New Year’s Address (4th January 2017)

Happy New Year!
To mark the beginning of this year Heisei 29 (2017), let me say a few words by way of a greeting.
I sincerely hope that this coming year will bring good tidings of health and happiness.

Looking back at the year 2016, it will probably be remembered as the year that added another layer to global turmoil.

In a national referendum known as ‘Brexit’ back in June last year, the UK decided to leave the EU. Another shocking piece of world news was the result of the US Presidential election in November. Contrary to popular expectation, Mr. Trump from the Republican Party was nominated as the next President of the United States of America. Incidentally, this outcome was decided in the same month that Mr. Fidel Castro, former President of Cuba and adversary of America, passed away.

In East Asia, while China steadily expanded her territorial march, North Korea repeatedly conducted nuclear tests and test-launched ballistic missiles.

Turning our attention to domestic affairs in Japan, a sense of uncertainty seems to be penetrating the nation. Although last December saw the Diet’s approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), its actual enforcement now seems to be in doubt, since Mr. Trump has already expressed his intent for the US to withdraw from the TPP. 

There also was a piece of news last year concerning a possibility of one Japanese blue-chip company likely to post a huge loss amounting to several hundred billion yen.

Right under our noses, the situation surrounding national universities is becoming increasingly hostile. It is still fresh in our memories that one well-known Japanese university announced a drastic plan to reduce personnel expenses last year. While the reduction of administrative cost subsidies for national universities remains a focus, Hiroshima University is also obliged to implement systematic and ongoing personnel expense reductions.

With this in mind, last April Hiroshima University set up a new organizational unit called “the Academy”, with the intention of providing a cohesive unit of and for all of the teaching staff at the university. I would like to figure out together how to maximize the performance capabilities of the Academy. 

Last year, a book entitled “Can Hiroshima University be in the Top 100 Universities in the World?” was launched from a bookseller PHP. Hiroshima University’s selection as one of 22 universities with a “Program to enhance research universities” and as one of 13 “Type A (Top Type) universities under the FY2014 Top Global University Project” by MEXT, represents a promise to Japanese society to be ranked within the Top 100 Universities in the world.
Meanwhile, a British news service agency, Reuters News, released the “Top 75: A list of Asia’s most Innovative Universities,” in which Hiroshima University was ranked in 26th place (10th position among Japanese universities). I am extremely keen for Hiroshima University to move forward as a united front towards our goal, with all of its faculty members, students, and alumni progressing as one. 

Towards the end of November last year, MEXT (the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) released a notice concerning a public invitation of ‘Designated National University Corporation in the Third Mid-Term Plan Period.’ As a prerequisite, the notice stated that the applicant should already be within the top 10 universities in more than one category from each of the following three fields: “research capabilities,” “international cooperation,” and “collaborative relationship with society.”

Hiroshima University (HU) was intending to apply during the Third Mid-Term Plan Period. However, while HU fulfilled the requirements for “Research Capabilities,” HU failed in the areas of “Collaborative relationship with society” and “International cooperation.” Hence, we are contemplating to win the nomination in the Fourth Mid-Term Plan Period.

We intend to clarify the path and process by drawing up and realizing the future vision of Hiroshima University. In order to accomplish this, we need to listen to and understand the opinions of all members of HU. 

With the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Hiroshima University in 7 years’ time in mind, preparations for the commemorative events including the compilation of 75-year history will commence this year. I am eagerly anticipating ideas and suggestions, which are appropriate for the 75th anniversary, from faculties and administrative members as well as from the student body at HU.

It is expected that this Spring will witness a Hiroshima City announcement on the future pathway for the conservation & utilization for the No. 1 building of the Faculty of Science located in the old site of Higashi Senda campus. Through cooperation with Hiroshima Prefecture and Hiroshima City, I feel Hiroshima University needs to accelerate the process of considering how to shape the future of the Higashi Senda campus 

It is interesting to ponder how the world is going to be this year. As Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin from the Nobel Foundation aptly expressed during the Nobel Prize award ceremony last December, in the present world where acts of terrorism and wars have become everyday affairs and populism is sweeping through, there seems to be a trend to dismiss science and knowledge.

We are often prone to become pessimistic by nature. However, I felt like I could see the light at the end of the tunnel when President Obama visited Hiroshima last May, and when Prime Minister Abe paid a visit to Pearl Harbor towards the end of last year.
Also, I often found myself drawing strength from the words of a German religious reformer, Martin Luther, who said“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
Indeed, it is useful to furnish ourselves with a hopeful mindset when the world seems to be full of uncertainties. Luther also left the following words: “Hope serves as strong courage and is a new determination.”

Hiroshima University was born with the founding principle "a single unified university, free and pursing peace." By constantly asking ourselves what we, as members of Hiroshima University, can do to realize a peaceful world full of hope, let us move forward together this new year.

I sincerely hope that 2017 will be a peaceful year for the world and be a good year for all faculty & administrative members as well as for the students at Hiroshima University.
Happy New Year!

4th January 2017
Mitsuo Ochi
President, Hiroshima University