2024 New Year’s Greeting from the University President

January 5, 2024

The new year has arrived, and with it, I offer my greetings at the start of the year. Let me begin by extending my heartfelt condolences to everyone who has suffered from the earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula and surrounding areas on the evening of New Year’s Day. I also wish to express my profound respect for those engaged in urgent support efforts amidst the breakdown of vital infrastructure. Our hearts are with everyone affected, and we are actively exploring how our university can contribute to the relief efforts.

Two years ago, the global situation entered a turbulent phase with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Then, last year, numerous Israeli citizens were killed or injured in attacks by Hamas, leading to Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which has already inflicted even more civilian casualties on Palestinians than Ukrainians have suffered—a truly grievous situation. While the contexts and dynamics are very different, those two wars both arose from the complex histories and memories of diverse peoples in those regions. The unfolding tragedies afflicting civilians complicate matters even further.

When we discuss international society, we tend to simplify its diversity and complexity into schematic formulas. We unconsciously assume the current political frameworks and confine our discussions to solutions within those parameters. Needless to say, forcibly changing the status quo through military force or violence is inexcusable. At the same time, however, the vicious cycle of resentment cannot be ended if people’s lived realities are ignored and attempted solutions are imposed by force.

The tragedy of war is not our only concern. In recent years, we have seen disasters associated with worsening climate change—floods, wildfires, famines—impose unprecedented misery on many people and foster profound divisions. Despite the seriousness of those problems, the response by international society has been inadequate.

Precisely for such reasons, we must study more sincerely and objectively the origins of diversity in the international community and the intricate causal relationships involving the global environment and other factors. Based on what we learn, we must discuss and deliberate to find better solutions.

While most members of the University of Tokyo community are not direct parties to conflicts like those in Ukraine or Palestine, our position does enable us to extend a helping hand by sitting down with students and scholars of various backgrounds to engage in learning, discussion, and dialogue. It is thus imperative that our university be a place where truly free and fair debate and research can take place from academic perspectives. With this fundamental principle in mind, and as members of the global community, we need to do even more this year to address common global challenges and help resolve and mitigate regional conflicts.


Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic finally began to subside, we resumed welcoming students from around the world. We also hosted global leaders on campus, including Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO); Vera Songwe, co-chair of the Independent High-Level Expert Group on Climate Finance; and Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. On the educational front, in April 2023 we established the Global Education Center (UTokyo GlobE) as a more robust platform where international and domestic students can proactively engage with global issues. Some 30 faculty members supporting student internationalization belong to GlobE, and over 200 exchange students study there. The Center manages numerous programs, including the Go Global Gateway (GGG) for assessment of global competence, the University-wide Student Exchange Program (USTEP), and Global Liberal Arts (GLA) courses, all of which foster understanding of the challenges and value of diversity and sustainability in today’s society. The GLA courses provide all Senior Division undergraduates and all graduate students at the University of Tokyo the opportunity to study SDG-related topics in English.

Last August, we hosted a joint summer program with the Asian University for Women (AUW) in Bangladesh. AUW educates talented women from impoverished regions of South Asia whose learning opportunities have been limited. By learning together, exchanging opinions, and visiting various places with the highly motivated AUW students, the participating UTokyo students broadened their appreciation for diversity and inclusion. This coming spring break, some of our students will have a chance to study at AUW.

Cultivating a global mindset in our students will lead to the promotion of greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. By bringing together students of various academic backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures to discuss and debate urgent global issues, GlobE’s global education will also lay the foundation for realizing and developing the ideals of the College of Design and School of Design, which I will touch on later.


Starting this year, the University of Tokyo will fully support initiatives to tackle international social issues through startup companies.

As of March 2023, 526 startups have emerged from UTokyo. We also offer over 60 entrepreneurship courses. So far, our support for entrepreneurship has focused primarily on commercializing technology and expertise developed within the university, and the initiatives have been assessed using economic criteria. But as a university dedicated to serving the global public good, we must not only pursue profit but also undertake missions and tackle challenges for society as a whole. We have been working to provide concrete support on those fronts since last year, deepening our ties with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and UN organizations. Last December, we hosted a two-day workshop on the Komaba Campus co-organized with the Soil Foundation aimed at fostering social entrepreneurs. Of the 30 students who took part, five were chosen to receive seed grants to launch businesses and three months of mentoring. The enthusiastic response of the participants encourages us to expand similar programs and to help build ecosystems for social entrepreneurs.

Additionally, to strengthen collaboration with our global partners, last year we established the Africa Working Group under the direct supervision of the president. With many of our faculty undertaking long-term research on Africa in fields ranging from political economy and cultural studies to agriculture, engineering, and medicine, we aim to leverage synergies across disciplines to heighten our engagement with African countries. We currently have 68 students from Africa, and last August we hosted the UTokyo Africa Evening, which enhanced interactions among international students, faculty, staff, and external partners. As Japan prepares to host the Ninth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 9) in Yokohama in 2025, UTokyo will be preparing to hold related events this year as well.


Why has the ability to design solutions to diverse problems become so important today? It is because design encompasses not only aesthetics and form. It also nurtures individual creativity, and it embodies practical skills that are indispensable for realizing ideals together with others for the benefit of society. More than mere techniques or knowledge, design is the cultivation of human capabilities and of learning itself.

Ever since OpenAI released ChatGPT in November 2022, much attention has been focused on generative AI. As one type of generative AI, ChatGPT has fascinated many of us with how natural, creative, and human-like the text it produces seems and with its great potential.

Applications of generative AI now extend beyond text to uses like video, music, and programming. Scores of new businesses have emerged as well. With dramatic productivity gains expected thanks to more efficient document creation, generative AI seems poised to profoundly transform knowledge work. We need to actively utilize these new capabilities in education, research, and office settings to explore innovative ways of learning and working.

In education, the use of generative AI in university assignments became an especially urgent issue last year. Our fundamental approach avoids facile blanket bans on its use for classwork, as articulated in guidelines issued last April under the leadership of Executive Vice President Kunihiro Ota, who has charge of education and information policy. Instead, we seek to understand the issues raised by generative AI while actively exploring its potential, discussing its impact, and leveraging it judiciously. Our policy influenced subsequent guidance issued by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

Generative AI is indeed revolutionary technology. For that very reason, its development and application raise many ethical, legal, and social issues, including privacy protection, intellectual property management, prevention of the spread of misinformation, and ensuring the transparency of scholarly information. Last July, in line with the Hiroshima AI Process facilitated by the Japanese government, UTokyo hosted a symposium titled “The Future Opened Up by Generative AI and Japan’s Perspective” in Yasuda Auditorium, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in attendance. Various stakeholders gathered to discuss research directions and policies for appropriate global rule-making. Details are available on the UTokyo website. Our Institute for Future Initiatives has also released several policy recommendations, including basic principles for the Hiroshima AI Process and a regulatory framework for AI auditing.

Generative AI is not the only emerging technology of concern. To develop appropriate governance for the social issues that arise from new technologies, it is essential to foster dialogue and understanding among diverse stakeholders and resolve issues responsibly—that is, to take a “general intelligence” approach. For such an approach to succeed, comprehensive universities like ours, by transcending barriers that arise due to differences in academic fields, will play an increasingly important role.

We must also recognize that innovations like ChatGPT are possible only because of the long-term accumulation of advances in basic research on machine learning and natural language processing. We intend to maintain and strengthen our university’s role as an institution that values and promotes thorough, methodical research, without being distracted by flashy, short-term results.


Among the 20 goals outlined in UTokyo Compass released in September 2021, we prioritized building a new model of a self-directed and creative university. We are working to build a financial foundation that will enable autonomous management by connecting our university’s knowledge to social value and creating a positive cycle of support from society, thereby strengthening our ability to continue to be a leader in education and research into the future. To that end, last year we established new executive posts for Chief Investment Officer and Chief Financial Officer.

Additionally, extensive discussions by our New University Model Planning Committee have generated concrete plans, including the establishment of a School of Design. Those plans and reforms informed our application for funding through the global top research university program. Though our bid was unsuccessful, the dialogue among division heads, faculty, and staff proved invaluable, and we must continue our efforts to realize a new university model, including the establishment of a College of Design as well. With the decline in non-earmarked operational funding from the government, enhanced revenue diversification has become imperative for us to achieve greater creative autonomy. Hence our UTokyo NEXT 150 endowment campaign calls for widespread support from both within Japan and overseas to fund our institution for the next century and a half. While we will continue to call for legal reforms to relax regulation of the university, it is especially important for all of us to focus our efforts on gaining support from a wider range of stakeholders.


To that end, I plan to start building momentum this year towards our university’s 150th anniversary in 2027.

We have many commemorative projects in the works. What is most vital is that we celebrate our sesquicentennial not as an internal event but together with as many external partners as possible. The statement of our vision for this anniversary foregrounds a word that powerfully captures this aspiration: kyōzon, that is, harmonious coexistence or mutual resonance. In close harmony with each of our partners, the University of Tokyo must nurture creative global citizens and strive to create a world that broadly realizes the ideal of coexistence. During our 150th anniversary celebrations, we will reflect on the past, present, and future of our university based on three guiding principles: “Reflecting on the University of Tokyo,” “Creating by the University of Tokyo,” and “Connecting with the University of Tokyo.”

As I look forward to beginning the second half of my term as president this coming April, I am reminded of my resolve to make the University of Tokyo an open institution, a place where diverse knowledge and people from throughout Japan and around the world can meet and engage in dialogue. We all need to think about how this resolve can be positioned and evaluated within the vast span of 150 years that the University of Tokyo has already experienced as well as in the century and a half that lie ahead. As we advance together into 2024 with a renewed sense of conviction, I ask for even greater cooperation from all of you in our university community.

UTokyo President Teruo Fujii

January 5, 2024
Teruo FUJII, President
The University of Tokyo

Related links

Access Map
Kashiwa Campus
Hongo Campus
Komaba Campus