Education minister Tanaka to snub plans for establishing three new universities

JIJI

Education minister Makiko Tanaka has voiced her intention to block plans to open three new universities in fiscal 2013, despite their approval by an advisory council under the ministry.

Tanaka indicated Friday she will not green-light any new colleges for the time being and called for a sweeping review of the current approval process.

It would be the first time in 30 years that a minister has reversed an approval by the council on setting up universities and educational corporations.

Tanaka’s refusal to grant permission would prevent a public arts university in Akita, a women’s university in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, and Sapporo University of Health Sciences from opening next spring. No specific problems were identified in plans to open the three institutions by reorganizing existing junior colleges and a vocational school.

Tanaka, however, suggested the growing number of universities, which now number some 800 nationwide, has coincided with a substantial deterioration in the quality of education that could make it harder for graduates to land jobs. She also noted that people connected to universities account for a majority of the advisory council’s members.

On hearing of the reversal, the two private institutions and the city of Akita all said Tanaka was being unreasonable, as they have met all the necessary criteria to establish the universities.

“I don’t know what to tell students who were interested in enrolling, or to instructors who planned to teach (at Sapporo University of Health Sciences),” said Takashi Suzuki, who heads the committee attempting to establish the school.

According to the education ministry, the council’s subcommittee that considers whether to approve applications to create new universities has 15 members, 10 of whom are currently university presidents, board chairpersons or professors.