UTokyo's Tuition Increase Explained



In May 2024, the University of Tokyo confirmed that they are considering increasing tuition fees. The further details are not yet clarified. The current tuition fee of UTokyo is JPY535,800 per year and hasn’t been changed for about two decades; this revision, however, could increase up to about additional JPY100,000 per year. Before that, the UTokyo authorities plan to hold a “Dialogue with the President” on June 21 to exchange opinions on this topic.
UT-BASE is concerned that raising tuition fees may undermine UTokyo students’ learning opportunities. Aiming to make UTokyo the best place to learn in the world, UT-BASE will keep a close watch on this issue and continue to provide information in both Japanese and English.
In this article, as the first step, we would like to summarize why the Japanese national universities have been discussing the increase in tuition and the responses of students and university authorities to this issue. We hope that this article will help you understand the discussion of tuition which is proceeding at an extremely fast pace, where the available information is predominantly Japanese.
(To view the original Japanese article, please click here)

Table of contents

    How are tuition fees determined?

    In Japan, tuition at national universities is determined by an ordinance of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The “standard amount” of undergraduate tuition set by the ministerial ordinance is JPY535,800, which is the current tuition of UTokyo.
    In fact, the tuition set by the ministerial ordinance has not changed since 2005.
    Originally, the national universities in Japan were set as internal organizations under MEXT; back then, there was no difference in tuition between universities and majors. Even after all national universities became “national university corporations (国立大学法人, Kokuritsu Daigaku Hōjin)” (Article 6 of the National University Corporation Law) and each became an independent accounting unit in 2004, the “standard amount” has remained unchanged considering the economic burden of students and national universities’ social role.

    Can tuition fees be raised?

    Nevertheless, national universities still have the authority to revise tuition fees. Article 10 of the “Ministerial Ordinance Concerning Tuition and Other Fees of National Universities, etc.” by MEXT permits tuition fee revisions in a limited manner as follows:

    (Maximum Amount of Tuition, etc.)
    Article 10: When a national university corporation intends to set the annual amount of tuition fees, entrance fees, examination fees, etc., if there are special circumstances, … the amount of fees can be determined within the limit not exceeding the 120% of standard amount.
    (Translated into English and some texts made bold by editors)

    In other words, it can be raised to 120% of the standard amount. If UTokyo were to raise tuition to that maximum, the burden on students would increase by nearly JPY110,000 per year, or JPY430,000 over four years.

    In addition, due to the revision of the ministerial ordinance in March of this year, based on Article 11 of the same ministerial ordinance, tuition fees for international students, **which were previously the same amount as for Japanese students, **can now be raised without any upper limit. From now on, tuition fees for international students may be raised to a level higher than 120% of the standard amount.

    Why are tuition hikes being discussed now?

    The ministerial ordinance states that revision of tuition is available in “special circumstances,” but it is also true that criteria are ambiguous. Some national universities have already determined the increase in tuition fees.

    University Change in tuition For new students admitted since…
    Tokyo Institute of Tech. JPY 535,800 (standard amount) → JPY 635,400 (approx. 118%) AY2019/2020
    Tokyo University of Arts JPY 535,800 (standard amount) → JPY 642,960 (120%) AY2019/2020
    Chiba University Same as above AY2020/2021
    Hitotsubashi University Same as above AY2020/2021
    Tokyo Medical and Dental Univesity Same as above AY2020/2021
    Tokyo University of Agriculture and Tech. Same as above AY2024/2025

    Tuition hikes started in 2018-2019, mainly at national universities in the Greater Tokyo Area. However, further increases in other universities were supposedly suspended for the past few years considering the pressure on economic situations due to the pandemic. And now, as the post-COVID era begins, tuition hikes are being discussed again.
    National universities have been complaining about the difficulty of maintaining finances.
    On June 7, The Japan Association of National Universities, which consists of 86 national universities nationwide, issued a statement, asking for the public's cooperation and understanding, citing such reasons as:
    ▶︎The "subsidy for operation expenses (運営費交付金, Un-eihi Kōfukin)" from the government, the source of basic expense for national universities, has been continuously shrinking since the incorporation of national universities; ▶︎The rise in prices; ▶︎The increase in social insurance and miscellaneous expenses; ▶︎The depreciation of the yen and other factors; and the actual budget decrease is nearing their limit.
    For more, refer to “Statement from JANU: for Our Country’s Bright Future” (only in Japanese)*
    * also released a statement on June 10, stating that they “must address various challenges such as ageing infrastructure, rising prices, utility costs, and personnel costs, despite our limited financial resources,” and the revision of tuition is "to ensure stable funding for maintaining and improving the educational environment for students.”
    At the same time, UTokyo also revealed that they are considering specific support measures for students with financial difficulties, such as the expansion of tuition fee exemptions and the enhancement of scholarships.
    For more, refer to "Regarding the Media Reports on Tuition Increase | UTokyo"
    UTokyo Newspaper (東大新聞, Tōdai Shimbun) has criticized in their article that “the increase in revenue from the 20% tuition hike only makes up about 1.2% of the total income, and is hardly enough to compensate the reduction amount of the government subsidy,” the fundamental strengthening of finance and stronger government support.
    For more, refer to the original Japanese article by Todai Shimbun
    While we students are clearly stakeholders in the tuition hike issue, we also need to recognize that the tuition revision is part of a deeper, fundamental problem: the financial stringency of national university corporations.

    What kind of opinions are students expressing?

    An increase of more than JPY100,000 per year will be a significant financial burden for many students and their families, as many students are already enrolled with tuition exemptions or scholarships.
    As mentioned above, the university is considering support measures for students with financial difficulties. However, students are highly concerned that the complexity of the scholarship and tuition waiver enrollment procedures will add a significant burden for more students. Other students worry that their relationship with their parents may become even more subordinate if their parents are paying tuition for them.
    Specifically, there are concerns that students from wider economic backgrounds or rural areas can be discouraged from enrolling on UTokyo, thereby undermining the diversity and inclusiveness that UTokyo has set as major goals according to UTokyo Compass. Furthermore, the tuition fee increases at UTokyo may affect and provoke further tuition fee revisions at other national universities.
    On the other hand, the way university authorities have been disclosing information is also being criticized. The fact that UTokyo was considering raising tuition fees was first reported as leaked information by some media outlets on May 15, without any official announcement by the university authorities. This sparked anxiety and doubts among students, and on the same day, the Komaba Campus Student Union (教養学部学生自治会, Kyōyōgakubu Gakusei Jichikai) submitted a request for the disclosure of correct information. It was the following night that the UTokyo authority officially admitted that they were considering tuition fee revisions.
    In addition, as noted below, there are concerns about whether student opinions will be adequately reflected in the "Dialogue with the President" scheduled for June 21, given that it will be held via Zoom rather than in person, and that UTokyo authorities have stated that they do not intend to hold the dialogue multiple times until they gain understandings of the students.
    Currently, many student groups are expressing opinions on this issue. On June 6, a rally against the tuition hike was held at the Hongo and Komaba campuses, attended by several hundred students, demanding the withdrawal of the proposed increase and clear disclosure of information to students. On June 10, the second meeting of the 148th Komaba Campus Student Union was held, where a draft resolution regarding the tuition hike was finalized.
    UT-BASE will continue to cover and report the voices of people inside and outside of UTokyo regarding the tuition hike, including various student activities.

    How is UTokyo responding?

    As mentioned above, “Dialogue with the President” will be held from 7 pm to 8:30 pm on June 21 (Friday) via Zoom.
    “Dialogue with the President” is an opportunity specified in UTokyo Compass to promote conversations between faculty members and students, and it is defined as “a place to communicate, not to negotiate” by university authorities. The last time it was held was when UTokyo applied for the University for International Research Excellence program.
    The topic of this time’s dialogue is to “contemplate Tuition Fees and Management of [UTokyo] with the President,” and it is the first time the faculty and students will exchange their opinions since the announcement of revising the tuition. Anyone who is enrolled at UTokyo is eligible to participate, and sign language and English interpretation will be available. (The registration was finished on June 13)
    Related materials have already been sent to the registered email address, so please remember to check them before entering the Zoom.
    UT-BASE will continue to update information regarding the tuition increase, so we hope you will check our updates continuously.

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