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Japanese universities eye foreign students with move to ease online class credit limits

A sign for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, center, is seen at the building's entrance in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, in this 2019 file photo.

TOKYO -- A proposal to exceptionally relax credit limits for online classes at Japanese universities under certain conditions, currently set at 60 of the 124 credits required for graduation, was approved by a working team of the education minister's advisory body on Feb. 3.

    Online classes, a more common sight amid the coronavirus pandemic, can be taken regardless of location or time. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology hopes to use their advantages to encourage cooperation among universities through measures including class exchanges and attracting talented foreign students.

    The Standards for the Establishment of Universities sets the maximum number of credits obtainable through online classes under education ministry ordinance. The proposal from the working team at the Central Council for Education's subcommittee on universities states the principle of the 60-credit maximum will be maintained, but special exceptions will be made to relax it on condition education and research quality is guaranteed.

    The more online classes are offered, the easier it will be for students in China, South Korea and Southeast Asia, where the time difference with Japan is minimal, to "attend" classes at Japanese universities from their home countries.

    Additionally, by shifting the focus to online classes, large campuses may no longer be needed, leading to eased regulations on physical space such as site and building area.

    The education ministry will continue discussing specific requirements for receiving the special exception, and aims to revise the Standards for the Establishment of Universities by the end of fiscal 2022.

    Regarding the caps on credits for online classes, the Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges requested in July 2020 that then education minister Koichi Hagiuda relax the limit on the grounds it is needed for Japanese universities to globalize. The Japan Business Association (Keidanren) also called for the upper limit's removal in a January 2022 proposal so that students have access to flexible learning opportunities.

    (Japanese original by Akira Okubo, Tokyo City News Department)

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