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The Finance Ministry is considering changing the system of maintaining relatively uniform tuition fees for all courses at state universities to inject more competition into school management, ministry sources said Saturday.

The ministry plans to introduce different tuition fees depending on the field of study and its associated costs, because the cost of funding science, engineering, medical and dental courses are relatively higher than liberal arts courses.

This means tuition fees for science courses could rise, they said.

The plans are part of the government’s ongoing reform of state universities and postgraduate courses.

At the same time, to ease possible increases in the financial burden on students as a result of the change, the ministry is also considering bolstering scholarship funds.

Plans to change tuition fees of state universities will be included in the proposal to be compiled by an advisory panel to the finance minister in June. The plan will then be further examined by the panel with an eye to implementing the change in fiscal 2009.

Under the present system, the government sets a standard annual tuition level of 535,800 yen per student and allows each of the 87 operators of state universities to set tuition fees at an amount up to 20 percent more than the standard level.

However, out of the 87 state universities, graduate schools at only six universities — Hokkaido University of Education, Kitami Institute of Technology, Chiba University, University of Tokyo, Mie University and Saga University — set tuition fees lower than standard.

Among undergraduate programs, Saga University is the only one in Japan that asks for less than the standard level of tuition.

On the other hand, Tohoku University and Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology are the only two that offer courses with higher tuition fees than standard.

The standard level is decided through negotiations between the education ministry and the Finance Ministry. But under the new system, the Finance Ministry hopes to set the standard in a way that can encourage each university to be cost-conscious in deciding their tuition fees.

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