Japan govt eyes subsidies for universities to reorganize science, engineering faculties from FY23

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

The government plans to start providing financial support in fiscal 2023 to encourage universities to reorganize their science and engineering faculties, in keeping with its goal of increasing the percentage of science students from the current 35% of the total number to about 50%.

The government also intends to expand the scope of scholarships to include science students from middle-income households. Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Keiko Nagaoka announced the plans at a Cabinet meeting on Sept. 2.

The timetable shows that the government envisages launching a support program in fiscal 2023 at the earliest to encourage universities to make initial investments through funds and other means when they reorganize science and engineering faculties with a view of expanding into digitization, decarbonization and other new fields.

The details will be discussed during the current fiscal year, with an eye on providing continuous support for operating costs starting from the year of the faculty’s launch.

The government also plans to significantly ease the requirements for the number of faculty members and expenses needed to establish science faculties. It will make arrangements to apply the relaxed rule to applications from fiscal 2024 for the establishment of such faculties.

Currently, students from households with an annual income of less than ¥3.8 million are eligible for receiving scholarships in principle. The government plans to expand this eligibility to cover students from middle-income households if they are science or engineering majors and those from households with three or more children, facing high tuition burdens. The government envisages the new annual household income threshold to be about ¥6 million.

In a bid to encourage more women to major in science and engineering — because Japan lags in the number of women in such fields compared to other countries — a new support system is also planned to be launched in fiscal 2024 with the use of private funds.

Regarding a student loan system, in which students repay their debt according to their income after graduation, the government plans to conduct a survey on students within this year toward the introduction of such a loan program for graduate students.

The government intends to consider relevant matters, including legal revisions, with the aim of introducing the system in fiscal 2024.

In May this year, the government’s council for creation of future education, which is chaired by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, compiled a set of proposals that included a goal of boosting the percentage of science students to about 50% of the total number. With the next 10 years set as a period for intensive reform, Kishida had asked the relevant ministries and agencies to formulate timetables for measures to be undertaken in line with the proposals.