The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 20, 2013

The University of Tokyo will likely switch from the current semester system to a quarter system to encourage students to study abroad and abandon a transition to autumn enrollment for the time being, university sources have said.

Encouraging students to study abroad is part of the university’s internationalization strategy “to meet demand for human resources development and confront global university competition.”

If adopted, the system would be put into place by the end of the 2015 academic year in March 2016. The university will make an official decision in late July, according to the sources.

In its draft of a final report on semester reform compiled Tuesday, a study panel suggested two plans for introducing the quarter system. One plan stipulates having the first quarter in April and May and a summer break from June to August, dividing the rest of the year into three quarters. The other is to divide the current semesters in two.

 

Under the latter plan, there would be no compulsory subjects in the second quarter from June to July so that students may take summer vacations if they wish.

As the quarter system will provide students with more options in starting a new term, it is expected to expand opportunities for students to study abroad and participate in summer programs at overseas universities, the sources explained.

Under the current semester system, students attend class once a week for 15 weeks to complete a required subject. They would attend class twice a week for eight weeks under the quarter system, enabling them to study subjects more intensively while taking the same number of class hours.

According to the draft, the university will also postpone introducing the autumn enrollment system for some time.

University of Tokyo President Junichi Hamada first proposed switching to an autumn enrollment system two years ago. The Committee for Considering the Time of Enrollment has been discussing the issue since April last year.

Many within the university have expressed a variety of opinions regarding autumn enrollment. Most national exams are administered on the premise that students will graduate in March, including one for medical practitioners in February. As a result, autumn enrollment would create difficulties for those who plan to take national exams.

Others said there is insufficient information as to how the so-called gap term between spring examinations and autumn enrollment could be used for activities such as short-term study abroad or volunteer work.

The draft for the final report concludes that it is too early to introduce the autumn enrollment system, as the prospect for establishing a conducive social environment remains unclear, the sources added.