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The University of Tokyo: Vision 2020 - President Gonokami's Action Plan

November 20, 2015

Announcement of The University of Tokyo: Vision 2020

Makoto Gonokami
The University of Tokyo

The University of Tokyo marks the 138th anniversary of its foundation this year. The end of the Pacific War marks the approximate midpoint of that near-140 years. During that time, progress in science and technology has propelled humanity's capabilities to expand by leaps and bounds and transcend national boundaries, spurring dramatic transformations in human society. At the same time, Japan, driven by advanced science and technology and academic achievements, has established itself as a world leader from Asia.

Even so, the limitations of the basic systems supporting modern society, such as capitalism and democracy, have become obvious. I feel that the world situation is becoming increasingly unstable because of the manifestation of global-scale problems, including the degradation of the global environment, depletion of natural resources and regional disparities. For humanity today, which has acquired greater capabilities than all preceding generations, the path to creating a stable and peaceful society is still unclear. With these circumstances in mind, I believe that we need to create a new system that encourages people from diverse backgrounds to respect one another and cooperate so that they can give a substantial boost to the global economy. Nothing but human wisdom can put this new system into action. In other words, what I have just described is a society in which wisdom drives the economy. I believe that humanity is now at a crossroads, forced to choose whether or not a shift towards this kind of wisdom-driven society is possible. As a developed country in Asia, I believe that Japan has a historical obligation to lead humanity's shift towards a wisdom-driven society, and that universities should play a central role in facilitating this shift.

The University of Tokyo has amassed nearly 140 years' worth of continuous support from the public. While making full use of this accumulated support, the University must now propose and implement a scenario that shows how the University will lead human society over next 70 years, while making Japan shine in the process.

To accomplish this goal, I think that it is vital that we depart from conventional ideas and change how the University of Tokyo is managed and operated. Management Expenses Grants, which the government supplies to national university corporations to cover basic operational costs, are undoubtedly important. However, in consideration of Japan's current situation, which is marked by large financial deficits, an aging population and low birthrate, the University cannot fulfill its responsibilities just asking for support. We have to further enhance the quality of our educational and research activities—the fundamental duties of the University—while unearthing and rendering visible their value. Further, we must equip the University with the ability to act independently by transforming it into an active organization driven by the enhanced quality of these educational and research activities.

Considering the history of the University of Tokyo in 70-year intervals, the University will enter a new 70-year period during my tenure as president. Students who enroll in the University of Tokyo during my tenure will become the very people who shape this new era. Now is the time when the University must resolutely shift its functions towards fulfilling its responsibilities to those young students who will create the society of the future.

I have decided to make public my intentions regarding this shift in the function of the University of Tokyo (Visions) and specific plans for how to implement these visions (Actions) by publishing The University of Tokyo: Vision 2020. While sharing my vision for the new University of Tokyo with all members of the University community, I intend to unite their capabilities to boldly press forward with reforms. Furthermore, I plan to update the Actions listed in Vision 2020 in accordance with changes in circumstances or in consideration of the opinions of specialists in various fields. I would like to ask all of you specialists for your understanding and support regarding the initiatives that the University of Tokyo will implement based on Vision 2020.

Basic Principles: Synergy between Excellence and Diversity


Synergy between Excellence and Diversity—Acting as a Global Base for Knowledge Collaboration—

Scientific progress and the development of new technologies should be the driving forces that lead humanity to a prosperous future. However, as these forces also constantly carry with them the risk of running beyond our control, humanity must continually improve upon its knowledge in order to effectively manage them. Globalization, which is currently progressing in a variety of areas, is producing new conditions in the world that are resulting in what should be called a "global society." Nevertheless, even when comparing the situation today with that of 2004, the year that the Japanese national universities became incorporated, we see the deepening of environmental problems, increasing complexity of international conflicts, growing disparity and inequality, and the emergence of other issues that afford no easy solution. Because of these conditions, the University of Tokyo's responsibility to contribute to the stable progress of humankind has become greater than ever.

Taking this critical world situation into account, the University of Tokyo must carry out its current mission with renewed strength. The University of Tokyo: Vision 2020 sets forth two basic principles for fulfilling this mission: excellence and diversity.

Since the University of Tokyo aims to have the world's highest level of education and research in all fields of the humanities and the sciences, it is a matter of course that the University of Tokyo would specify excellence as one of its basic principles. However, if these fields are scattered about and simply coexist alongside each other, they cannot achieve comprehensive "excellence"; instead, they amount to nothing more than a "plurality." The University can propel its excellence to even higher stages only if open dialogue and collaboration between different disciplines take place, including the occasional conflict and friction this may entail. What is essential is that different people whose sets of values and meanings cannot be measured on a uniform scale clash with and stimulate one another while respecting one another's differences and individual qualities. It is not until the University makes full use of this kind of "diversity" that the University can achieve excellence as a research university.

Meanwhile, excellence achieved through these processes, in turn, creates new knowledge and further enriches the diversity of knowledge at the University of Tokyo. It is not uncommon for cooperation between multiple disciplines that transcends the boundaries of the humanities and the sciences to result in the birth of unique interdisciplinary fields. This process of creating synergy between excellence and diversity—a dynamic motion that advances academic learning through constant interconnectivity—is the basic driving force that refines education and research at the University of Tokyo.

Based on these principles, the University of Tokyo will continue to strive to serve as a global base for knowledge collaboration that can contribute to 21st-century global society, while steadfastly adhering to the roles the University has traditionally upheld as the central academic base of the Asian region and as a space for world-leading intellectual activities.

Vision 1: Research


Strategic Development of Learning that Strives to Create New Value

The University of Tokyo consistently has valued excellence and diversity in education and research. In The University of Tokyo: Vision 2020, I lay out my plans to continue to honor the spirit of this tradition while further strengthening awareness of the synergy between excellence and diversity in research and aiming for a clearer understanding of humanity and the world. In doing so, we will strategically develop learning that strives to create new value.

To be specific, while transmitting outstanding academic results from both the humanities and the sciences to Japan and the rest of the world more than ever, we will also attract more talented people irrespective of nationality, gender or age to the University of Tokyo by creating an environment in which everyone can have the peace of mind to focus on their research. In addition, by providing opportunities for the people brought together at the University to transcend the frameworks of their organizations or their areas of study and collaborate with one another, we will make further advancements in learning at the University and promote interdisciplinary research, thereby bringing about the creation of new value. With this kind of "synergy between excellence and diversity," both qualities will work in a closely interdependent fashion to elevate each other dynamically. To put it in other words, one could compare this process to an upward "spiral motion."

Vision 2: Education


The Cultivation of Basic Abilities and the Training of Knowledge Professionals

While the University of Tokyo will continue to uphold the fundamental educational principle of nurturing students to be "intellectual citizens with a futuristic global outlook" (as outlined in The University of Tokyo Charter) through its Faculties and Graduate Schools, the University will also work to train students to be knowledge professionals who act independently with the public interest in mind and strive to create new value.

Particularly in undergraduate education, the University will cultivate three basic abilities: the ability to return to fundamental principles to grasp a problem, the ability to pursue a line of thinking tenaciously, and the ability to develop new concepts originally. Moreover, by encouraging students to possess a global outlook, the University will make increased efforts to nurture talented people who have the ability to live and work together with all kinds of people throughout the world.

At the level of graduate education, which fosters in students a high degree of specialization, the University will train talented people so that they can resolutely pursue efforts to create new knowledge, actively take part in dialogues and collaborations with individuals from different areas of study and cultures, and use the knowledge they have gained to give back to society through their independent actions.

Moreover, in both the Faculties and Graduate Schools, the University will place further focus on liberal arts education and instill exceptional expertise while cultivating resolute and humble, yet proud individuals who can view their own positions and roles objectively from diverse perspectives.

Vision 3: Cooperation with Society


Forming the Public Role of the University in 21st Century Global Society

In 21st century global society, universities are having to fulfill more societal roles than ever before. Accordingly, the University of Tokyo, too, bears the responsibility of contributing to diverse advancements that will benefit society while steadfastly adhering to academic freedom. Above all else, this responsibility should be carried out through contributions that form and strengthen the true “public role” of the University in Japan and the rest of the world.

When we speak of the "public role" of the University, we should understand the meaning of "public" in not only social and spatial but also historical and temporal terms. For example, we must consider the long-term consequences of our actions, for what is thought positive in the present may be damaging to the welfare of future generations. By the same token, it is required of us to have the courage to press forward with an action if that action will contribute to humanity in the future, even if it is difficult to achieve or it is unlikely that we will gain support from the public in the present. In order to make these decisions and take actions when needed, the University of Tokyo has to fully utilize the outstanding and diverse knowledge it has accumulated throughout its 140-year history while expanding upon collaborative relationships that transcend the boundaries of nations, cultures and generations. The University will aim to strengthen the close cooperation between industry, academia and the public and private sectors while giving back to a wide range of areas within human society through its academic findings and achievements.

Vision 4: Operations


Enhancement and Revitalization of the University's Multi-faceted Space

While the University of Tokyo is comprised of three main campuses (in Hongo, Komaba and Kashiwa), the Shirokanedai Campus, and other properties such as facilities and University forests in various places that are concretely rooted in physical space, the University also has extended its sphere of activities to cyberspace thanks to the rapid progress of information and communication technology. The General Library, which can be considered to be a symbol of the University, is an example of a University property that will flourish in both spaces. Through the University of Tokyo New Library Project, which is currently underway on the Hongo Campus, a knowledge archive that effectively connects physical space with virtual space is gradually being constructed.

Meanwhile, it goes without saying that the University of Tokyo as both a tangible and intangible "space" is brought to life and manifested by the people researching, teaching and engaging in other activities at the University. This space is not only a collection of individual people but also a multi-layered assortment of various groups and human networks. It is additionally characterized by its fluidity, being open to those outside of the University community.

The University of Tokyo will revitalize this multi-layered space through flexible and functional operational management. In doing so, the University will make sustained efforts to further accelerate the upward "spiral motion" created through the synergy between excellence and diversity by enhancing both the tangible and intangible qualities of this space.

Actions for Vision 1: Research

1.    Expansion and Establishment of Internationally-renowned Bases for Research

Establish and expand upon internationally-renowned bases for research at the University of Tokyo by carrying out such initiatives as advancing the development of both the University’s strongest fields in which it is leading the world and unique areas of original research which should unwaveringly continue to be studied, promoting joint research and international collaboration that goes beyond the framework of the University of Tokyo, and creating new, interdisciplinary knowledge that is the first of its kind in the world.

2.    Further Revitalization of the Humanities and the Social Sciences

Further revitalize the humanities and social sciences through active support of outstanding research in those fields. Increase the University of Tokyo’s international presence in those areas.

3.    Fortification of Infrastructure Supporting Academic Diversity

Fortify the infrastructure supporting academic diversity by constructing an archive containing the University of Tokyo’s academic assets and facilitating its opening to the public while promoting its active use.

4.    Ensuring of Time for Research and the Improvement of the Quality of Educational and Research Activities

Conduct proper staff evaluations and, through initiatives such as enhancements to the research support system and operational optimization, ensure that academic staff members have time to devote themselves to their research. These actions will be carried out with the aim of further improving the quality of the educational and research activities of academic staff members.

5.    Reform of the Researcher Employment System

Raise the appeal of a life dedicated to research and attract a diverse array of outstanding and talented people from both Japan and overseas by promoting the reform of the researcher employment system.

Actions for Vision 2: Education

1.    Advancement of the Comprehensive Reform of Undergraduate Education

Continue to make steady advancements in first-year experiences, grouping classes based on ability, the new third-year major selection system, the Hands-on Activity Programs, and other plans included within the Comprehensive Reform of Undergraduate Education.

2.    Enrichment of Educational Initiatives that Encourage a Global Outlook

Encourage students' pursuit of knowledge abroad and support the formation of curriculums that open their eyes to the world. Also, make further efforts to enhance programs such as the Programs in English at Komaba (PEAK), the Trilingual Program (TLP) and the Global Leadership Education Program (GLP).

3.    Establishment of World-leading Innovative Graduate Study (WINGS), a Graduate School of International Excellence

Through initiatives including the establishment of World-leading Innovative Graduate Study (WINGS), reinforce University education at the graduate level and train talented and scholarly people to become highly-developed knowledge professionals.

4.    The Utilization of the Educational Capabilities of University-affiliated Institutes and Other Organizations

Utilize the educational capabilities of the University's affiliated institutes, centers and other such organizations through their diverse research activities spanning across different fields, and cultivate researchers who possess a high degree of specialization.

5.  Increase in Student Diversity

Increase the diversity of the student body by strengthening the connection between the University and high schools, steadily continuing University admission by recommendation and other admissions reforms, and taking a proactive approach to bringing in more international students and others from overseas.

6.    Further Enhancement of the University's Liberal Arts Education

In addition to enhancing the liberal arts education in the Junior Division of the College of Arts and Sciences, further develop the liberal arts education offered in the final two years of undergraduate education (the Senior Division) and in the Graduate Schools, thereby fostering talented people who possess both specialized knowledge and broad perspectives.

7.    Transmitting the University of Tokyo's Unique Educational System to the World

Schematize the University of Tokyo's original and outstanding educational system into a standard model and transmit this model to the rest of the world.

8.    Support for Independently-organized Student Activities

Deepen support for a variety of independently-organized student initiatives such as sports, cultural and international exchange activities in order to invest in students' growth both academically and as people.

Actions for Vision 3: Cooperation with Society

1.    Imparting Academic Achievements to Society

To invest in the stable development and well-being of humankind, give far-reaching support to research in disaster preparedness, medicine, and other fields, and make an active effort to impart the academic achievements attained from this research to society.

2.    Formation of a Base for Cooperation among Industry, Academia and the Public and Private Sectors

In order to promote the creation of new value based on academic findings at the University and spread this new value throughout society, establish a base for collaboration among industry, academia and the public and private sectors while training people to become capable and talented so that they can lead this initiative.

3.    Backing of Entrepreneurship that Utilizes Academic Findings

Coordinate with relevant research institutes, private companies, government agencies and others to fortify the innovation ecosystem and promote entrepreneurship that utilizes the academic achievements of the University of Tokyo.

4.    Refinement and Reinforcement of Public Relations towards the International Community

Through the fundamental reform and strengthening of international public relations frameworks, communicate to the world the wide range of academic resources and educational achievements of the University of Tokyo by making their value visible.

5.    Development of Educational Activities for the General Public

Through initiatives such as the University of Tokyo Public Lecture Series and the University of Tokyo Executive Management Program (EMP), make further efforts to offer educational opportunities for the general public.

Actions for Vision 4: Operations

1.    Establishment of Swift Operational Frameworks

Clarify the roles of and strengthen communication between the Administration Bureau and other University organizations to form swift operational frameworks built on constructive dialogue with staff in each area.

2.    Securing Basic Expenses for Education and Research

In order to secure basic expenses for education and research, make efforts to diversify sources of revenue and increase management resources. Particularly, in order to make the best of limited resources, create systems for strategic resource redistribution that can maximize the vitality of the University of Tokyo. In addition, as for miscellaneous expenses, such as utility fees and rent for allocated spaces, make thorough efforts to offer appropriate reimbursement measures, including the active use of competitive research grants.

3.    Organizational Revitalization through the Diversification of University Members

In order to maximize the vitality of the University of Tokyo, invigorate the organization by enhancing the diversity of the University members with proactive approaches, such as the promotion of gender equality and universal access, and by promoting effective collaboration between academic and administrative staff, including specialist staff.

4.    Enrichment of Alumni and Support Networks

Reinforce alumni and support networks, strengthening their relationships and cooperation with the University.

5.    Development of Facilities and an Environment that Support World-leading Education and Research

In order to create a space befitting a world-class learning environment, develop an environment and operate facilities that possess sustainability, allow for value creation and make possible the provision of education and research to the general public.

6.    Strengthening of Collaboration Centered on the Three Main Campuses

Encourage active interactions and cooperation among University members by strengthening collaboration among a wide range of the University’s organizations and facilities, using the three main campuses on Hongo, Komaba and Kashiwa as collaboration centers.
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