About 700 foreign students of a social welfare university that has campuses in Tokyo and Gunma Prefecture have gone missing, prompting the education and justice ministries to conduct an investigation.

Tokyo University and Graduate School of Social Welfare reported to the ministries that it had expelled the students. However, the education ministry was unaware that the current whereabouts of the former students were not known and that they had, in fact, "disappeared."

“We will check the records of classes the missing foreign students took and their attendance," said education minister Masahiko Shibayama. "Based on that, we will give instructions for the school to improve and correct the situation.”

As of May 1, 2018, the university had a total of 5,131 foreign students.

Of these, undergraduate and graduate students numbered 925, while non-regular research students, who were preparing to enter the university, totaled 2,711. There were 1,495 students who were studying Japanese in advance of entering the university.

According to the university, among the 2,711 research students, about 700 had been expelled because they had gone missing. Many of the expelled students were studying at the Oji campus in Tokyo’s Kita Ward.

The university expels students who haven't paid their tuition, or have expired visas, or have been unable to be contacted for three months and their current location is unknown.

In fiscal 2017, 493 of 1,890 foreign research students were expelled, while in fiscal 2016, 264 of 1,150 foreign research students were expelled. In most of the cases, these students' whereabouts were unknown.

The education ministry said it decided to conduct an on-site investigation as it was recently reported that many foreign students had gone missing.

The ministry said that many of the research students had graduated from Japanese language schools.

“We helped many foreign students who originally had a difficult time entering the university,” said a Tokyo University and Graduate School of Social Welfare official.

“We did all we could for them such as visiting the homes of students who started to be absent from classes or calling to their home countries. But we can’t do anything when we can’t determine their current location."

(This article was written by Fumio Masutani and Seiko Sadakuni.)