National

Government panel mulls limiting new universities in Tokyo in bid to halt rural depopulation

Kyodo

A government advisory panel on Monday began deliberations on limiting the establishment of new universities in the Tokyo area as part of the effort to prevent further population loss in regional areas.

The panel, which consists of business people, politicians and a head of a university, is expected to issue an interim report around May before compiling a set of measures in the summer.

Critics of the plan voiced concerns that a curb on the establishment of institutes of higher education could restrict academic freedom.

The education ministry’s data as of May 2016 showed that among 777 public and private universities across the country, 137, or 17.6 percent, are located in Tokyo with 746,397 students, or 26 percent of the total population.

According to a research paper released in October by Obunsha Co., a major academic publisher, 37 of the 47 prefectures in Japan recorded a net outflow of high school graduates with many attending universities in Tokyo and Osaka.

Kozo Yamamoto, the minister for regional revitalization, said that the government will “consider urgent and drastic measures to prevent excessive concentrations” of youngsters flocking to the nation’s capital to study and find employment.

Late last year, the Cabinet approved a strategy to tackle the nation’s declining population, which included the goal of generating 300,000 jobs for young people in rural areas by 2020 and trimming relocation to the Tokyo area.

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