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Japan: VET demand drives int’l student rise

The number of international students in Japan grew to 239,287 last year, up 14.8% from the year before, as the country inches closer to its target of hosting 300,000 international students by 2020.

Ritsumeikan University (pictured). Japanese higher education institutions welcomed a rise of 12.5% in the number of international students last year. Photo: The PIE News

Outside of Asia, the US was the top sending country, sending 2,648 students to Japan last year

The lion’s share of international students going to Japan studied at the undergraduate level last year, 72,229, an increase of 7.1%. But private training providers saw the biggest increase in enrolments, according to the latest statistics from the Japanese Student Services Organisation (JASSO).

Professional training colleges grew 30% to 50,235 students putting vocational education third on the list of most popular levels of study in 2016. Language study was the most popular after undergraduate and grew in student numbers by 21% to 68,165.

“We used to receive a lot of students from China, Korea and Taiwan but their higher education is getting better and better”

Earlier this year, the Japanese government introduced stricter entry requirements for language students from Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, Vietnam and Burma, in an attempt to curb the number of illegal employment violations on student visas. How this might affect student numbers is so far unknown.

Graduate schools welcomed 43,478 international students last year – an increase of over 2,000 students from 2015 – but slipped to fourth most popular study level.

The top five sending countries of international students remained the same from previous years, with each displaying an increase.

Corresponding with statistics from 2015, students from Asia made up the considerable majority of international students (93%). China was the largest source country sending 98,483 students to Japan last year – up 4.6% from 2015 figures.

Meanwhile, Vietnam was the second largest country of origin by volume, with Vietnamese students going to Japan increasing by a significant 38.4%, reaching 53,807.

Nepal also saw a fairly substantial increase of over 3,000 students studying in Japan, to 19,471.

Korea and Taiwan both saw modest increases, sending 178 and 1,016 more students respectively, completing the top five source countries.

Outside of Asia, the US was the top sending country, sending 2,648 students to Japan last year.

Waseda University, based in Tokyo, was the most popular institution of study for international students, welcoming a total of 4,767 students, up from 4,603 students in 2015.

The University of Tokyo enrolled 3,260 international students, up from 2,990 and Tokyo University of Social Welfare more than doubled its international student intake in one year, reaching 3,000 enrolments.

The target of hosting 300,000 international students was introduced back in 2008, and incorporated into Prime Minister Abe’s Top Global Universities project, which aims to internationalise Japanese universities.

Speaking to The PIE News last year, Michiko Suzuki, executive director of student exchange at JASSO, explained that the target is ambitious.

“We used to receive a lot of students from China, Korea and Taiwan but their higher education is getting better and better so they don’t have to send their students to Japan to study undergraduate programs,” she said.

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