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To enable universities to structure curricula that reflect their own educational ideals and objectives, it was decided that there should be no definition of subject areas, such as general education and specialized education, in the Standards for the Establishment of Universities. It was also decided to discontinue the practice of requiring students to obtain a certain number of credits in each subject area as a prerequisite for graduation and to make the acquisition of a minimum total number of credits the only requirement.
In its 1991 report concerning the improvement of university education, the University Council called for wide-ranging educational improvements, including the formulation and publication of syllabuses ( see page 16 ), efforts to improve course content and teaching methods through faculty development, * the enhancement of curriculum guidance, the expansion of courses designed to improve information-processing and foreign-language skills, the use of seminar-type teaching, and the employment of teaching assistants. *
* Faculty development:
Sometimes abbreviated to FD, this is a generic term for organizational efforts to improve course content and teaching methods. The scope of the concept is extremely broad. Specific examples of efforts in this area include observation of other teachers' classes, research conferences on teaching methods, and training seminars for newly appointed teachers.
* The teaching assistant system:
Under this system outstanding graduate students are selected to tutor undergraduates or perform teacher-support tasks, such as assisting with experiments, demonstrations, and seminars. The aim of the system is to improve university education while providing teacher training for graduate students. Since teaching assistants are paid a stipend, the system also contributes to improving graduate students' conditions. Funds for this system have been allocated since fiscal 1992.
Relaxation of criteria has allowed universities to rationalize their credit calculation methods and has facilitated experiments, practical training in skills studied in the classroom, and so on. The University Council's recommendations in this area also called for greater flexibility with regard to course duration, including observance of the stipulation in the Standards for the Establishment of Universities that courses be completed in semester-length units. This reflects the fact that in practice universities structure their curricula around yearly courses.
In the past some universities established day/evening programs for adult students who were unable to attend daytime classes on weekdays, and they recruited students for these programs separately from students of day programs. Classes and other activities were provided primarily in the evening and on Saturday afternoons. There was no institutional framework for such programs, however. To encourage the provision of day/evening programs, the Standards for the Establishment of Universities were amended to make explicit provision for such programs.
It was decided to allow universities to grant credits for study at institutions of higher education other than universities, provided that the educational standard is equivalent to that of university courses and that the course content is considered educationally significant by the universities concerned.
The special register system was introduced to enable universities to award credits to people in the work force and others undertaking university education on a part-time basis. Under this system such students can acquire credits for partial fulfillment of undergraduate course requirements.
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