Last month Education minister Hakubun Shimomura issued a notice to all 86 national universities instructing them to make a draft for reforms over a six-year period beginning in fiscal 2016. It specifically asked them to scrap departments and courses devoted to humanities and social sciences, or shift resources more to areas "for which society has strong needs." This reflects an idea contained in the latest version of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic growth strategy, which says that an important role of national universities is "to build a system to produce human resources that match the needs of society by accurately grasping changes in industrial structure and employment needs."

The education minister's move, which reflects his failure to understand the important role played by humanities and social sciences, will weaken the power of intellect not only of those universities but also the nation as a whole. The education minister should change his basic thinking.

In his keynote speech to the council meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in May 2014, Abe said, "Rather than deepening academic research that is highly theoretical, we will conduct more practical vocational education that better anticipates the needs of society." The education minister's notice follows this idea. He seems to have forgotten that one of the important missions of universities is to enrich students' understanding of human culture and nurture their ability to think critically through the study of humanities and social sciences.