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Education minister Makiko Tanaka has apologized for trying to cancel approvals given by her ministry bureaucrats for three institutions seeking to operate as fully fledged four-year universities providing undergraduate degrees. But should she have apologized?

There is a crisis in Japanese tertiary education. Student numbers decline while the number of approved universities increases relentlessly — by almost 100 in the last 10 years. Some 45 percent of private universities cannot fill the student number quotas set by Education Ministry (MEXT); this year 18 of them could not even reach half their quota. In desperation many will accept almost anyone who applies, provided they have a pulse as the saying goes. Some have already gone bankrupt. More will follow.

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