80 universities to offer online applications in spring

JAPAN - More than 80 universities, mainly private institutions, are expected to adopt an online application system for their entrance examinations for the 2014 academic year, part of a rising trend in the use of technology.

Online applications significantly reduce the amount of clerical work for university admissions offices and offer greater convenience for test-takers. At some universities, the adoption of such systems has helped boost the number of applicants, and in a recent wave of digital migration, other universities have moved their entire application process online.

While it is now customary for universities to announce their entrance exam results online, test-takers often still need to obtain paper exam application forms, which they must fill out and mail to the universities. Admissions staff check the forms to make sure they are filled out properly and enter the information into the computer system.

With an online application system, examinees can apply anytime up to the application deadline. Incomplete forms can be automatically detected and corrections can be made easily. In many cases, examinees are required to send a copy of photo identification separately or bring it to the test site.

About 50 universities adopted online application systems in the 2013 entrance examinations, and the figure is expected to increase to more than 80 for the 2014 academic year, according to estimates by Opt Japan Co., a Tokyo-based company that develops and sells such systems.

From its 2013 entrance exams, Musashino University in Tokyo adopted a system that allows students to opt for an online application as an alternative to traditional handwritten forms. About 11,000 examinees, or about 60 per cent of applicants, went the online route, and the total number of applicants was up by 10 per cent from a year earlier.

An official in charge of admissions at the university said, "[The number of applicants rose] probably because online applications are easier to do [than traditional paper forms]." The university plans to take its application process fully online from its 2014 extrance exams.

Hosei University, where about 90,000 students applied for admissions this spring, has been using an online system for its entrance exams since the 2012 academic year. It hopes to make a full digital migration for admissions within a few years. "[The online application system] has advantages both for examinees and universities," Kiyoyuki Kondo, head of the university's admissions centre, said. "I think it will become the norm for university entrance exams in the future."

The online option also appears to be popular with international students. Sophia University in Tokyo started using the online application system from its 2013 academic-year entrance exams for some departments, including its faculty of liberal arts, which offers courses taught in English and accepts many overseas applicants. The university allows applicants to pay their examination fees with a credit card. The number of applicants increased by 15 per cent over the previous academic year, according to the university, which is now considering adopting the system for its general entrance examinations.

To promote labour-saving, some universities plan to offer discounts for online applications. Tokyo Denki University, which will target those who wish to take its general entrance examinations when it launches its online application system for 2014 entrance exams, plans to cut its standard fee of ¥35,000 by ¥5,000.

Kinki University in Osaka plans to go fully online with its admissions from the 2014 entrance exams. In line with the change, the university will lower its fees by ¥3,000 for all examinations.

On the other hand, national universities have been slower to make the transition to digital. Even the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry says it has no idea how many national universities have adopted the system.

Earlier this month, 16 universities hoping to adopt online applications, including Kinki University and Toyo University, submitted a document to the ministry calling for the promotion of IT in university admissions.

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