The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has announced plans to increase the number of international students studying in Japan by 100,000 over the next four years.

There are 200,000 foreign students currently studying in the region, a number they hope to boost to 300,000 by the year 2020. According to the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO), as of May 2014, the country played host to 184,133 overseas students, up 9 percent on figures from 2013, which stood at 168,145.

The proposed drive is inspired by the growing relationship between Japan and the ASEAN region, whose member states are becoming increasingly influential within the global economy.

MEXT hopes that a significant increase in foreign student numbers will allow them to produce the future businessmen and politicians who will liaise between Japan and the ASEAN states to accelerate their development.

The budding relationship between Japan and the ASEAN region could prove extremely beneficial to all its member states, since Japan currently boasts the world’s third-largest economy. Japan’s low birth-rate paired with its ageing population has forced the country to build relations further afield than China, making the close proximity of ASEAN countries increasingly attractive. Therefore, Japanese institutions hope to recruit foreign students, including those with ASEAN roots, to expand the country’s college-age population.

As such, from 2013, the Ministry of Education selected 11 Japanese universities, including the University of Tokyo and Waseda University, to receive annual subsidies worth tens of millions of yen in order for them to participate in its ASEAN International Mobility for Students (AIMS) program. The program seeks to encourage student exchange and foreign study options between the Japanese institutions and their ASEAN equivalents. Participating countries include: Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei and Japan.

“ASEAN was trying to integrate and Japan committed to contributing to ASEAN. When Japan offered to cooperate on AIMS, it was the only country in East Asia to do so,” noted an official from the Education Ministry. “The program is beneficial for both Japan and ASEAN.”

The AIMS scheme incorporates a broad range of academic disciplines, from hospitality and tourism, to agriculture, language and culture, international business, food science and technology, engineering and economics.

Program participants are required to undertake a semester at their ASEAN partner institution. All courses are taught in English, except for Japanese language classes, and credits earned are applicable to all cooperating universities.

Additional reporting by The Japan Times.

Image via Shutterstock.

Liked this? Then you’ll love these…

ASEAN’s international school boom: How AEC is transforming the region’s education sector

ASEAN Rising: What Southeast Asian Students Should Look for in a Postgraduate Business Degree