japanese universities
It’s possible for most international students to return to Japan by the end of May, according to reports. Source: Philip Fong/AFP

Some 100,000 international students could return to Japanese universities and institutions by the end of May under a new priority entry programme, said reports. 

Liberal Democratic Party’s Public Relations Headquarters chairman Taro Kono tweeted yesterday: “Monbusho, or the Ministry of Education, is now planning to bring in 10,000 foreign students a week to Japan. 100,000 students are said to be waiting to come to Japanese schools, and Monbusho wants them in by the end of May.”

Quoting the Immigration Services Agency, Nikkei Asia reported that some 152,000 student visa holders were waiting to enter Japan as of Jan. 4, 2022. The plan is to bring in some 100,000 of these who seek to come as soon as possible under a simplified screening process.

New programme to facilitate students’ swift return to Japanese universities?

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu told reporters on Wednesday that a “smooth entry scheme” for students will launch as early as mid-March, before the new academic year begins in April.

The programme would mean that some 1,000 students could return to Japan on top of the daily cap on entrants, which will be raised from 5,000 to 7,000 starting March 14, 2022. “We think it’s possible to add about 1,000 a day on top of that, mainly on weekdays,” Matsuno was quoted saying by Nikkei Asia.

With over 150,000 international students still waiting to enter Japan, it is unclear how many of them still want to study in Japan, The Japan Times quoted Matsuno saying, adding that the to-be-launched programme is designed to allow international students to enter Japan “steadily”.

The education ministry’s new immigration support centre for foreign students will collect entry applications through universities, Japanese-language schools and other institutions, and work with airlines to let students book flights, said Nikkei Asia. 

As of Jan. 4, 2022, 400,000 people received approval for entry into Japan but are waiting to do so, said Immigration Services Agency, with some likely to have given up since then.

japanese universities

Studying in different time zones add to the difficulties of online learning for many remote students. Source: Philip Fong/AFP

Students enrolled in Japanese universities called for clear timeline for their return

Previously, stranded students enrolled in Japanese universities had been campaigning for the Japanese government to provide them with a clear timeline for their return.

Last year, Axel Doucet told Study International: “We’ve had to overcome so many false hopes and empty promises and that was very difficult. Now, with the new Omicron variant, we’ve been left stranded yet again.”

According to reports, Japanese universities were growing increasingly concerned that international students would reconsider their plans to study in the country over delays in Japan’s border reopening. 

Thousands of international students flock to Japanese universities each year for their world-class education, but many report a drop in international student enrolment. Students studying remotely due to border closures have had to navigate numerous challenges, including enduring time zone differences. 

Apra Jain from Delhi, India, previously told Study International: “The first struggle is the time difference, waking up at 5:00 a.m. for online classes is exhausting and gives me migraines. It’s unrealistic to assume that students studying at such odd hours will perform as well as students in the classroom.” 

She added: “Moreover, due to exhaustion, it’s difficult to conduct research during the day or interact with family and friends. Attending classes or submitting assignments in one time zone while eating or sleeping is stressful and confusing. 

“Another struggle is the toll it takes on my mental health, having to deal with so much uncertainty and the ups and downs of the travel ban can get really depressing.”

Not all Japanese universities were quick to adapt to the pandemic. Jain’s Japanese university was “very supportive” and quickly developed an online learning system in April 2020 when students couldn’t enter the country.