66 institutions win approval
to open U.S.-style law schools

Japan Times Staff writer

An education ministry panel has given the green light to 66 out of 72 educational institutions that applied to open U.S.-style law schools next spring.

Four institutions failed to pass the panel screening process, while a decision on two other universities was postponed, ministry officials said Friday.

These two were instructed to submit revised applications that better explain the kind of schools they plan to open.

Two of the failed applicants cooperated with cram schools for students studying for the bar exams to establish graduate schools.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said the four institutions failed for a variety of reasons. In some cases, their curricula lacked subjects that met the specific goals of the law schools they proposed to set up, while others did not provide a sufficient explanation of how they intend to cooperate with cram schools.

The new law schools intend to place emphasis on a practical legal education, in response to criticism that people studying to become judicial professionals focus too much on acquiring the technical skills to pass the nation's extremely competitive bar exam. Such skills are taught at cram schools.

But Takafumi Goda, head of the ministry's higher education policy planning division, said the two failed institutions -- Ryukoku University and Aomori University -- were not rejected because they planned to join hands with cram schools.

Ryukoku University officials expressed dissatisfaction with Friday's decision.

Toshikuni Murai, a professor at the university's faculty of law, said Friday the university consulted with the ministry at every stage of the application process.

"We are at a loss with this result, in which the reason for our rejection was that we failed to provide sufficient explanation" regarding how the institution would cooperate with a cram school, Murai said.

Yoshio Kawamura, the university's vice president, noted that the ideals, curriculum, facilities and professors of the planned law school were all approved in the screening process.

He said he suspects that the ministry panel that screened the application might have thought that the cram school had the upper hand in establishing the law school.

The 66 approved institutions comprise 19 state-run universities, two municipal universities and 45 private academic institutions.

The panel screened the documents after receiving them in June, examining whether the proposed law schools met the ministry's standards in such areas as curriculum, teacher quality and quantity, and financing.

The establishment of U.S.-style law schools to train judges, prosecutors and lawyers is one of the main pillars of ongoing reforms to Japan's judicial system.

The reforms aim to increase the number of certified legal practitioners and improve their quality by placing more emphasis on practical legal education. Another objective is to reduce the disparity between urban areas, which have a high concentration of legal professionals, and rural areas, which do not. The establishment of law schools around the country is designed to achieve this goal.

More than 35,000 people took law school aptitude examinations conducted on Aug. 31 and Nov. 9 by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations.

The Japan Times: Nov. 22, 2003