A prestigious Japanese medical school has confessed to systematically rigging its entrance exams against women, in a scandal that has highlighted the nation’s deep problem with gender discrimination.
An internal investigation found that Tokyo Medical University had for more than a decade subtracted marks from female applicants in a deliberate effort to produce more male doctors, and falsified exams to help specific individuals.
The school, which initially denied knowledge of the test score manipulations, said it should not have occurred and vowed to prevent it from happening again.
It said it would consider retroactively admitting those who otherwise would have passed the exams, although it did not explain how it would do so.
“We sincerely apologise for the serious wrongdoing involving entrance exams that has caused concern and trouble for many people and betrayed the public’s trust,” the school’s managing director, Tetsuo Yukioka, said at a news conference. He denied any previous knowledge of the score manipulation and said he was never involved.
“I suspect that there was a lack of sensitivity to the rules of modern society, in which women should not be treated differently because of their gender,” he said.
The university has a network of affiliated hospitals and there was concern that women would cause staffing shortages when they stopped work or took time off to raise children.
The revelation did not come as a surprise for many women doctors, but rather was verification of what they had suspected for a long time: Some medical universities set the bar higher for women. That suspicion was backed up by the fact that the ratio of women who have passed the national medical exam consistently stayed at around 30 percent for nearly 20 years.
“We heard rumors a number of times that medical universities were placing caps on the number of female students,” said Ruriko Tsushima, an obstetrician and the head of Tsushima Ruriko Women’s Life Clinic Ginza in Tokyo. “Such practices should not be forgiven.”
Another doctor who currently works at a private hospital in Tokyo also said it was “common knowledge” among female students who were planning to apply for medical school.
“I believe many applicants were aware that the bar is set higher for women at some universities. The subject came up in conversation many times while I was a high school student,” said the woman in her 30s who spoke on the condition of anonymity.