Tokyo: Japan’s first online university began classes on 2 April, offering degrees to older students in a country whose model of lifetime company jobs is changing.
A total of 516 students are enrolled at Cyber University, which offers four years of online coursework leading to a degree -- for now in the discplines of information technology or world heritage.
The university held an entrance ceremony Sunday at the Fukuoka Dome, a roof-covered baseball stadium on the southwestern island of Kyushu, with 130 students showing up in person and others joining by their computers.
The online university, ironically, is led by an expert on ancient Egypt.
“I would like for you to work together to let the university leap into the world,” Chancellor Sakuji Yoshimura, an archeologist, told the ceremony.
Students take classes and submit papers to professors through computers connected by broadband communication networks. Students can receive a bachelor’s degree after completing required courses.
Internet and telecom conglomerate Softbank Corp. owns a 71% stake in the university, which was approved in November as part of Japan’s deregulation.
The university came to life as Japan, recovering from the 1990s recession, changes its post-World War II model of young people taking jobs and working their way through the ranks until retirement.
More than one-quarter of Japanese workers are now not full-time employees, according to the latest job statistics released Friday.
“Students of our university are mostly in their late 20s and early 30s, and many of them hold jobs,” Cyber University spokeswoman Eriko Kitanoya said.
Similar universities exist overseas. The University of Phoenix, founded in the early 1970s for non-traditional students, now has some 200,000 adults enrolled across North America, largely through online or evening courses.