President Kamata’s Speech at Spring 2014 Graduate School Entrance CeremonyWed, May 7, 2014
Congratulations on entering university.
On behalf of Waseda University, I’d like to welcome all the entering students, their families, and all the other members of our community here today. We celebrate the 3125 new graduate-level students: 2114 in masters programs, 644 entering professional degree programs, and 367 new PhD students. We are extremely pleased and proud of this choice group from across Japan and around the world, full of passion and talent.
Recent years have seen a sudden increase in students continuing to graduate school, but compared to last April, we have 193 fewer new Master’s students, 94 fewer new professional degree students, and 26 more new PhD students. Last September, we had 455 new Master’s and professional students and 105 new PhD students, an overall increase of 54, over 10 percent, compared to April 2012. We are conscious of the 13 percent drop in students entering professional programs. This seems to result from some concerns about the future of the graduate law program, but there has been no significant change in the steady upward trend in graduate school admissions for Master’s and PhD programs.
Behind the rise in graduate school applicants is the increasing importance o f new knowledge, information and technology in today’s advanced knowledge society. For personal development, as well as for the national strategy of promoting social, economic and cultural advancement and international competiveness, graduate schools are taking on major roles as centers for cultivating high-level skills and innovative creation.
Despite these trends, the population with graduate degrees in Japan is much smaller than in other countries: compared to Britain the percentage with master’s degrees is one-fifth and PhDs are less than half; the percentage of corporate researchers with PhDs is one-fourth of Austria or Belgium, and even Taiwan and Turkey have left Japan behind, as there is limited opportunity for people with work experience to get further specialized training. Furthermore, as industrialized countries have experienced falling birth rates, policies to attract highly skilled and educated people from abroad threaten to drain away our valuable human resources.
To address this situation, there is great attention focused on the need to enhance Japan’s research universities and business models to strengthen graduate programs for educating technical and management personnel. The Education ministry has set up several programs to that end, including the Global COE Program, Program for Enhancing Systematic Education in Graduate Schools, Program for Leading Graduate Schools and Funding Support for Creation of Exceptional Graduate Schools.
Waseda is taking advantage of these programs to enhance our postgraduate education. The Waseda Vision 150 plan adopted in November 2012 establishes strategic goals of promoting innovative research, expanding into new areas of education and research. By 2032 it aims to more than double the research budget to 2 billion yen, to increase the number of graduate students by 5000 to 15,000, and the number of continuing education students by 15,000 to 50,000.
Waseda’s founder, Shigenobu Okuma, asked: “What are the characteristics of modern world civilization? Research, discovery, invention, meaningful literature, and various great endeavors with those as a foundation.” He continued:”Tireless advancement of science will eliminate war from international society.”
Among you, some are aiming to become experts in academia, and others aspire to advanced specialties in actual practice. Both of these are in great demand in today’s society. The time for you to study here in pursuit of the ideal in your heart is short. With a strong sense of mission, I charge you to dedicate yourself to the daily work of study and research, aiming to reach your goals sooner than later. In your respective roles, please work towards the prosperity and happiness of the world. At the same time, you are called always to objectively evaluate and tirelessly improve yourself and your scholarship.
It has only been three years since the shocking Tohoku earthquake disaster and the Fukushima nuclear plant accident, and many people are still living as refugees with no certain prospects of returning. This enormous disaster exposed the limits of science and technology, as well as problems with our social systems. It also demanded deep reflection on scholars and practitioners attitudes towards research and development and building of social systems, on the role of specialists in emergencies, and on experts sharing of information with the public, among other issues. It has been an opportunity for the society of scholars to rethink the state of their academic pursuits. However, these reflections have not yet been institutionalized, and memories may already be starting to fade. We are relying on you, the young generation of scholars and specialists, to implement the lessons of this great disaster, and utilize them to build a brighter future society.
For the scholars and specialists you aspire to be, requires not only expertise, but also high ethical standards and self-regulation, in order to justify the trust and respect of society. From today, for the goal and motive of your studies, for the process of carrying them out, and for accountability for the results, please always examine yourself objectively, and make a habit of checking whether you are living up to the trust placed in you by society.
Waseda’s founding principle of Academic Freedom does not simply mean passively resisting political oppression or regulation. Academia does not focus on short term gains or interests of authority. Academia avoids corrupting influences to pursue the truth. The University, in its graduate schools, also will continually reexamine itself and tirelessly improve in pursuit of the ideal structure to match these principles.
Finally, I wish you a rewarding time in graduate school, and much success in establishing your specialty, proactively pursuing the fruits of scholarship for the good of the world in the spirit of Waseda’s founding principles.
Congratulations. We are look forward to your future accomplishments.
Kaoru Kamata, President