At Kyoto University, each faculty is responsible for its undergraduate programs (4-year, non-divided education), with courses in specialized education and liberal arts and sciences being arranged in parallel through the first to fourth years.
Within this curriculum framework, the Institute for Liberal Arts and Sciences (hereafter "ILAS") is responsible for the planning and implementation of courses that are common to each undergraduate program, such as courses in liberal arts, foreign languages, or major subjects (introductory courses) in accordance with each faculty's policy for organizing undergraduate programs.
There is a range of opinions on liberal arts and sciences courses, but Kyoto University takes special note of the following two roles that these courses play.
First, they help students make a smooth transition from high school education to specialized education at a university.
The content of foreign language and introductory courses of major subjects lay the foundations for the specialized education that follows. It is also important to help students appreciate the significance and joy of learning, as university education depends on the assumption that students learn of their own volition in order to satisfy their own unique intellectual aspirations. For those who do not appreciate the significance and joy of learning, university education can be dry and colorless.
The second role is to help students broaden their horizons.
A vast stretch of intellectual space lies before each student. By inviting them into an intellectually stimulating world that is unlike anything they have experienced in high school, they can begin seeing the fields that they have chosen in a new light and start expanding their interests into other fields, thus adding greater color to their studies and lives. As classes taught in English have been added from 2014, it is believed that an even more multidimensional approach can be taken toward students.
To plan and implement liberal arts and sciences courses that play the above-mentioned roles, ILAS has invited members from each faculty to transfer to ILAS and form Committee for Planning and Evaluation (hereafter the "Committee"). The Committee will discuss the optimal form that a liberal arts and sciences should take—e.g. courses to be offered, class content and teaching methods, grading, and who is responsible for what duties. Although the liberal arts and sciences courses that ILAS plans basically conform to each faculty's policy for organizing undergraduate programs, ILAS will conduct an independent review of the content of such courses and share any findings with the relevant faculties, so that the University can agree on their content with the cooperation of all faculties.
ILAS offers courses that the Committee has examined with help from the entire University, as well as from its full-time teachers. All of the faculty deans and representatives from independent graduate schools and research institutes and centers will participate in the Council, which is the supreme decision-making organ of ILAS.
In the past, planning of liberal arts and sciences at Kyoto University was coordinated by the Institute for the Promotion of Excellence in Higher Education, and the implementation of such courses was left to the departments/divisions primarily responsible for such implementation or supporting departments/divisions. This arrangement often prevented the courses from being offered as originally planned and gave rise to several problems, including a large number of courses that were too specialized for liberal education.
In fact, ILAS was established to address this kind of issue in the past, and so is designed in such a way to enable the adequate provision of liberal arts and sciences in the manner originally intended. Of course, this does not mean that education is separated from research. Teachers of each course are at the same time researchers in their respective fields and teach classes based on their research findings. We believe that this is the only way that we can satisfactorily fulfill the roles both of liberal and basic education.
From 2013, the Committee began its discussions on future course organization, and reports have been published for each field. Based on the outcome, courses in some fields are subjected to review from 2014, and a full-scale modification of subject organization started in 2016. Meanwhile, discussions will continue at the Committee, so that liberal arts and sciences at the University can be further improved.