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Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012
Todai may enroll students in spring, begin classes in fall
Entrance exams put university in bind over shift of academic year
The University of Tokyo, which plans to shift the start of its academic year from spring to fall, is considering an interim measure to start classes in September while keeping the start of enrollment in April, according to school officials.
The measure has been approved by an in-house panel on enrollment system reform and will be considered further within the university before a final plan is reported to university President Junichi Hamada, possibly by March.
Along with April enrollment, the March graduation schedule would also remain unchanged.
The university could launch the transitional system as early as the April 2014 academic year.
"We can't wait until the qualification examination system is reformed," said a senior official of the school, also known as Todai, referring to problems the shift to fall enrollment may cause in relation to various national exams.
"Starting classes in September would make shifting enrollment to the fall easier in the future," the official said.
The interim measure, a compromise to appease opponents within the university to an all-out shift to fall enrollment, is likely to influence other universities moving toward the same system.
The movement has come to prominence lately as Japanese universities try to remain internationally relevant.
Under the proposed interim system, students who enroll in April will take "fresh programs" until May to study fundamental concepts such as the meaning of learning while also attending regular classes.
The period between June and August will be summer vacation, during which students may take special lectures. They may also choose to study abroad or take part in volunteer programs.
Full-fledged classes would start in September, with the first semester of the year running through December and the second from mid-January to May. The two-semester system would continue until fourth-year students graduate in March.
Last March, a panel set up at the initiative of Hamada presented an interim report recommending the shift to fall enrollment. Hamada indicated the university would switch to the new system within around five years.
Hitotsubashi University and Tokyo Institute of Technology are also studying the transitional measure of starting classes in September while keeping April enrollment. Waseda University plans to partially introduce a four-quarter system next year.
Little parental favor
Nearly 40 percent of parents in a survey by a test-coaching company are opposed to universities switching the start of their academic year from spring to fall.
Many said they are concerned about the "blank" period that would result between high school graduation and starting college.
In the Internet poll of 2,623 people with children up to 18 years old, 37 percent said fall enrollment would "not be good" or "not very good," surpassing the 28 percent who either said it would be "very good" or "somewhat good," Benesse Corp. said.
"I wouldn't know what to let (children) do during the blank period," one parent said, while another opposed to the move said, "I'm concerned about whether there would be any jobs available (for new graduates) in fall."