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Japan – International student body thrives & national mobility support on the rise

Japan’s international student body is growing exponentially, topping the 200,000 mark for the first time. According to the Result of an Annual survey of International Students in Japan 2015, published by the Japanese student services (Jasso) last month, higher education reflects three quarters of the foreign student body with an increase of 9.3 percent to the forgone year - and a 13.3 percent rise of incoming international students in total.

Proportionally the largest increase of foreign students could be noted for language institutions.  The national framework - Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU) – connecting students’ eligibility to pursue higher education in many institutions not only to the assessment of academic abilities, but the successful completion of a Japanese language proficiency test, can be inferred to encourage such demand. Focusing on the Higher education segment, undergraduate courses, despite moderate growth (2.4 %), hosted the largest number of foreign students, yet vocational training courses saw the biggest increase in demand with a rise of 32.3 percent. In terms of the international make up of Japan’s student body, China continued to top the ranks, despite stagnating growth, followed by incoming students from Vietnam and Nepal, filling in for a decreasing Korean student base. Undoubtedly students from Asian regions, representing 91.4 percent of foreign students, dwarf an incoming student body of 3.8 percent from Europe, that nevertheless places second with an increase of 22.5 percent - French and German students seeming to take the biggest linking to Japan as a study destination.

Government initiatives as the 2009 flag ship Global30, aiming to attract 300,000 international students by 2020, followed by the 2014 Top Global universities project seeking to augment Japan’s presence on the global rankings stage - backed by a 7.7¥ billion (EUR 62million ) boost for 37 top universities - have played a significant role in opening the country to the world through increased mobility in education.  A key strategy is breaking down language barriers, top universities now offering English taught degrees and more international student services. Waseda University for 2015 shows to have doubled courses taught in foreign language, subsequently hosting the largest number of international students, followed by the University of Tokyo.  A systemic obstacle to increasing the globalization of Japanese universities is its four year based Bachelor degree model. In an effort to boost internationalisation, Japan is increasingly extending recognition to select partner countries with differing degree structures, reflected in initiatives as the 2015 German Japanese framework agreement featuring recommendations for mutual-recognition of academic qualifications, and most recently Japan’s formal recognition of Australian undergraduate degrees during the annual Australia Japan summit, that will come into effect this month.

Moves towards cooperation and two-way mobility are showing effect, with a 208,379 strong international student body studying in the country and the Global 30 goal of hosting 300,000 foreign students fast approaching. 

Jasso - International Students in Japan 2015
Australian Government Department of Education and Training