The Memorandum of Understanding, signed in Canberra last week, pledges more cooperation between universities in the two countries on areas such as student and staff mobility and exchange, research collaboration and qualifications recognition.
“The MoU looks at all areas of our engagement with Japanese universities in a way that we have never seen before”
The formal recognition of academic qualifications is a particularly significant development and will make it easier for institutions to develop joint degrees.
Through the MoU, the two national associations will also look at how to promote greater research cooperation and the development of joint PhD and cotutelle programmes.
Universities Australia anticipates that “ever growing numbers of students” will flow between the two countries as a result of the agreement, its deputy chief executive, Anne-Marie Lansdown, said.
“The MoU looks at all areas of our engagement with Japanese universities in a way that we have never seen before,” she commented.
Tatsu Hoshino, executive secretary of the Japan Association of Overseas Studies, agreed that qualifications recognition is an “important development” for educational exchange.
“Generally speaking, national universities in Japan are weak in developing study abroad programs for their students,” he told The PIE News. “However, with this agreement, it encourages more Japanese national universities to send their students to national universities in Australia.”
“At the same time, Japanese students feel more secure and confident to attend study abroad programmes run by their host universities since there will be better qualification recognition.”
The agreement, signed at the fourth Japan-Australia Education High Level Policy Dialogue, is the culmination of nine months of collaboration, supported by the Australian Embassy in Japan and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).
It marks a long history of engagement between Japan and Australia, Lansdown said, with over 480 formal agreements in place.
“Given that Japan is one of Australia’s largest trading partners, the wider benefits of increased mobility and links are very significant,” she noted.
Outbound Japanese students have decreased in recent years, dropping from a high of 83,000 in 2004 to just 57,501 in 2011, prompting the government to back a number initiatives including Prime Minister Abe’s signature ‘Abeducation’ plan that aims to double the number of domestic students studying overseas by 2020.
Meanwhile, the number of Australian students at Japanese higher education institutions has risen in recent years but stood a just 69 in 2013, according to MEXT.