Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A government council has advised education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to approve a plan for the establishment of a veterinary medicine faculty by a school operator at the center of a favoritism scandal involving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the education ministry said Friday.
The Council for University Chartering and School Juridical Person made the recommendation on Thursday.
Hayashi is expected to give the nod soon to the plan by Kake Educational Institution, which is headed by a close friend of Abe.
“I understand that the plan was judged to comply with the law, so I intend to make my decision early, respecting the council’s recommendation,” he told a press conference on Friday.
Kake-operated Okayama University of Science, located in Okayama, will establish the animal medicine faculty in a national strategic special zone for deregulation in the city of Imabari in the nearby prefecture of Ehime next April, the first month of fiscal 2018.
It will be the first animal medicine department to be created at a university in the country in 52 years, since Kitasato University established the School of Veterinary Medicine in 1966.
In principle, the ministry does not allow the establishment of new university animal medicine departments, to prevent an oversupply of veterinarians.
But under its special zone program, the government has decided to permit as an exceptional case the opening of one such faculty in fiscal 2018, in a large area without a veterinary medicine faculty. Following the decision, Kake was picked as the operator of the new faculty in January this year.
During its screening process for the Kake plan, after the school operator filed for ministry approval in March, the council in May cited seven defects, including inadequate explanations on the demand for animal doctors and a suspected lack of consistency in education programs at the planned faculty.
In August, the council pointed to problems in the department’s student training plans and put on hold a decision on whether to recommend approval or rejection. But the council eventually concluded that the new faculty plan had cleared all problems, after Kake took necessary corrective steps, including an increase in training hours for students.
The new department’s annual enrollment limit is set at 140, down by 20 from the level planned when the application was filed. Still, the figure tops the highest limit of 120 at existing animal medicine faculties at 16 universities.