Women ‘systematically excluded’ from Japanese medical school

Females out, bureaucrat’s son in as Tokyo Medical University rigs entrance scores

August 7, 2018
Japan discrimination

A private Japanese medical school has admitted to manipulating its admissions processes for years, in an unfolding sexism and corruption scandal.

Tokyo Medical University has acknowledged systematically rigging entrance exam scores in an apparent scheme to limit the number of female students.

The practice has emerged a month after the institution’s two top executives – who reportedly masterminded the deception – resigned over corruption claims.

The Japan Times last month reported that the school’s president Mamoru Suzuki and the chairman of its board of regents, Masahiko Usui, had quit amid an investigation into claims that they had attempted to bribe an education ministry official.  

Under the allegations, the pair had offered to guarantee admission to the official’s son if he gave the college favourable treatment in a government programme. All three men have reportedly been indicted.

On Wednesday, the newspaper reported that Usui, Suzuki and other university officials had ordered the routine docking of points from women undertaking an entrance exam, in an arrangement dating back to 2006.

Under the scam, the automatic computer scoring system deducted 20 per cent of points from all applicants. But the marks were subsequently restored for males, if they had not taken the test more than three times previously.

According to media reports, the scheme was designed to cap female enrolments at about 30 per cent to protect affiliated hospitals from future doctor shortages, with female medics considered unreliable once they married or had families.

In a press conference on Tuesday, acting president Keisuke Miyazawa apologised to those disadvantaged by the scheme. “When I think about the female applicants who could have been admitted but were denied, my heart aches for them," he said.

An investigating lawyer said the officials involved in the deception should be replaced “and the school needs to come together to conduct reforms from scratch”, The Japan Times reported.

It said that in recent years, the university had been found to have inflated the entrance scores of 18 applicants in return for grants and donations.

The scandal has been widely reported in Japan, where one of prime minister Shinzo Abe’s signature policies – so-called “womenomics” – has been cultivated to both empower women and insulate the workforce from demographic decline and rapid ageing of the population.

Tokyo Medical University is affiliated with 15 universities in France, Germany, Hungary, Korea, the Netherlands, Taiwan, the US and Vietnam as well as an Australian teaching hospital. It was ranked outside the top 150 institutions in this year’s Japan University Rankings.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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