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Japan to tighten rules over foreign university students after Tokyo school loses track of 1,600 students

Kyodo

The education ministry and the immigration agency said Tuesday they will tighten rules around the enrollment of foreign nationals after a Tokyo university lost contact with more than 1,600 students from abroad.

The move comes as the country prepares to accept 300,000 foreign students by 2020 under a program that aims to increase awareness about Japan.

The ministry and the Immigration Services Agency will disclose the names of universities they find to have breached rules around the enrollment of foreign students and ban them from accepting any more.

The decision was prompted by the case of the Tokyo University of Social Welfare, which was investigated by the government for losing touch with a huge number of its foreign students.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said it told the school Monday to stop accepting new foreign students on preliminary courses.

“The university bears a huge responsibility for the large number of missing students and illegal aliens,” said education minister Masahiko Shibayama at a news conference.

In the three years since the 2016 academic year, the university lost contact with 1,610 foreign students, saw 700 cancel their enrollment and removed 178. A large proportion of the students were enrolled in Japanese-language courses as part of a preliminary program to be completed before they advanced to degree programs.

The ministry and the immigration agency inspected the university’s four campuses in Tokyo and other cities five times between March and May and found it had been accepting many students who did not have sufficient language skills or were unable to pay tuition fees.

They also discovered the university was short-staffed and failed to provide support to students who had missed classes over a prolonged period.

The ministry said it will consider reducing or withdrawing subsidies for the private university, while the agency will reject visa applications from foreign students who seek to enroll there.

The Tokyo University of Social Welfare, founded in 2000, had been accepting relatively few foreign students for years but expanded the number to about 1,200 in the 2016 academic year, about 1,900 the following year and over 2,600 in the year ended this March.

Yuriko Sato, an associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology who specializes in foreign student policy, called for more public support for foreign students, saying universities have been accepting students without sufficient language skills.

She said if poorly performing language schools can be brought up to a better standard and have their subsidies increased to help free students from their busy part-time jobs, Japan can “create an environment in which foreign students can focus on studies without worries.”