(Nikkei: February 25, 2016 – p. 19)
University-specific exams for admission to national and public universities conducting their tests under the “early schedule” started on Feb. 25. As a result of the government’s policy on university reforms, a considerable number of new faculties of study – such as those integrating arts and science studies or courses on regional revitalization — have been founded nationwide and aroused the interest of students who would like to acquire through their university education the ability to serve society. These students took the exams as a step in fulfilling their aspiration.
A hotel in Chiba City served as the venue for the admission test of Chiba University’s new faculty of international education, which is a fusion of arts and science studies. Students taking the test appeared to be nervous as they entered the hotel.
An 18-year-old male third year student in a science class at a public senior high school in the city said with enthusiasm: “I like the fact that you can study a broad range of subjects. I would also like to study foreign languages and Japanese history and culture. I want to be involved with urban development in developing countries in the future.”
Studying abroad is required in this new faculty where there are many foreign professors. An 18-year-old female student from a prefectural senior high school in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, said: “I am applying because I hope to improve my English proficiency. I would like to introduce the great things about Japan to foreign countries.”
The new faculty is taking 90 students and is conducting its admission test only under the “early schedule.” The ratio of applicants to available places is 4.1, which is way above the 3.2 ratio calculated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) for national and public universities nationwide administering “early schedule” admission tests. Chiba University Vice President Hiroaki Ozawa, who will serve as the new dean, said: “We want to recruit young people who will be proactive in learning from various fields, whether they are arts or science, and who are able to apply what they learn.”
MEXT issued a notification last summer asking the national universities to reform their humanities and social science faculties and their teacher training programs. Of a total of 86 national universities, 26, including Chiba University, will reorganize their humanities and social science faculties from FY16. Specifically, the so-called new course in faculties of education that does not require instructors to have a teacher’s license will be abolished. Many universities will create new faculties, such as courses on regional revitalization.
Utsunomiya University will reduce the intake of students in the faculties of education and engineering and create a new faculty of “regional design science.” This is aimed at “training professionals who have in-depth knowledge of regional issues and strengths and who can serve as forces for community development.” The new faculty offers three courses of specialization, including architecture and community design. It plans to take 93 students through the “early schedule” exams and the ratio of applicants to places is 3.3, higher than that for the faculties of education and engineering.
A teacher in charge of career counseling at Tochigi Prefectural Senior High School, where a number of students were taking the admission test, said: “Students who want to become civil servants serving the local community are taking the test.” Prof. Jun Tsukamoto, who will be the new dean of the faculty, explained: “As a university that aims to thrive in the locality, we would like to develop ‘integrated skills’ that transcend the division between arts and sciences.”
Many students are applying with the globalizing society in mind. An 18-year-old female student from Setagaya Ward in Tokyo who is applying for admission to the Faculty of Education of the Tokyo University of the Arts aspires to be an English teacher in the future. She said: “I would like to study abroad during my college years to improve my English proficiency and learn about foreign cultures, in order to be able to increase the number of children who love English as much as possible.”
The head of Sundai Educational Institute’s university admission information center offered the following analysis: “It appears that in addition to faculties of international studies, students also have a positive image of new faculties focusing on regional studies as being in line with the times.”