Nagoya University and Gifu University said Thursday they will consider merging their operations amid a fall in the student population, to create what could be the first national university operator in the country to run multiple schools.

The two national universities in central Japan aim to raise the efficiency of their administrative operations, such as those of their finance divisions, through the merger in order to address increasing competition, officials at the two universities said.

The two institutions will begin discussions as soon as late April, and the integration of operations could be completed by fiscal 2019 at earliest.

They will maintain the names of the two universities and have no plan to change their locations, but will call on other national universities in the Tokai region, such as Mie University, to join their merger in the future.

The new entity could become the fifth-biggest national university operator in terms of subsidies from the government, after those running the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Tohoku University and Osaka University, according to data from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The combined subsidies for Nagoya and Gifu universities totaled ¥43.3 billion ($407 million) in fiscal 2016, compared with ¥81.2 billion provided to the University of Tokyo the same year.

The education ministry is considering revising laws to allow a national university operator to manage multiple universities.

The ministry on Tuesday designated Nagoya University as a national university eligible to receive government support to enhance its research and educational activities.