Why study abroad programmes are becoming more popular in Japan
Japan is encouraging its students to become more 'international'. Source: Shutterstock

As Japan plans to catch up with Asia’s strong international student market, it faces tough competition from countries like China and Singapore, which are also planning to expose more of their own students’ to international perspectives by encouraging them to study abroad.

As reported by The Pie News, Japan is enjoying a decade of growth for short-term study abroad opportunities and its growing even further, surpassing the 100,000 mark for the first time.

Latest statistics from the Japan Student Services Organization reveal that 105,000 Japanese students enrolled in a a study abroad programme in 2017, a nine percent increase from the previous year.

“In general, university students are expected to be international people who can speak English and acquire an international way of thinking,” said JASSO Deputy Director, Tomohiro Miyai.

“Japanese people and society are still on the way to becoming more international. So the Japanese government encourages…study abroad, even short term, to acquire an international way of thinking.”

The statistics support the popularity of short-term outbound mobility in Japan, which has been growing steadily since 2003. Ever since then, short-term study in the country has boomed by 430 percent.

A group of Japanese college students at Wright State University as part of an international exchange programme. Source: Wright State University

It was also reported by The British Council that Chiba University in Japan will make studying abroad a compulsory element in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes from 2020 onwards.

The study abroad element will span anywhere between one week to two months, and must be pursued at least once during students’ degree programme.

They will not need to pay extra as the tuition fees at the study abroad destination will be covered by the university.

This initiative comes after the success of a pilot programme in 2016, where overseas study became compulsory for students enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Chiba University.

It’s estimated that from 2023, approximately 10,000 undergraduate and 3,500 postgraduate students will have enjoyed an overseas study experience as a result of this initiative.

According to The Pie News, the university has been promoting study abroad in recent years, having introduced an e-semester system that facilitates access to overseas programmes, as well as developing partnerships with overseas institutions, holding student exchange agreements with approximately 300 institutions.

From 2020 onwards, it will be compulsory for students at Chiba University in Japan to study abroad during their programme. Source: Wikipedia

It was also reported last year that there are plans for the University of Tsukuba to open up an overseas branch in Malaysia, following a request from Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, supported by Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe.

It will be the first-ever Japanese university to open a campus anywhere oversea, at a time when Japanese higher education institutions are facing various challenges, experiencing a sharp demographic decline of local students.

Internationalisation seems to be an attractive survival option as top Japanese universities drop in both global and Asian rankings, motivating them to increase international student numbers, foreign availability of student exchange programmes, and to boost collaboration with overseas institutions.

Kana Setoguchi, in charge of the section for international campuses at Japan’s Ministry of Education, told University World News that Tsukuba is so far the only institution that has contacted the Japanese ministry for advice on setting up overseas.

This comes after the Japanese government signalled a change in its policy for supporting overseas branches, as while they have previously funded university projects in Vietnam and Egypt, they did not allow the opening of a branch campus of a Japanese-accredited public institution abroad.

Setoguchi said that they now plan to look for more flexibility under its higher education grand policy for 2040, which includes greater openness to adult and international students, as well as providing more diverse and flexible education programmes.

However, despite mutual support from both countries, it will be a complex process with many challenges to overcome, and it could be a while before the branch in Malaysia opens officially.

“The university is very cautious in taking the final decision. There are many challenges that must be cleared,” said Masatoshi Yokose, spokesperson for the Office of Global Initiatives at the University of Tsukuba.

Liked this? Then you’ll love…

Why are numbers of Japanese international students declining?

By 2020, you could learn at one of these legendary Japanese universities in Malaysia