Diet enacts law to support development of world-class universities

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry

A law aimed at creating world-class universities that will serve as a driving force for innovation was enacted in the Diet on Wednesday.

From fiscal 2024, the government will allocate tens of billions of yen to universities from an investment fund to which it will contribute ¥10 trillion.

The measure, involving large-scale university subsidies aimed at supporting the development of research environments in which young researchers can flourish, is one of the signature policies of the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, which has positioned science and technology as a pillar of its growth strategy.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to provide support for 10 years or more, and universities will be expected to achieve steady results.

In the U.S. and Europe, the research findings of top universities have led to the creation of products, services, and new fields of study that have transformed people’s lives.

A university of international excellence is one “that is expected to make use of research findings to bring about changes in the economy and society” according to the new law, which is aimed at facilitating the development of such institutions.

The law lists seven criteria, including a track record of international excellence in research, the development of an advanced research environment, and a necessary financial base. The government also plans to impose strict conditions, such as a 3% annual increase in income.

The ministry and the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation chaired by Kishida, will consider applications from universities and will select eligible institutions by fiscal 2023.

The goal is to generate ¥300 billion a year in investment income from the university fund. The target for support will be expanded in stages according to the performance of the fund.

Some opposition lawmakers opposed the measure in Diet deliberations, claiming that support limited to a few universities would widen the gap between institutions.

The government has also formulated a comprehensive package that includes support for regional universities with outstanding performance, but the total budget for this fiscal year is only ¥46.2 billion.