Newly appointed Education Minister Makiko Tanaka rejected three applications to create new universities, calling into question the current situation of higher education in the country. Tanaka remarked that while numerous universities have been created, the quality of university education has deteriorated.
The increase in the number of universities in Japan, reaching 783 this year, could be attributed to the relaxation of the government’s regulations on establishing universities. Normally, organizations aiming to create a university are required to apply to the Education Ministry by the end of March, after which an advisory council will screen the applicants based on criteria such as financial plans, number of teachers, campuses, and buildings, and others. The council then submits its findings to the minister in October of the same year. Many organizations withdraw their applications for not meeting the requirements, even before they are denied by the council. In 1991, in order to diversify educational content and all more flexibility in colleges, the Education Ministry then decided to ease the standards. Then in 2003, the government started checking universities after they have been established instead of controlling whether they get established in the first place.
Motohisa Kaneko, a professor in the University of Tsukuba and an expert on higher education, agrees with Minister Tanaka’s observations. He says that it is unclear whether newly established universities have maintained a certain degree of education and that it’s time to revisit the regulations for establishing universities. However, he pointed out that Tanaka should not have abruptly dismissed the advisory council’s report but should have first discussed the current issues with bodies such as the Central Council for Education.
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