Since its foundation in 1897, Kyoto University has worked to cultivate academic freedom under a spirit of self-reliance and self-respect, and to open up new horizons in creative scholarly endeavor. The university has also sought to contribute to peaceful coexistence across the global community.
Our world is currently experiencing a number of rapid changes that would have been unimaginable in the 20th century. The global conflict structure, which was expected to be resolved with the end of the Cold War, is actually growing in both complexity and intensity as a result of ethnic and religious tensions. At the same time, the pace of global environmental degradation accelerates, unprecedented major disasters and deadly infectious diseases wreak havoc across the world, and financial crises shake both national economies and individual lives to the very core. Universities need to think seriously about what they stand for in these turbulent times. Meanwhile, the Japanese government is working with universities and industry to promote the cultivation of global human capital, and calling on universities to implement reforms designed to raise their competitiveness internationally. Kyoto University now needs to identify how best to respond to the demands of government and wider society while remaining true to its founding spirit.
The three core missions of a university are education, research, and social contribution. Two of these, research and social contribution, are apt to change in response to global trends. Education, however, has an essential nature that I believe to be unchangeable. In line with its commitment to independent learning, Kyoto University must maintain its position as a bastion of academic freedom, slightly detached from general society and unconstrained by convention. In order to do so, the university must be a place where academic endeavor can proceed undisturbed, while also providing windows into the world and society. These windows can be opened by faculty members equipped with cutting-edge knowledge of the world and society that lies beyond, but the most important role in our university is played by students who venture outside the windows. We must work carefully with partners in industry and government to provide windows that allow students to make the best practical use of abilities they have developed at the university.
Many changes are currently underway in the financial affairs of universities, including a decline in general operating subsidies and growing emphasis on competitive funding. It has become essential for us to secure our own funds to undertake improvements to the educational environment. I believe that we must make a case to wider society regarding the need for these improvements, in the hope of receiving generous support from the businesses that expect so much of Kyoto University, and from our own alumni. I also look forward to building stronger partnerships with the local community, maximizing the benefits of our location in Kyoto—the world-renowned capital of Japanese culture—and working with other universities to develop the city itself into a rich and varied academic campus. Furthermore, if we are to succeed in attracting outstanding faculty and students from universities across the world, we need to develop original curricula and joint research projects that capitalize on Kyoto's attractions, and make them known internationally. I am confident that these efforts will contribute greatly to the development of our region, and to the future of Japan and the world as a whole.
As a comprehensive, research-oriented institution, Kyoto University must integrate its liberal arts and foundation education, specialized undergraduate education, and graduate education programs in ways that equip students with creativity and practical capability. To do so requires the development of educational pathways offering a hierarchical arrangement of diverse disciplinary knowledge and facilitating a wide variety of learning choices. It takes time for students to realize their abilities to the fullest extent. I hope that we can provide a supportive learning environment in which students are not rushed into making decisions regarding their future, and instead can follow a positive process of trial and error that will enable them to be more confident in the futures that they eventually choose.
In order to cultivate students with abundant inventive capabilities, all faculty and administrative staff members must be committed to pursuing research and social contribution initiatives that attract international attention. Kyoto University has 10 faculties, 18 graduate schools, 14 research institutes (more than any other university in Japan), and many other education and research facilities. I will be doing my utmost to ensure that our goals are advanced across all these different branches of the university community.