Photo/IllutrationEducation minister Masahiko Shibayama speaks at a news conference. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Ten medical schools held entrance exams that were rigged against female students and those who previously failed twice or more, the education ministry said in a report announced Dec. 14.

The ministry conducted a nationwide survey of entrance exams covering 81 universities with medical departments in response to a torrent of exam-rigging scandals that came to light in recent months.

"It's very regrettable that students who were not to blame have suffered," education minister Masahiko Shibayama said at a news conference. “Each university must deal with the matter swiftly and thoroughly.”

The report defined an "inappropriate entrance exam" as follows: admission was accepted for specific examinees regardless of order of merit without rational grounds; and candidates were treated differently based on their sex, age, area they lived or other such factors.

Using these criteria, the ministry declared that inappropriate entrance exams were held by Tokyo Medical University, Showa University, Kobe University, Iwate Medical University, Kanazawa Medical University, Fukuoka University, Kitasato University, Juntendo University and Nihon University.

The ministry pointed out the exam for St. Marianna University School of Medicine was also inappropriate, but the university disagreed, saying nothing is wrong with its exam and that it comprehensively evaluates each examinee. The ministry therefore asked the institution to set up a third-party panel to judge the case.

The survey also revealed that more than 10 universities held entrance exams that, while not judged to be inappropriate, involved questionable practices. For example, at some institutions, exam chairmen were handed a list of examinees recommended by alumni and high-ranking officials of the university, while at others, interview evaluation sheets mentioned that a parent was an alumni or faculty member at the university. Those measures were not found to have affected admission decisions.

If new cases of inappropriate exams come to light, the education ministry plans to visit the institutions concerned to investigate them.

The ministry is expected to set up a forum for universities and legal experts to discuss what constitutes a fair entrance exam, not only at medical schools, but also in other faculties.