JAOS surveyed 40 education agents to estimate the number of Japanese people studying abroad. Between them, agents reported 34,304 students were enrolled in foreign study programs, including language courses and online education.
The survey found that the number of students travelling to study abroad increased from around 6,000 students in 2021 to just under 30,000 students in 2022.
Meanwhile, the number of students taking online courses at foreign institutions dropped from 8,974 students in 2021 to 4,799 students last year.
These trends were a result of the relaxation of Japan’s border control policies in the latter half of 2022, JAOS said in its report.
“In particular, the September 2022 removal of the requirement to submit proof of a negative PCR test upon returning to Japan has led to an increase [in] students of both long-term and short-term study abroad programs,” the organisation noted.
But outbound student numbers have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, an estimated 78,000 Japanese students studied abroad with JAOS members.
The top destination for traditional Japanese students recruited by JAOS members was Canada, followed by the US and Australia.
Of those taking online programs, about 40% (2,085) were enrolled in courses in the Philippines, making it the leading country by a significant margin, followed by China.
The report also pointed to Dubai, South Korea and Malaysia as emerging destinations for Japanese students, as all three saw marked increases.
The Japanese government has proposed a new plan to send 500,000 students abroad annually by 2033.
JAOS said this “represents an aggressive and ambitious goal” and that it will be “essential” for the government to involve education agents and private sector service providers in its plans.
As part of its efforts to promote study abroad, the government plans to increase financial support for students hoping to study abroad. JAOS said this move would help counteract the depreciation of the yen and global inflation, which are creating barriers to studying abroad.
Japan’s birth rate fell to a record low of 799,728 births in 2022, despite government efforts to counter population decline, a trend which could impact future student mobility.
“The Japanese government can encourage a significant number of high school students to consider studying abroad”
Tatsuhiko Hoshino, executive secretary at JAOS, told The PIE that, despite this, he expects the number of Japanese people pursuing overseas study will continue to increase for the next decade, in part due to planned promotional efforts to high school students by the government.
“It is anticipated that by promoting study abroad to this group, the Japanese government can encourage a significant number of high school students to consider studying abroad, surpassing the declining population trend,” he said.
The Japanese government also announced plans in March to recruit 400,000 international students to the country by 2033, which some have suggested is a move to help counter the country’s declining young population and falling numbers at Japan’s lower-ranked universities.
Speaking to the i newspaper, Jeffrey Hall, lecturer at Japan’s Kanda University, said filling the gap at “struggling” universities with international students could “save lower-ranked universities from financial ruin”.