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Tokyo Med. U. rejected 109 more applicants unfairly; some cases linked to lawmakers: panel

The front gate to Tokyo Medical University is seen in this photo taken in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on July 4, 2018. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO -- Tokyo Medical University rejected a total of 109 more applicants who sat entrance examinations from 2013 through 2016, discriminating against female applicants and multiple-time test takers, a third-party panel investigation has found.

There were also at least two cases in 2013 in which lawmakers were linked to entrance exams, and one report of a possible leak of test questions, according to the results of the probe announced on Dec. 29.

Those findings came on top of an earlier revelation by the school that it rejected 101 applicants from 2017 through 2018 by applying an unfair screening method in which it reduced scores for female and multiple-time examinees.

In the latest investigation, the panel found that 66 women and 43 men were turned down despite their original scores being high enough to pass exams they sat in the four-year period ending 2016. Broken down by year, 27 men and 15 women were rejected in 2013, seven men and 17 women in 2014, four men and 18 women in 2015 and five men and 16 women in 2016.

According to the panel, favorable treatment for particular applicants was conducted based on instructions from the former chairman of the board of regents, Masahiko Usui, and former President Mamoru Suzuki. Both men have been indicted on charges of bribing a senior Education Ministry official to win ministry subsidies.

Documents kept by Usui and Suzuki contained letters seeking favors for certain students, and memos bearing numbers such as "2,500," which the panel suspect to be donation figures.

Analysis of papers and interviews with university officials has revealed the involvement of politicians in the entrance exam scam. For the 2013 entrance test of the university's school of nursing, Usui instructed university officials to give favorable treatment to one applicant based on a request from a member of the Diet. The applicant was given priority over 29 other applicants to be selected as a substitute candidate. In another case, an individual linked to the university faxed the name and application number of a particular applicant to the school of medicine to another member of the Diet. The lawmaker apparently made a request about this applicant, but those probing the case were unable to find out if the exam result was changed.

Moreover, one applicant reportedly said at his cram school that "exam questions became available." The performance of the applicant in the essay portion of the test was the highest among all exam takers. University officials denied the questions were leaked, and the panel said in its report that it did not make a judgment on the issue.

According to the report, entrance exam score adjustments based on the applicants' sex and other criteria began in 2006 under the then university President Hiroshi Ito, but he denied the allegation.

As for the reason for score manipulation, the investigative panel found that three former presidents and some top university officials thought that the ratio of women applicants needed to be lowered as much as possible "because women tend to quit as doctors due to marriage and childbirth," according to the report.

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