Todai aims for fall start in five years

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

The president of the University of Tokyo said Friday that he wants to form consultative bodies with other universities and companies to achieve a smooth transition to an autumn start of the academic year within five years.

The move by the nation’s top academic institution has already impacted other schools. Kyushu University and Kanazawa University said they plan to start discussions on the autumn shift.

The remark by University of Tokyo President Junichi Hamada at a news conference followed the official release of an interim report by a university panel recommending the change.

The panel plans to draft a final report by the end of March recommending the new enrollment season and establish two consultative bodies — one with other universities and the other with businesses — in April to kick off discussions.

Hamada said he hopes to achieve the change in five years.

“I believe by establishing fall enrollment, Japanese universities can stand on the same ground for the first time with universities overseas,” he said.

“It’s not merely about schedule adjustment. It’s about speeding up the internationalization of (Japanese) universities and society.”

Amid rapid globalization both in society and the economy, there is an urgent need to nurture tough-minded and globally oriented people, Hamada said, adding that fall enrollment is a step forward to that end.

According to the education ministry, seven countries start their academic year in April, including Japan and India.

The interim report says the different academic year is one of the major reasons for the low number of Japanese students going abroad to study as well as the small number of foreign students here.

As of last May, only 53 undergraduates at the University of Tokyo, 0.4 percent of the student body, were studying overseas, the report says.

Foreign students in the undergraduate program at the school, known locally as Todai, currently account for only 1.9 percent of the total, compared with 10 percent at Harvard University and 6 percent at Seoul National University, it says.

“I don’t think the change will sharply increase the number of foreign students nor Japanese students going abroad to study. There are still many other factors,” Hamada said. “But I believe by establishing this fall enrollment system, the process toward internationalization will move forward.”