Kyoto Imperial University was founded by Imperial Ordinance on the 18th of June 1897, the second university to be established in Japan.
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Within ten years of the founding of the University, Colleges of Science and Engineering, Law, Medicine, and Letters were opened. In July 1914 the College of Science and Engineering was divided into the College of Science and the College of Engineering, giving the University five Colleges. In accordance with the promulgation of the Imperial University Law, the Colleges were reorganized in February 1919 to comprise the Faculties of Law, Medicine, Engineering, Letters, and Science, and in the following May the Faculty of Economics was established.
In the early period of the University, Presidents were chosen by the Ministry of Education. However, Faculty members increasingly desired more autonomy. In 1915, for the first time, the opinions of the Faculties were considered in the selection of a new President, and eventually, in 1919, a system for the election of Presidents by the Faculty members themselves was introduced.
In 1923 the Faculty of Agriculture was established. With the advancement of education and the requirements of the times, the number of students rapidly increased, and a succession of research institutes attached to the Faculties and various establishments were founded.
The prewar and war years were a difficult period for the University, but with the end of the war a liberal atmosphere was restored, and in March 1947 the School Education Law was enacted, bringing widespread reforms to the Japanese education system. The aims of this reform were to affirm the principles of equal educational opportunity, and to expand all levels of education, including higher education. In October 1947 Kyoto Imperial University was renamed Kyoto University. In May 1949 the National School Establishment Law was enacted and Kyoto University was reorganized as a four-year instead of a three-year university, and the 8th Faculty, that of Education, was added.
In May 1949 the Third High School (Dai San Kou) was affiliated to the University. The High School had been providing education in the liberal arts since 1894, and traced its origin to the Seimi-Kyoku, founded in Osaka in 1869, one of the first institutions in Japan to teach western sciences. The affiliation transformed the Dai San Kou into a new college, later to be called the College of Liberal Arts, to provide general education, and was opened in September 1949.
In April 1953 the Kyoto University Graduate School System was founded under a new national educational regulation to provide a more systematic post-graduate education in the Graduate Schools of Letters, Education, Law, Economics, Science, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Engineering and Agriculture. In April 1954 the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established, and in July 1955 the Graduate School of Medicine was created by an amendment of the Education Law. In April 1960 the Faculty of Medicine was divided into two new institutions, one retaining the name of the Faculty of Medicine, and the second with the fresh title of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. More recently, in October 1992, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was reorganized as the 10th Faculty and named the Faculty of Integrated Human Studies. For the last few years, Kyoto University has been putting more emphasis on activities at the graduate level, and has established new graduate schools to cope with those emerging problems expected to be critical in this century. These are the Graduate Schools of Human and Environmental Studies, Energy Science, Asian and African Area Studies, Informatics, Biostudies and Global Environmental Studies. Including these six, Kyoto University has fifteen graduate schools. All these new establishments have necessitated the reorganization of long-established and traditional academic domains into new disciplines to fit the coming age.
As of 2004, Kyoto University has ten Faculties, sixteen Graduate Schools, thirteen Research Institutes, and twenty-one Research and Educational Centers.