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Japan: outbound numbers down 98% in 2020

Despite optimism amid international students returning to Japan after waiting almost two years to enter, the number of students leaving Japan to study abroad dropped a staggering 98% in 2020, a survey has revealed.

South Korea was the most popular destination among Japanese international students, despite a staggering drop in movement. Photo: Pexels

The number of students going abroad for a period to study dropped to just 1,487

In the survey conducted by the Japan Student Services Organisation, looking at students originally belonging to Japanese institutions, the number of students going abroad for a period to study dropped to just 1,487.

The Covid pandemic crippled the country’s outbound study industry, with students demonstrably deciding to stay in Japan to continue their university education.

It was the largest drop in students ever seen since data became available in 2009.

South Korea was the most popular destination among the small cohort of students, with 265 going to study – down almost 7,000 in 2019.

The Japanese neighbour was followed by the US, where 240 went to study compared to over 18,000 the year prior, and Canada, where the number dropped from just over 9,000 from 189.

“We expect the infection situation to improve and international travel to resume”

The strict border controls were the most likely reason for the drop, with most students postponing their study abroad plans – or cancelling them.

Despite the chaotic timeline when it comes to Japan’s policy on international students, both inbound and outbound, the situation is beginning to improve with the border gradually opening after an announcement in April.

An education ministry official said, “We expect the infection situation to improve and international travel to resume.

“We will work to provide information and other support to students,” they continued.

At the time of the announcement made by Japanese PM Fumio Kishida on March 3, international students were called a “treasure to Japan”, and the increase on the cap of students allowed to enter each day was increased on March 14.

While news has been better for students wanting to enter Japan, there is little more data offered on the status of outbound students in Japan than this JASSO survey at this time. Although 2021 was a better year for student movement globally, Japan’s border restrictions lasting until March 2022 make it unclear as to when inbound and outbound figures will rebound.

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