Shiga University President Ryuichi Ida said during an address at the university's entrance ceremony on April 5 that a notice from the education ministry last year calling on national universities to reorganize and fold their humanities and social science departments was "so deplorable that Japan could be described as an educationally backward country."
In addition to this scathing criticism, Ida, 68, said that the incorporation of national universities "has not achieved the desired results."
"As an institution that embraces its departments of education and economics, the call to abolish and/or reorganize departments in the fields of humanities, social sciences and education has for us been tumultuous," he commented.
Ida went on to say that national universities have been on the receiving end of various types of criticisms and requirements (from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, or MEXT) -- and that "many of them are missing the mark."
"Clearly, there is insufficient understanding of what the role of a university truly is," he added.
A former law professor at Kyoto University, Ida assumed the position of president at Shiga University -- which is located in the city of Hikone, Shiga Prefecture -- on April 1. He formerly served on the International Bioethics Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
MEXT has called for universities to restructure their humanities and social science departments -- and to scrap education department courses that do not require teaching credentials as graduation criteria -- within their medium-term targets and plans for the next six years, beginning this academic year.
Shiga University has been carrying out such restructuring, and plans to build a new department -- to be tentatively named the Department of Data Science -- next academic year.