The University of Tokyo (Todai) announced Wednesday that it has given up on its plan to start its academic year in autumn, and will instead divide the academic year into four terms of two months each, instead of the current two semesters.
Todai's grand announcement last year was an attempt to bring the Japanese academic year in line with those of overseas universities and nurture a generation of globally-oriented graduates. The calendar change was to have come into force in four years' time.
Speaking after a meeting of the presidents of national universities on Wednesday, Todai President Junichi Hamada said there were too many hurdles to overcome and that shifting the start of the academic year could not be done by one institution alone, but required a change in Japan's education system, Fuji TV reported.
Among the problems cited by Hamada were the fact that job recruitment programs and national exams for public service, law and medicine are based on March graduations.
The proposed change was also aimed at attracting foreign students who have represented a lucrative source of income for universities overseas for some time.
About 70% of schools and universities in the world begin their academic year in September or October, while April marks the start of the academic and business calendar in Japan.
Japan's educational cycle is seen as one of the factors that restrict international exchanges of students and teachers. Only 1.9% of some 14,000 undergraduate students at the University of Tokyo are from overseas, compared with 10% for Harvard University in the United States, according to education ministry figures.
Hamada said the four-semester plan, which is likely to start in March 2015, will make it easier for foreign students to study at Todai from the beginning of the second term in September, and for Japanese students to use the summer break of June-August to study abroad.
Waseda University, also hoping to attract prospective students from overseas, has already introduced four "quarter terms" as an alternative to the semester system.© Japan Today