Education minister Makiko Tanaka indicated Tuesday that she may allow the establishment of three universities if they meet new criteria, backpedaling from her earlier rejection of their planned construction.
Tanaka, known for her often forthright manner, told a news conference that the government will set up a council on the founding of universities and create new guidelines in the near future.
“The three universities will be examined in light of the guidelines,” Tanaka said.
She decided last week not to approve the institutions in Akita, Hokkaido and Aichi prefectures, which were planning to open next spring.
“I want to improve the quality of education by preventing the number of universities from becoming excessive. That was my real intention,” Tanaka said in explaining her blocking of the establishment of the three new schools.
Tanaka said that she now wants to “hear opinions from various quarters” to build a new system in which the public will better understand why new universities are, or are not, needed.
In rejecting the three universities, she went against the recommendation of a ministry advisory body.
Representatives of the three institutions plan to visit the ministry Wednesday to directly urge Tanaka to reverse her decision.
The parties have also indicated the possibility of suing the government.
While the advisory body’s recommendations on university accreditation have no legally binding power, it is very rare for a minister to reject them.
Tanaka repeatedly clashed with bureaucrats while serving as foreign minister under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the early 2000s.