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University’s sloppy supervision of foreign students cannot be tolerated

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe latest case of a university that was slipshod in supervising its foreign students is too much to tolerate. It must be said that the institution in question hardly deserves to be called a university.

It has been discovered that a total of 1,600 students at Tokyo University of Social Welfare have gone missing over the past three years. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has instructed the university to stop accepting some foreign students. The ministry will also consider reducing the subsidies to be received by the university as a private school.

The ministry had every reason to criticize the university, saying, “Its inadequate methods for managing enrollment have left a large number of students missing. The university bears a grave responsibility in this.”

During the past six years, the university has increased its number of foreign students from about 350 to approximately 5,000. More than half of them were called “gakubu kenkyusei” — students preparing for admission to regular departments — whose status was that of an auditing student, meaning they were not counted toward the quota of students admitted to regular departments. Many of those missing were such kenkyusei students.

An on-site inspection by the education ministry regarding the university’s facilities found that classrooms were located in such places as a multitenant building that houses a public bath, as well as a condominium unit. There was also a toilet in a classroom that was used by people unrelated to the university even during lessons. It is inevitable that the university should be blamed for having put priority on attracting students while neglecting to improve its educational environment, an essential part of its mission.

It cannot be overlooked that there were delays in ascertaining the actual situation.

The education ministry has said it took “a view of human nature as fundamentally good” and that it “missed an opportunity to respond at an early stage.” There is no denying that the ministry was too lenient in checking the university. A third-party body tasked with regularly inspecting the education system of each university also failed to discover problems with the social welfare university.

Prevent illegal working

Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry, an organ in charge of immigration control, was aware that some students at the social welfare university were illegally remaining in this country after their visas had expired. If the Justice Ministry and the education ministry had shared pertinent information, they would have been able to deal with the matter earlier.

In response to the latest issue, the two ministries have started working to ensure that the situation facing the foreign students enrolled is more strictly managed.

Measures include demanding universities and vocational schools submit reports on the details of their foreign students’ circumstances. If they are found to be inappropriately supervising their students’ enrollment and there is no sign of improvement in this respect, foreign nationals hoping to enter these schools will not be granted residential status as foreign students in this country, and the names of these institutions will be made public.

One of the factors behind the situation is that foreign students studying in Japan include some people whose main purpose is to work here. Visa status as a foreign student, which permits working for 28 hours or less per week, can be easily used as a cover for that purpose. There are more than a few cases in which foreign students stop attending school because of their long working hours in excess of the limit.

Some have said that, despite being aware of these realities, some schools admit foreign students in the hope of securing revenue from school fees.

It is important to stop foreign students working illegally, via thorough management of enrollment. If they accept foreign students, universities and vocational schools must properly adjust their curriculums to provide an appropriate education in a responsible manner.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 16, 2019)Speech



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