politics

Tanaka under fire for canceling plans to open 3 new universities

49 Comments

Government representatives from Akita, Okazaki and Sapporo will meet with Education Minister Makiko Tanaka on Wednesday to try and persuade her to reverse her decision not to grant permission for three new universities.

Tanaka stunned education circles last Friday when she announced that she would not grant approval for an arts college in Akita, a medical university in Sapporo and a women's university in Okazaki (Aichi Prefecture), even though the three proposed new institutions had already met the criteria for establishment put forward 18 months ago by an advisory body to the education ministry.

Tanaka has since been harshly criticized by officials in the three prefectures. On Tuesday, Aichi Gov Hideaki Omura criticized the ministry and described the refusals as an oversight, Sankei Shimbun reported. Omura will be part of the group meeting Tanaka on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Sapporo City said it is considering legal measures if Tanaka refuses to reverse her stance.

Tanaka said she made the decision because there are more than 800 universities in Japan already, which she suggested was having a negative impact on the quality of education, Jiji Press reported. Tanaka said she intends to tighten the procedures for approving the establishment of new universities, and set up a new screening body, which currently consists mainly of university-related members.

Tanaka has a history of clashing with both bureaucrats and ministers. She was previously fired from the cabinet of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and expelled from the Liberal Democratic Party in 2002. She later resigned from the Diet the same year following allegations of misuse of funds. She joined the opposition Democratic Party of Japan in 2009 and was made minister for education on Oct 1 this year.

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49 Comments
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If the criteria for getting granted a University status are inadequate and the result is a decrease in the quality of the education provided as many posters have commented on numerous times - I say more power to her. Tanaka has every right not to approve their application and review the criteria in question ( given that the advisory body is apparently stacked with pro university board members -one can hardly imagine them being impartial ) . As an Education minister the buck stops with her.

15 ( +13 / -0 )

The US has about 4400 degree granting higher education schools, Japan has about six times less even though it's eligible population is only about three times less.

While I can understand not wanting more Women's universities or art schools, why the hell would they deny a medical university? The older people here get the more doctors will be needed, it's not just an education issue.

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

Good on Ms. Tanaka, and she is absolutely right on it having a negative impact on the current level of education. It seems pretty clear to me the people upset about this would be the ones lining their coffers with government money and construction bids, etc. They probably already spent the bribes received from bid-rigging.

basroil: You're right about the numbers, but also in the news yesterday was a list of the top universities world-wide, with MANY of them being US post-secondary schools, while Japan's top university, Tokyo University, ranked 30th! and with the next being something like 58th. Put the money into increasing the current level of education; drop the rote memory tests required to get in and have the students focus more on developing theses that are at par with those of other nations, change the start of the school year and offer grants to encourage more foreign students to come to Japan on exchange, etc. Opening more schools here won't do one thing to help increase the level of education.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Build it and they will come...from China?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sounds logical to me, do we really need more universities? Sounds like she is trying to save money.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

There is simply no demand for new universities in Japan, particularly in places like Akita.

But politicians make a lot of money from construction projects, particularly the LDP in the countryside.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

A "woman's university"?!? Are we living in the 1930s, or something?

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Have not been a fan of hers in the past, but on this issue, I fully support her decision for the very reasons she gave--we have over supply in a nation where population, marriage, birth rates are shrinking. Whenever someone breaks a tradition that has been going on for years and years, there is sure of a backlash. Good on you Minister Tanaka for putting your foot down on this issue.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

There isn't enough money nor enough students with the current entrance requirements to fill the Universities that Japan already has, let alone a new one or to or three. With the ever decreasing population of Japan improving what they already have should be taking precedence and opening new schools with tax money is not the answer.

Improving the quality of education and increasing funding for basic education FIRST then let's talk about opening new Uni's!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The latest Terrie's Take highlights this among other cases of bureaucratic ineptitude/corruption in Japan now...

http://www.japaninc.com/tt685_bureaucrats--enough_is_enough

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Any of those supporting these new schools bothered to check Japanese demographic trends. This country does not need more universities. Korea is cutting back on their universities by a third based on the same demographic trends in Korea as we have here in Japan.

These schools are local boondoggles based on corruption between the regional government and construction companies. It is a huge waste. Just like the 98 airports in Japan almost all of which are failing.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

A "woman's university"?!? Are we living in the 1930s, or something?

From the country that gave us women's only train cars I would say yes. There are already a number of "women's only" colleges in Japan. They don't need any more or either.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Oh no a minister actually doing their job rather than just go with what has been doing for years. She's right - too many unis and too low of standards. The folks crying about this are crying because they can't line their pockets. Japan does NOT need any more unis. What they need is better standards. I hope she addresses this and does something starting from the JHS level and moving up.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

What is NOT covered by the article is that most (over 70%) of the colleges and universities in Japan are going bankrupt if not for government subsidies. regardless of the quality of education here in Japan, colleges do NOT give out scholarships and grants as in the USA. More Japanese students apply for US colleges and universities and get scholarships. It not only give the students a better life experience, but it is much cheaper to attend in the USA even if living costs are considered. Less travel time too.

Now more students come from foreign countries to Japan than do Japanese students. With much competition within Japan and less students applying, many are expected to close within the nest 5 to 10 years. Regardless of who is starting the school, it only drains the Japanese government due to the necessary subsidies.

It is like giving away money to have kids.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Sounds logical to me, do we really need more universities?

Not necessarily more, but newer ones, definitely. For medical schools, yes, we'd need twice more, 3 times more, could even use 4 times more playing the international card (with J-students prepared to work abroad and Asian emerging country students getting training in Japan).

nor enough students with the current entrance requirements to fill the Universities

Because current unis are totally archaic. They all cater only 18 yr old students, while 2/3 of education needs are for older people. It's the jukus that are doing the bulk of professional retraining and continuous education. Should be unis.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I absolutely and fully support the Minister on this matter. I have been wondering why we have so many universities, filled with students and professors - strictly based on my personal observation - of low quality, and alas funded by taxpayers. A bit too much of a shock treatment, though.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Because current unis are totally archaic. They all cater only 18 yr old students, while 2/3 of education needs are for older people. It's the jukus that are doing the bulk of professional retraining and continuous education. Should be unis.

Indeed it should be but they aren't smart enough to get rid of the 18-22 mind set that they hold near and dear. Allowing adults in might mean because demand quality and then what would happen?

I'd love to see unis here shift focus on to continuing ed which is a much needed area largely being ignored here. The last thing they need are more crappy unis that only care about money and not education. Thing is, unis have been allowed to do as they like for decades and its finally catching up. About time someone put their foot down - needed to be done years ago.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

"might mean they demand...." No idea how the because got in there!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

smithinjapanNov. 06, 2012 - 04:12PM JST

MANY of them being US post-secondary schools, while Japan's top university, Tokyo University, ranked 30th! and with the next being something like 58th

Having gone to both systems I can tell you that the schools here are no worse than the US ones, they have plenty of potential locked away behind that japanese only exterior. They simply need to have more top students from outside the country (and for heavens sake no more chinese or southeast asians, europe and americas) and publish more articles in international papers.

One thing they need that no education official can do though is corporate sponsorship of research. There's a few things from places like toshiba, hitachi, etc, but they need far more, especially for engineering where they are strongest. And sponsorship not limited to financial aid, rather access to working professionals to give people experience in the fields before they even graduate. Internships are also very underused here, which limits their ability to get educated recruits. Part of that is corporate midset of starting everyone at zero though, and no amount of pleading from education officials will help them there.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

JAPAN! Why are you building new universities? You are going extinct in another 1000 years!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Basroil, while I think there is potential here, it won't be met if they don't do something about their teaching methods and profs. Top students and international students won't change the rot from within.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Good on Tanaka!!! Yahoooooooo!

Japan need politicians to stop more of this nonsense that goes on!

Although why on earth these were not SQUASHED before the first shovel hit the ground is a question that needs answered BIGTIME!

And why wud approvals be needed when they are almost completed...................I mean I am glad Tanaka stopped this(but I bet she gets tossed & then they will be approved.......sigh) better late than never but friggin bizarre.

Japan needs to consolidate uni's not build new ones

Earth to the a-holes in Nagatacho, WE CANNOT AFFORD ANYMORE OF YOUR THIEVING WAYS!!!!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

To begin with, it disturbs me that the Education Minister should have such absolute power. These were universities that had been approved and scheduled to open. They are being closed essentially by the whim of Madame Tanaka. Her whim? There are already 800 (supposedly too many) universities in Japan according to Tanaka. And adding three more, according to Tanaka, lowers the overall educational standard.

Tanaka has not shown she has done any research on the subject. In fact she comes off as an idiot who should not be education minister.

Importantly two of these are universities are for the boonies where there are less universities and less choices for university bound students. The third, a medical university, I believe is necessary given that Japan simply put need more doctors.

What lowers general educational standards is the existing level of expectation from higher education. Japan's university have rightly been called leisure lands for the laxity of expectation placed on university students, who are notorious for sleep in class and doing as little school work as possible.

Also there is already in place a strata of riffraff schools for well to do delinquents. These are cheerfully allowed to operate and grand degrees. They will continue to operate as these new and promising universities are not allow to start up.

There is another standard cutting problem. The short supply of 18 year olds. To fill quotas universities have to let in students they ordinarily would not have let in. But this is, I believe, marginal. I also believe this is more of a problem in areas where there is a high concentration of universities competing with each other. But there are the other factors. A new university program, for instance, at a good school might have to accept bottom feeders for a few years until it has somehow established itself.

All this has nothing to do with adding three more universities, all specialized in some way, in places where there are few if any local universities.

I think Tanaka has got to go before she does any more damage.

Pardon any typos. I must rush at this late hour.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

The boonies? One would have been located less than an hour away from one of Japan's largest city. Certainly not the boonies.

And these were never approved. They were almost approved until someone finally saw the light and put a stop to it. Many private unis here are run like large eikaiwas and we all know how that works out.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Okada (a guy I don't like) DID point out today - why are they screaming outrage and why did they go and build new campus buildings before they got a green light?!

They are screaming outrage because the universities already used their budgets and prefectural funds on the presumption they would get a windfall of a new 4 year university. Those outraged principals and governors are crying because it is messing up their old money politics games.

I like Tanaka, but I do tend to think she should have announced a change in selection criteria and applied that before bulldozing her announcement through. That said, just like in 2002, I'm totally behind her, and still wish they had made her Finance Minster instead.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Politically, she can afford to be gung ho, because she knows she will be out of a job pretty soon anyway and her decision could well be reversed by the next incumbent. If they do then she can criticise that from from the opposition standpoint. If they don't, then she can say it's because she was right. I agree that the style in which she did this makes her look tyranical, but it would appear that a lot of Japanese people actually like that image. They tend to vote for actiongirl cost cutters. So it may be good for her electorally in the long run.

On the quality of the decision itself it is hard to judge without the details. If her main purpose is to tighten the criteria for the establishment of new unis, then that could well be a good thing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

tmarieNov. 06, 2012 - 10:11PM JST

The boonies? One would have been located less than an hour away from one of Japan's largest city. Certainly not the boonies.

Yup, Sapporo is the 4th largest city behind Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka. Surprisingly, it's got only two major university hospitals (Hokudai and Sapporo) and both are located within 15 minute walk from Sapporo station. In fact, the city has only two public universities and a half dozen private (useless) ones, so a medical university might be needed and justified for here, regardless of how many universities are in the entire country.

Another tokyo person deciding things without actually doing any actual pros and cons, simply deciding on a single number that means jack shit.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

More Japanese students apply for US colleges and universities and get scholarships. It not only give the students a better life experience, but it is much cheaper to attend in the USA even if living costs are considered. Less travel time too.

The student has to be going to some small, probably liberal arts university or college in the middle of nowhere and travelling on budget airlines. What you wrote here is not the reality. Unless you are talking about all the Japanese kids that go to the US for ESL. Sure that's cheaper, but not a full 4 year college education.

Japanese "national" universities can cost 1/10th of what a typical NCAA Division 1 school costs. Plus international students have to pay upfront, and while many can and do get financial aid the costs are staggering.

Now more students come from foreign countries to Japan than do Japanese students. With much competition within Japan and less students applying, many are expected to close within the nest 5 to 10 years. Regardless of who is starting the school, it only drains the Japanese government due to the necessary subsidies.

What do you mean in your first sentence here? The only real competition in Japan for university is for places in what the Japanese consider top ranked one's like Tokyo Uni. Other universities are literally fighting for students to survive, and some universities may have to close. New universities are not needed.

Also with the school year start being different it's harder to attract foreign students here.

(BTW; I just sent one of my children to Uni in the US, his tuition and room and board costs (dorms are mandatory) for his freshman year are a bit over $55,000.00 (US), Include the plane tickets and other sundries and it is going to run around $60K or more. Outside of medical school or maybe dental school here in Japan, I challenge you to name one university in Japan that even comes close to costing that much.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yubaru Nov. 07, 2012 - 06:19AM JST The student has to be going to some small, probably liberal arts university or college in the middle of nowhere and travelling on budget airlines. What you wrote here is not the reality. Unless you are talking about all the Japanese kids that go to the US for ESL. Sure that's cheaper, but not a full 4 year college education.

Actually, there are increasing the number of students from wealthy foreign countries to applying for major U.S. Colleges and Universities. These schools are looking as a business to increase profits. Most of these schools have inceased the percentage of foreign enrollements within the last decade. They know that they can charge more for tuition fees to the foreigners.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Actually, there are increasing the number of students from wealthy foreign countries to applying for major U.S. Colleges and Universities. These schools are looking as a business to increase profits. Most of these schools have inceased the percentage of foreign enrollements within the last decade. They know that they can charge more for tuition fees to the foreigners.

Overall foreign students YES, I agree. However the total number of Japanese students electing to study abroad has been declining dramatically in comparison to the "bubble era". The economy is in the pits as we all know, and parents here can not afford the costs of sending their kids overseas as they once did.

There are substantially more Chinese and believe it or not, Korean, students studying in America than Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Bas, I wasn't referring to the one IN a major city. I was talking about another that is just outside of Nagoya.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Can someone explain to me how an established junior college in Okazaki becoming a four university is going to hurt anything? What danger exactly does a new arts university in Akita pose Japanese education? How will a new medical university possibly bring down the quality of even medical education in Japan? Tanaka provides not answer.

What Tanaka did was capricious and without sound reason. It is an indication what will come from this vastly unqualified person.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

basroil: You're still missing the point that current Japanese universities are struggling to meet the minimum number of students entering, and rely heavily on government subsidies to stay afloat, which they're barely doing (many of them failing badly). How would these new schools change that?

No, it's simply collusion between bureaucrats and construction companies, with amakudari also expecting plum jobs at the schools. They've likely shook hands in bid-rigging deals and spent the bribe money, so now naturally they're quite upset someone's doing their job properly and not in the 'traditional' manner. Must irk them all the more that it's a woman.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The problem here is that Tanaka has not given a clear explanation for her decisions and, as such, they appear arbitrary and illogical. She must explain in a coherent and rational manner the reasons for rejecting each application and the reasons should be different in each case since each application is unique. If she cannot do this she should resign as it would be clear that all she is doing is grandstanding and posturing.

There are many universities that are struggling financially in Japan, but it does not necessarily follow that these proposed new universities would fall into that group. A blanket statement that "there are too many universities in Japan" is not a good enough explanation and demonstrates the poor quality of the minister.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Scrote: "There are many universities that are struggling financially in Japan, but it does not necessarily follow that these proposed new universities would fall into that group. A blanket statement that "there are too many universities in Japan" is not a good enough explanation and demonstrates the poor quality of the minister."

On the contrary, I believe the explanation is on the onus of those who want it built, namely, how are these schools going to benefit the local people and nations as a whole, when so many schools are in the red and depending on government subsidies, cannot meet the enrollment minimums, and are basically accepting anyone regardless of their results on entrance exams (hence lowering the level of education nation-wide)? And what is it they lose, besides contruction contracts and subsidies from the government, if they are not built? The minister, who HAS actually given reasons (they are not as detailed in this article), is quite in the right.

If anything, Scrote, as with the NINETY-EIGHT airports in Japan, building more things you have no need for when the ones you have are in need is arbitrary. For a change, we have a minister who is trying to stop wasteful spending and unnecessary construction. We should be praising her, not chiding her. But this is Japan and she is a woman and going against the grain.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The problem here is that Tanaka has not given a clear explanation for her decisions and, as such, they appear arbitrary and illogical.

They why don't they let her explain? Oh wait, they don't... "This is so unexpected! This isn't how we've always done things! Therefore, it's unacceptable."

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Can someone explain to me how an established junior college in Okazaki becoming a four university is going to hurt anything? What danger exactly does a new arts university in Akita pose Japanese education? How will a new medical university possibly bring down the quality of even medical education in Japan

The reasons were pointed out in earlier posts and in one's after yours as well. The education pie budget is small enough as it is, and creating new schools when open one's are bleeding in the red, with little chance of increasing enrollments and you believe creating new one's is the solution?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sapporo already has a medical uni. Nagoya has a female uni and many more dying for students. The same can be said for Akita. The last thing Japan needs are three more mediocre unis who are in it for the money. Tanaka is well aware of this hence her stance. She's said she'll reconsider it but pretty sure this will stand. If anything, she should also be closing unis. Set the bar and those below close their doors. Make students actually study and stop this recommendation crap that means anyone with brain activity gets in and passed through the system. It isn't helping the economy to pass a bunch of losers through a system they shouldn't have been in in the first place.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

There is much too much information missing from this article, like the 3 universities already exist physically for the most part and starting tomorrow the womens university was to have been starting to accept applications for next April.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yubaru, they already accepted applications! Accepted without the final stamp. Very unprofessional way to run a busine... Oh, school.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Tanaka is an idiot and she knows she was dead wrong. Now as with all idiots she is trying to backtrack her own comments by reversing her decision.

She is now in deep water and no one wants to toss her a vest. Only reason she is in office is because of who her Daddy was.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

tmarieNov. 07, 2012 - 10:48PM JST Yubaru, they already accepted applications! Accepted without the final stamp. Very unprofessional way to run a busine... Oh, school.

Best check the news because the schools were already approved Ms Tanaka was the one that decided to change the rules. But now Ms Tanaka is attempting to save face by accepting the schools, as of this morning.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

And as usual the Tanaka supporters here are dead wrong, as dead wrong as she now admits she was by her actions. She has backtracked on her privious decision by now accepting the schools that she tried to unaccept.

She believed she was queen, but has descovered she is just a public servant.

The arrogance of Ms Tanaka only highlights the complete incompetent leadership of Mr Noda. Her actions shows that even his own cabinet does not respect him. He needs to step down before his so called leadership sails the nation into the rocks.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Joe, the schools were NOT approved. Perhaps it is YOU who needs to go back and read.

Only reason she is in office is because of who her Daddy was.

You could say that for nearly EVERY person in high positions in the government - which is why the Japanese government is inept.

She has not admitted anything. I highly doubt these schools will just be given the go ahead. They're going to have to prove they will be run well and needed. Good luck to them. I for one would welcome decent universities here that are kept on a tight leash and I hope Tanaka makes rules for that and closes the ones that have no business calling themselves places of education.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I was wrong. She did give them the go ahead. HUGE step back Tanaka. Not impressed.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

tmarieNov. 08, 2012 - 01:15PM JST I was wrong. She did give them the go ahead. HUGE step back Tanaka. Not impressed.

You were not wrong, you just placed your belief in someone that is wrong.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

No, I was wrong. I thin Tanaka can do many great things IF the old gits at the top would step aside and let her get one with what needs to be done.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

tmarieNov. 08, 2012 - 10:17PM JST No, I was wrong. I thin Tanaka can do many great things IF the old gits at the top would step aside and let her get one with what needs to be done.

Please, she was wrong and now you try and dance for her. You make a claim for the "old gits" but you do not see that she is one of those "old gits".

Look her up, she is corrupt and incompetent and sadly you support her. Says a whole lot about your judgement.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

She wasn't wrong in her thinking. Perhaps the way she went about it but if anyone is wrong is the the guys who keep rubber stamping unis who offer nothing but crap course from students who aren't smart enough to get a uni education but do because unis want to make money.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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