view, other than just those of Executive Board or the Education and Research Council, in order to form innovative concepts and implement them with speed.
Therefore, a new President's advisory organization called the Future Strategic Planning Committee has been established, its members consisting mainly of young teachers. I have strong hopes that this committee will play a major role in promoting "extraordinary" proposals for innovation.
I proposed a new motto, "University of World-wide Repute and Splendor for Years into the Future," upon my inauguration as the 12th president. I have spoken frequently on how great Hiroshima University is whenever I receive the opportunity to give a lecture or an address at events. In fact, I had not known much about the research being done on Higashi-Hiroshima campus as I have spent most of my time on Kasumi campus. However, when visiting each of the graduate schools and institutions of learning, and speaking firsthand with the staff, students, and professors of the Higashi-Hiroshima campus, I was moved by the greatness of this school. It is a pity, but a reality, that our great achievements are not widely known. I intend to conduct public relations campaigns in order to enhance the university's brand image. I am sure that such efforts will ultimately influence students, staff, and teachers to have even more pride in and love for our university, and this, in consequence, will positively impact the quality of our education and research.
Although national universities are currently said to be under a headwind, a situation that is predicted to worsen as time goes on, I believe that we at Hiroshima University can reverse such forecasts.
"We are great, Hiroshima University!" Let us walk together, hand in hand, toward our goals so teachers, staff, students, and alumni can sing this phrase with even more confidence.
Lastly, I visited Cairo city in Egypt at the end of last year with Executive and Vice President Sato. This visit was to conclude MOUs (memorandum of understanding), one with Cairo University and one with Ain Shams University. Last year marked a new chapter, as it was 70 years after the war and 70 years after the atomic bombing. Atomic bomb survivors are decreasing, and there has been criticism that the formula “Hiroshima=Atomic Bombing=Peace” has begun to lose relevance in this age. However, during my visit to Egypt I came to realize exactly how valuable a role Hiroshima and Hiroshima University serve in continuing to promote messages of peace. Given the circumstances of the world today, with frequent acts of terrorism and regional disputes, I was greatly moved by those I met along my travels, whose understanding for the role and significance of Hiroshima University’s Peace Studies Program is both deep and sincere.
As mentioned earlier, I would like to wish a great year for all of you at Hiroshima University as well as pray for a peaceful world. I would like to conclude my address with hopes that each and every member of Hiroshima University will think about what they can do for Hiroshima University and the world.
I wish you my sincerest congratulations today. Happy New Year!
President, Hiroshima University