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Over 1,600 int'l students go missing from university in Tokyo

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is pictured in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

TOKYO -- A total of 1,610 international students who were enrolled at Tokyo University and Graduate School of Social Welfare went missing from the 2016 to 2018 academic years, and their whereabouts remain unknown, the education ministry disclosed June 11.

The ministry has judged that the university bears heavy responsibility for the situation, after easily bringing in a large number of foreign students without confirming their Japanese ability. Officials have accordingly decided to suspend the issuance of student visas for new "faculty research students" at the institution -- the category to which about 80% of the missing students belonged. They are also considering reducing or suspending subsidies that the university gets as a private institution.

Faculty research students are students who are preparing to enter a degree program in a department at the university after a period of one year. They must possess a level of Japanese language ability that would not hinder their education or research. There is no enrollment cap on such students. Altogether, 1,113 of the missing international students were faculty research students.

In the 2013 academic year, five students were enrolled as faculty research students, but in the 2018 academic year, the number shot up to 2,656. In many cases, however, the students were found to have poor Japanese skills, and some did not attend a single lecture, raising the possibility that they had enrolled merely to get part-time jobs. The students' Japanese ability is screened by the university.

(Japanese original by Kenichi Mito, City News Department)

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