June 2013 issue

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Japanese universities

With ambitious recruitment plans, high-ranking institutions and burgeoning numbers of English programmes, Japan looks set to be an increasing presence in international higher education, as Matthew Knott discovers.

With more than 110,000 international students at undergraduate and graduate level in 2012, Japan is already a well-established destination, and plans are underway to reach 300,000 overseas students by 2020.

Kyoto University is one of the established institutions in Japan. “The quality of our research is evidenced by the internationally-recognised awards garnered by the university’s researchers – including more Nobel prizes that any other Asian university,” says Naoko Terukawa at the university. A range of degrees are English taught and assessed, with admission and support services also available in English. At present, Kyoto University has over 1,700 international students with around 80 per cent from Asia, and current recruitment initiatives are focused on Vietnam, Egypt and China, says Terukawa. “Students will benefit from the vibrant atmosphere of Kyoto,” she adds about the former capital city of Japan.

The boom in English programmes is driven by the Global 30 project (G30), in which 13 universities have been selected by the government to receive funding and spearhead the recruitment drive. The rapid increase in English-run courses has made Japanese universities more accessible to international students, and highlighted the excellent research and study environments of leading Japanese institutions, says Terukawa.

Ritsumeikan University is one of Japan’s top private universities, says Matthew Wortley from the institution – another G30 member in Kyoto with 36,000 students across two campuses. At present there are over 1,000 international students. Most of the 729 international undergraduate students – largely Chinese and Korean – are studying in Japanese, but the university is broadening its English-taught portfolio. The first full degree was the Global Studies Major in the College of International Relations. “This has led to small but interesting changes in the student body,” says Wortley. Many students would not have enrolled on a Japanese language programme, he believes. The second English offering, the Community and Regional Policy Studies Major, will launch from September.

Waseda University in Tokyo is also a private university G30 member. Masaki Tamada says, “As a pioneer among Japanese schools in accepting foreign nationals, we have 4,427 international students enrolled [as of November 2012], which is the largest among Japanese universities.” East Asia and South East Asia are predominant source areas, although enrolments from all world regions are rising. “One of the great advantages of studying in Waseda is to be able to develop ‘Asian perspectives’ as well as global perspectives,” adds Tamada. English degrees are available at Waseda in six of its 13 undergraduate schools and 11 of its 22 graduate schools, and students have the option to study Japanese as well. “The Center for Japanese Language offers a curriculum that provides students with Japanese instruction that suits their objectives and Japanese skill level,” including for students whose objectives are to find employment at Japanese companies or advance to do graduate studies or research in Japanese. The focus on post-study is an important aspect. “Waseda University offers a solid career support system catering specifically to international students. We consider career development support as one of the most important services to our students,” Tamada says, adding, “Every year, over 8,000 companies seek to recruit Waseda students.”

Global Daigaku is a agency that also works with several Japanese institutions to assist in marketing and recruitment, says President James Yellowlees. He explains that international student numbers have recovered after the shock of the 2011 tsunami. Although Asian countries dominate, he asserts that students from the USA and Europe are slowly rising, with language, business, technology, digital content and animation among the popular courses.

Asia Pacific University (APU), established in 2000 in Kyushu, is a Global Daigaku client and some 44 per cent of its 5,555 student population is international with over 80 countries represented on campus, says Kenji Ito. APU offers bilingual programmes allowing students to graduate fluent in both languages, and as such the university has a “great job placement service for graduating students”, both in Japan and the Asia Pacific region, he says.

G30 member Kyushu University , located in Fukuoka, is another institution working with Global Daigaku. Around 1,500 of its students are international – a figure it aims to increase to 2,300 by 2014. Four-year English degree programmes in areas such as engineering, bioresources and bioenvironmental studies are being implemented to achieve this, Yellowlees advises. Kyushu University is actively promoting in China and has also established overseas offices in several locations. Osaka Gakuin University, meanwhile, offers a range of short-terms and long-term programmes for students interested in Japanese language, culture, business and society, says Mike Matsuno. “OGU offers excellent internship opportunities for international students with leading Japanese and multinational firms in the Kansai area.”

Working with agents

Despite the large number of international students, Japanese universities are relatively new to overseas recruitment. Most institutions have engaged in international fairs and high school visits and have recruited in-country from Japanese language schools. However, universities, particularly private institutions, are becoming more familiar with agents, and Masaru Yamada, Chairman of Japanese agency association JAOS, has been advising universities on the benefits of this. JAOS has also held joint seminars with JAFSA: Japan Network for International Education on recruitment.

“Recently, more universities than ever before have invited me as a specialist of international student recruitment to speak on how to recruit students,” Yamada says. “I have been advising universities to attend workshops more often, to meet agencies face-to-face to find out their quality assurances, not rush to get the results, and select Felca member agencies.”

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