Enrollment Favoritism Scandal Shakes Japan
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Enrollment Favoritism Scandal Shakes Japan

    Tokyo prosecutors have arrested a high-ranking education ministry official on suspicion of bribery. He is believed to have leaned on Tokyo Medical University to enroll his son in exchange for preferential treatment from the ministry. The possible collusion between an institution and the ministry that oversees it is sending shockwaves through Japan's academic world.

    Futoshi Sano, chief of the education ministry's Science and Technology Policy Bureau, was arrested on suspicion of taking a bribe. He was dismissed from the post after his arrest.

    The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors' Office says Sano gave Tokyo Medical University favorable treatment May of last year, when he was chief of the Ministry Secretariat. Prosecutors say he helped the university get selected for ministry assistance in exchange for points being added to his son's entrance exam score.

    Sano entered the then-Science and Technology Agency in 1985. He became head of the ministry's Science and Technology Policy Bureau a year ago.

    Corrupt Dealing

    The case involves the subsidy program for private universities, in which the ministry provides funding for unique research projects. In fiscal 2017, the ministry doled out 5.5 billion yen, or about 50 million US dollars. 188 schools applied; 60 were granted aid, including Tokyo Medical University.

    Sano allegedly became acquainted with a university official, who asked for his help in getting the school selected for the grant. Sano agreed, in exchange for having his son's scores padded. They met through Koji Taniguchi, a 47-year-old company executive, who was also arrested in the case.

    Sources told NHK that the university official who solicited Sano's help is Masahiko Usui, the chairman of the school. Usui is alleged to have taken charge of the score padding, making sure Sano's son was given the marks required to be accepted.

    On the school's website, Usui is quoted as vowing to work to help the institution acquire more research funding from external sources.

    Shock spreads through campus

    One student says she cannot believe such corruption took place at her university. She says she is shocked, stunned, and angry.

    Another student says she is concerned about her reputation. She worries that when she interns at a hospital, people may think she also got into the university dishonestly.

    This year, 3,535 people took the school entrance exam. 214 were accepted -- less than one in 16.

    Tokyo prosecutors searched education ministry offices on July 4th. Ministry officials said they were shocked that an incumbent official had been arrested.

    One official says he can't believe a high-ranking bureaucrat would get himself involved in such a classic scandal. Another says it is unforgivable.

    Pending Investigation

    The university issued a statement, apologizing for the trouble and concern caused. It also said it will cooperate fully with the investigation.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says if the allegations are confirmed, they would pose an extremely serious problem, and may fundamentally shake the public's trust in educational administration. He says he wants prosecutors to investigate thoroughly.

    Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi says it is regrettable an incumbent official was arrested and that the ministry will fully cooperate with the investigation.

    Prosecutors are trying to uncover details of the selection procedure for the ministry's aid program. Investigators have not revealed whether the two suspects have admitted to the charges.