Administrators at 81 out of 90 public universities in Japan are confused by a government plan to turn national universities into independent administrative entities in fiscal 2004, according to a recent survey by the Japan Association of National Universities.

The survey was conducted at the end of May and involved administrators at 90 of Japan’s 99 national universities. The exact number of administrators was not provided.

Ninety-six percent of the administrators are confused about preparations for the upcoming transformation because relevant laws are not yet in place and it is unclear how far each school’s discretionary power will extend.

Public universities not situated in large cities were particularly opposed to the plan.

They said it threatens educational standards and will only benefit major universities in highly populous areas.

Staff at 81 of the 90 schools polled are perplexed by the vague overall concept of the reform plan.

They reported being unsure of what is expected of them and have no idea of the time frame in which necessary decisions and changes are to be made.

The survey found 87 percent of the staff, whose numbers were also not provided, would like to see the government provide a clear and detailed set of guidelines.

A little more than half of the universities have set up a special office to handle related procedures.

Although Japan’s plunging birthrate has spurred discussion about the need to drastically reform national universities, including calls for large-scale mergers, the survey found that the majority of the schools are ill-prepared for such moves.

Fifty-eight of the schools also reported problems designating funding and staff to implement the reforms.

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