大学新設不認可 文科相の独断が混乱を招いた

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 5, 2012)
Education minister's outrageous decision generates chaos
大学新設不認可 文科相の独断が混乱を招いた(11月4日付・読売社説)

It was a baffling decision. What we feared might happen has come to pass.

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Makiko Tanaka has rejected the applications for government approval to establish three new universities. Tanaka has overturned, on her own judgment, a report by the council for university chartering and school juridical persons--an advisory body to the minister--that favored endorsing the establishment of the three schools. This is apparently the first time in 30 years that an education minister has reversed the council's approval for setting up a university.

At a news conference Friday, Tanaka said, "A large number of universities have been established, but the quality of education in universities has been in alarming decline." She added that the approval system for setting up universities needs to be reviewed from top to bottom.

Tanaka, however, did not give any explicit reason why the government will not allow approval for the three universities.

Some ministry officials said Tanaka "simply made a policy decision as minister." However, we think it can only be described as an outrageous decision stemming from the misguided concept of "politician-led decision-making."


Lack of consistency

The council's report was compiled after extensively examining the planned schools' faculty and other education arrangements and their management and financial planning based on university establishment guidelines set by the education ministry.

Admittedly, the minister has the final say when it comes to accepting or rejecting the applications. But Tanaka's refusal to go along with the establishment of three new schools that the council said met the guidelines could be criticized as an abuse of power.

On top of this, the education minister gave the go-ahead to new departments and postgraduate courses at other universities--as endorsed by the advisory council. Can she clearly explain the inconsistency between these approvals and her rejection of the establishment of the three universities?

The minister's arbitrary decision will unleash immeasurable confusion.

The three universities that had been preparing to open next spring had secured teachers and constructed facilities. Mayor Motomu Hozumi of Akita city, which was planning to open one of the schools, to be named Akita Municipal College of Fine Arts, has unsurprisingly expressed his intention to urge Tanaka to rescind her decision.

Understandably, people wishing to enroll at these schools have been caught off guard at being told that the schools have been rejected so soon before they were scheduled to open.


Review of universities needed

Conditions at universities are becoming increasingly stringent.

Despite fewer students due to the chronically low birthrate, new universities have been established one after another since regulations were eased. As a result, the number of universities has swollen 50 percent more than the figure of 20 years ago.

Some universities have been struggling to stay afloat financially as enrollment falls below quotas. Just last month, the education ministry decided to order an education corporation running a university in Gunma Prefecture to be disbanded because of sloppy management.

The government's university policy needs to be reviewed. But this overhaul must be kept separate from the issue of approving or disapproving the establishment of individual universities, and be discussed in detail by such entities as the ministry's Central Council for Education from medium- and long-range perspectives.

That a conclusion reached in line with existing rules on an important matter is reversed because of grandstanding by a trouble-making minister will only deprive the administration of its continuity and generate confusion at education facilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 4, 2012)
(2012年11月4日01時34分  読売新聞)

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