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EDUCATION > Universities

Tokyo’s top colleges draw most students from capital region

  • June 1, 2016
  • , Asahi
  • Trending@Japan

unnamed (7)As many high school students in the countryside tend to stay in their native prefectures for higher education these days, the student bodies of five prominent colleges in Tokyo, including the University of Tokyo (Todai), are largely made up of those who graduated from secondary school in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa, according to research conducted by Asahi Shimbun (5/1) in cooperation with two other publishers. It found that 55.2% of successful Todai applicants this spring were from the greater Tokyo metropolitan area, up 8 points from 30 years ago. The corresponding figures for the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Hitotsubashi University, Waseda University, and Keio University were 74.7% (up 13 points), 69.4% (up 25 points), 73.9% (up 22 points), and 72.6% (up 16.5 points), respectively.


Rising tuition and living expenses in Tokyo have apparently made it difficult for students from rural areas to afford to attend these elite institutions. The fact that some 40% of the nation’s private middle and high schools, many of which offer courses that are aimed at helping students do well on the entrance exams for top colleges, are concentrated in these four prefectures is probably another factor. From the standpoint of urban students, opting for colleges outside the region perhaps does not make sense since the five institutions provide excellent academic programs and attending college in Tokyo does not require them to pay room and board expenses.


unnamed (6)College officials are reportedly alarmed by this trend, with a Keio University lecturer saying: “The campus would be a more stimulating learning environment if students came from more diverse backgrounds. Great ideas and unique insights don’t come from cookie-cutter students.” The principal of Kaisei Academy in Tokyo, where one out of four seniors is accepted by Todai every year, notes that some of the nation’s top university students, including his own school’s graduates, may not find college life very refreshing due to the presence of a large number of their acquaintances from high school. The educator, who found through his experience teaching at Harvard graduate school that many Todai students are not as competitive as their Harvard counterparts due in part to the absence of diversity in the classroom, urges Kaisei parents to send their children to colleges outside of Tokyo or abroad so as to help them learn to “stand on their own two feet both mentally and academically.”


unnamed (5)Masayuki Kobayashi, a professor of socioeconomics at Todai, underscores that it is extremely important for university officials to diversify the student body as much as possible. In order to attract applicants from rural areas, Waseda University offers expanded scholarships for qualified students from regions other than greater Tokyo, while Keio University School of Law set region-specific quotas for students enrolling under the admissions office (AO) entrance exam system based on applications, interviews, and essays. Under a new recommendation-based entrance exam system, Todai accepts only two applications from the same high school – one for a male applicant and another for a female – with the goal of admitting students with different backgrounds and academic goals.      

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