New Year’s Address (4th January 2018)

Happy New Year! To mark the beginning of this year, Heisei 30 (2018), please allow me to say a few words by way of a greeting. I sincerely hope that this coming year will bring everyone good tidings of health and happiness and will be the year for all of you to play active roles.

Looking back at the year 2017, I cannot recall any other year in recent times that has seen more frequent news headlines with  characters like「核」(nuclear) and「戦争」(war) than this year. Repeated nuclear weapons tests and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launches have heightened tensions in the East Asian region.

On the other hand, the non-governmental organization “International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)” has been awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, thanks to its ongoing efforts towards the adoption of a “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” at the UN General Assembly. I am sure that I am not the only one to see light at the end of a tunnel when Ms. Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima atomic bomb victim, now living in Canada, delivered a strong message following the Award Ceremony. The fact that the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature has gone to a Japanese-British writer, Mr. Kazuo Ishiguro, whose mother was a Nagasaki atomic bomb victim, is an extra piece of welcome news!

Mr. Ishiguro’s speech at the banquet which followed the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony, made a lasting impression on me. Apparently, when Mr. Ishiguro was five and his family was still living in Nagasaki, his mother told him that “the Nobel Sho (Nobel Prize)” was to promote “heiwa (peace).”  Mr. Ishiguro added, “The Nobel Prize is an idea that…helps us to think beyond our dividing walls, that reminds us of what we must struggle for together as human beings.” Perhaps it is his early-childhood experience that has contributed to shaping the core part of his novels.

What Mr. Ishiguro said in this speech, parallels with the “peace-pursuing spirit” of Hiroshima University, the founding principle of which is “a single university, free and pursuing peace.”

Since 2016, Hiroshima University has been holding an event called “The Hiroshima University Knowledge Forum---from Hiroshima University to the World.” We have invited Dr. Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh to visit us in March this year (2018). Dr. Yunus was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Grameen Bank, a microfinance, community development bank, which offers small loans to the impoverished without requiring collateral.

This year also sees a repeat of last year’s Hiroshima University special lecture series entitled ‘Spread Your Wings around the World with a Liberal Arts Education’ at which leaders from across the globe give lectures. From this academic year, all first-year students are required to register for this special-lecture program. More new guest speakers are expected in 2018 including Mr. Toyo Ito (architect) or Mr. Saburo Kawabuchi (first chairman of the Japan Professional Soccer League). I am hoping that these lectures will serve as the catalyst for those newly enrolled to ask themselves “What is the one thing that only I can do?” so that they may not become complacent about having entered Hiroshima University.

The School of Information and Data Science (soon to be the 12th School at HU) and the Department of Integrated Global Studies at the School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, will newly open in April this year. We are going to invite Dr. Yoshinori Osumi, 2016 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine, to hold a commemorative lecture as part of the commemoration ceremony proceedings on 16th May 2018. With our society becoming highly information-based through the rise of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence as well as becoming rapidly globalized, the world is now seeing major changes taking place. Regardless of your specialization, I think it is essential for everyone to be equipped with digital skills and communication skills in English (and other languages), in order to survive these turbulent times. With the new Department and School functioning as the key components at HU, we would like to further promote the reform of Hiroshima University.

In December 2017, the cabinet of Japan approved a new economic policy package, aimed at realizing「人づくり革命 (literally, “Revolution in Developing Human Resources”)」. The policy package incorporates the “Exemption of tuition fees for higher education” in Japan to guarantee that the opportunity for university education be available to everybody, with a grant-type scholarship included as a support measure.

To qualify as a university capable of providing the support measures above, Hiroshima University has to meet criteria such as “implementing subjects undertaken by lecturers who have business experience” and “the percentage of external board members appointed at the university exceeds the minimum quota.” Since implementation of the above is scheduled to start in April 2020, rapid preparation and organization are imperative.

Professor Clayton Christensen from the Harvard Business School has coined the following three terms for innovations: “sustaining innovation,” “efficiency innovation,” and “disruptive innovation.” In the past, Japan was successful in its growth as a nation in terms of sustained and efficient innovations. However, it seems that Japan has, in a sense, turned her back on disruptive innovation, which can potentially change people’s lives and values. If Japan’s stance on these innovations remains the same, there is a danger that she may lag behind the rest of the world in future.

As is often said, “Education is a far-sighted state policy.” It goes without saying that the implementation of university education entails long-term perspectives. As the environment surrounding universities in Japan undergoes substantial changes, if we do not implement innovations that can meet the needs of the times, we may not even be able to maintain its traditions accumulated from the past, let alone its current goals for research and education. Based on the “SPLENDOR PLAN 2017” drawn up last year, Hiroshima University intends to meticulously address issues such as reorganization of the Graduate Schools and reform of the personnel system.

By calling upon the experience and wisdom, which each of our faculty/administrative member has been accumulating over many years in the past, I am hoping to lay the foundation for the future of Hiroshima University. I would be grateful if I could count on your support and understanding on this matter. I sincerely hope that 2018 will be a wonderful year filled with full of hope for you all. Happy New Year!

4th January 2018
Mitsuo Ochi
President, Hiroshima University