University of Tokyo may switch to quarters

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

The University of Tokyo may replace its two-semester academic year with a quarter system to make it easier to shift to fall enrollment and line up with international standards.

Known as Todai, the nation’s most prestigious university released a report Wednesday compiled and submitted to its board earlier this month by a university panel that is recommending the four-quarter system.

The panel discussing the university’s basic policies, including the timing for starting the academic year in autumn, was set up last year after President Junichi Hamada announced in 2011 his intention to introduce fall enrollment by 2015.

The difficulty of changing the social environment to allow such a dramatic break from tradition led the panel to come up with the quarterly system.

The new academic calender will benefit Japanese students as well as encourage more foreign students to consider studying at the university, the report said.

“The proposed four-quarter system will be a crucial step to achieving fall enrollment,” Hamada said in a statement Tuesday.

He said earlier that shifting to fall enrollment will help make Japanese universities and society more international.

As the Japanese school year traditionally starts in April and ends in March, Hamada’s proposal sparked both interest and criticism. Some universities as well as businesses showed interest, while concerns were also raised regarding potential drawbacks, including the timing for companies’ recruiting activities and the gap that would be created between high school graduations in March and not entering a university until the fall.

The board, including Hamada, will decide the final policy by the end of July, a Todai official said.

The report released Wednesday contains two slightly different four-quarter plans and proposes introducing either of them by the end of the 2015 academic year.

They do not incorporate the idea of starting the school year in autumn.

One proposal suggests breaking up the school year into four terms lasting from April to May, September to October, November to December and January to February, leaving a summer vacation stretching from June to August.

In this plan, it is recommended students engage in such activities as attending summer programs at Western universities during the summer break.

The second option is closer to the current system, proposing terms from April to May, June to July, October to November and December to January.