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Kobe Uni. medical school added points to exam scores for rural applicants

KOBE -- Kobe University announced on Nov. 22 that its medical school had been giving preferential treatment to students from the northern and central parts of local Hyogo Prefecture, where there are fewer doctors than in urban areas, adding extra points to their recommendation entrance examination scores.

Tracing back to when the western Japanese university introduced the measures during the 2015 academic year, there is a possibility that if scores of other applicants are added up again without the extra points, students that should have passed the exam will emerge. Kobe University's scoring system was discovered during a Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology investigation following entrance exam misconduct by Tokyo Medical University and other medical schools.

According to Kobe University officials, the "special local category" for applicants under which they received the extra points was created in academic 2010 in order to alleviate the lack of doctors in rural areas of Hyogo Prefecture. The category called for 10 applicants who either attended high school within the prefecture or had lived themselves or had their parents live in Hyogo for three consecutive years at the time of application.

In the entrance exam held this February, out of the 1,200 possible points on the exam, 25 points were awarded to prospective students on a four-step scale according to the home region. Those from areas such as Tajima in the northernmost part of the prefecture and Nishiharima in the southwest got all 25 points, while those hailing from urban Kobe and the Hanshin area to the southeast toward Osaka were awarded none of those points.

The practice will be halted this coming academic year, and an investigative council including lawyers and other experts will examine the details of the system.

At a press conference on Nov. 22, a university official explained, "We believed that a high number of doctors from rural areas tended to stay in those areas." However, the school did not say in the application guidelines that it would be awarding extra points to those from more rural areas. Of this, the official said the school believed writing that its goal was to alleviate the shortage of doctors in the prefecture had been enough. "We offer our deepest apologizes to the applicants and others effected," university vice president Masaru Fujii said.

After learning of Kobe University's announcement, education minister Masahiko Shibayama told reporters, "It is extremely regrettable that discrimination based on region was carried out in a public university entrance exam," questioning the rationality of discriminating on the basis of where an applicant happens to live. "I would like to ask Kobe University to handle the situation swiftly while considering the position of the applicants."

(Japanese original by Kimi Sorihashi, Kobe Bureau)

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