Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Law school quotas set to be slashed

"Japan is churning out too many law students, fueling concern about low success rates in bar exams and the quality of those entering the legal profession.

"Against this background, the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University have decided to cut annual admission quotas to their law schools by 20 percent from the next school year beginning April 2010, sources said.

"With the aim of improving overall quality, the two prestigious national universities opted to reduce admissions in line with an education ministry policy to cut back on student quotas at all 74 law schools around the nation, the sources said.

"Other national universities are expected to follow suit.

"The planned reduction is expected to have a major impact on law schools, which were established in 2004 as a pillar of judicial system reforms, analysts said.

"In 2002, the government set a goal of raising the number of successful annual bar exam candidates to 3,000 by the 2010 school year. But it remains uncertain if the target can be achieved.

"A key reason for the deterioration in the quality of students is that law schools were set up one after another around the nation.

"Initially, total student enrollment at the law schools was expected to be about 4,000. With universities promoting their law schools to attract students, however, the total figure swelled to about 5,800.

"Despite the rush of applicants, only about 30 percent of the total number of graduates passed the annual bar exam under a new system in 2008, which was much lower than the initially anticipated success rate of 70 to 80 percent.

"Some law schools have yet to produce a single successful examinee.

"Experts say the quality of education and the aptitude of those studying at law schools have deteriorated.

"They also point to a decrease in the level of even judicial trainees who passed the bar exams and are undergoing training as law specialists.

"Judges and lawyers have cast doubt on the effectiveness of having such a large number of law school students. This issue has also come to the attention of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

"With 300 spots, the University of Tokyo has the largest annual law school quota among national universities. It plans to reduce the figure to 240 from the next school year.

""We made the decision, along with reviews of the curriculum, in an effort to improve the quality and effectiveness of our education," said Masahito Inoue, dean of the university's graduate school for law and politics.

"Kyoto University also plans to slash its admission quota from 200 to 160.

""We believe it has become necessary to raise the ratio of successful examinees for law schools as a whole," said Katsumi Yamamoto, a senior official of the law school.

"A special committee of the Central Council for Education, an advisory board to the education minister, issued a final report Friday with recommendations to improve the quality of the nation's law schools.

"The minister, Ryu Shionoya, plans to deliver the recommendations to law schools, urging them to abide by the proposals.

"The report said schools that don't have twice as many applicants as their quota should reduce their quota the following year.

"One-third of the nation's law schools fit this category in the 2008 school year.

"According to executives of the Japan Association of Law Schools, the majority of the 23 national universities will cut annual admission quotas for their law schools by 10 to 30 percent.

"Tokyo's Waseda University, which has a quota of 300, is considering reducing the number from the 2011 school year. Chuo University, which accepts the same number of students, has no plans to cut back."

By Tomoya Ishikawa, Fumiaki Onishi and Manabu Aoike (Asahi Shimbun, 4/18/2009), Link to article (last visited 4/18/2009)

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