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Politics

Tokyo Medical Univ. discriminated against female applicants by slashing test scores

Practice aimed at avoiding shortage of doctors at affiliated hospitals, sources say

Tokyo Medical University began the practice because it believed female doctors often resign or take long leaves of absence after getting married or giving birth, leading to a shortfall in doctor numbers. 

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Tokyo Medical University deducted entrance exam points from all female applicants to keep the ratio of women studying at the university at around 30 percent, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.

The practice likely began around 2010 and was apparently aimed at avoiding a shortage of doctors at affiliated hospitals. The medical college believed female doctors often resign or take long leave after getting married or giving birth, leading to the shortfall, according to the sources.

The university deducted 10 to 20 percent of points scored by female applicants, the sources said.

The revelation comes in the wake of a bribery scandal involving the university's top executives and a senior education ministry official.

In July, Masahiko Usui, 77, and Mamoru Suzuki, 69, resigned as the chairman and president of the university, respectively, following allegations that they bribed a bureaucrat, Futoshi Sano, 59, in the form of guaranteeing his son's enrollment in exchange for a government subsidy. They have since been indicted.

The entrance exam bias came to light during an internal probe by the university's lawyers following the bribery scandal.

An education ministry official in charge of entrance exams said the government has asked higher-education institutions to detail how they select students in their guidance to applicants.

"If the university did not disclose the process and have been discriminating against applicants based on gender, that would be a problem," said the official.

Tokyo Medical University's entrance process consists of two stages. The first sees applicants take a multiple-choice exam before those who progress undergo another assessment in which they write an essay and sit for interviews.

The university deducted the female applicants' points after the first stage to reduce the number advancing, and no explanation of this process was given to the applicants, according to the sources.

Of the 1,596 men and 1,018 women who applied to the university in the 2018 academic year starting in April, 19 percent of the male applicants, or 303, passed the first stage, in contrast to 14.5 percent of female applicants, or 148.

A total of 141 men and 30 women passed the second stage, bringing the overall pass rates by gender to 8.8 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.

The education ministry asked the university on July 25 to report on its applicant selection process and whether it has adhered to it.

In the wake of the latest revelation, the official said the ministry intends to ask the university, when it reports on its past malpractices, to explain its treatment of female applicants.

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