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Universities in Japan against government's free tuition criteria

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Staff Writer | February 19, 2018
Education ministry
Asia   "Human resource development revolution"

Universities have slammed the central government for its moves to set criteria for institutions that will come under student fee reduction and exemption programs as "an intervention in university autonomy."

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is aiming to make higher education free as part of its slogan of "human resource development revolution."

Experts well-versed in scholarships and student loans raised questions about the central government's policy, with one of them pointing out that it "could narrow the range of choices for students."

Under a policy package that the Cabinet approved in December last year, students from families exempted from the residential tax (mostly with an annual income of less than 2.5 million yen) and who are enthusiastic about studying would be exempted from tuition at national universities, beginning in fiscal 2020.

Those from such families attending private universities would receive a certain amount of financial assistance calculated based on the average tuition fees at such institutions.

Moreover, scholarship payments would far outstrip current benefits, which stand at 20,000 to 40,000 yen per month.

However, the government is poised to set four conditions for higher education institutions subject to the tuition-free system in part to comply with requests from the business community.

Such institutions would be required to employ instructors who have work experiences in companies and other organizations, and outsiders should account for a certain ratio of the university governing board.

Moreover, these universities and other higher education institutions would be mandated to compile and disclose criteria for student achievement evaluations and release information on their financial standing and management.

On Jan. 30, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry held the first meeting of a six-member panel of experts on a specific system to make higher education free.

At the meeting, the panel agreed to conclude detailed criteria for educational institutions where tuition can be made free, and the scope and amount of scholarships by summer.

While the session was held behind closed doors, ministry officials quoted one expert present at the meeting as saying, "The national government should screen universities subject to the tuition-free system," and another pointing out that "if the conditions were too strict and more institutions were not subject to the system, it would run counter to the purpose of the policy."


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