Japan makes plans for more overseas students

June 21, 2013

The University of Tokyo is considering replacing its two-semester academic year with a quarter-based system as a step to attracting more overseas students with autumn enrolments. The move follows recent government plans to internationalise Japan’s education system.

In a report released this week, a panel at the University of Tokyo, known locally as Todai, has proposed the system as a bridge to the goal of autumn enrolments, which would bring the institution into line with most international systems.

Todai President Junichi Hamada said, “The proposed four-quarter system will be a crucial step to achieving fall enrolment.” As previously reported, Hamada has stated a desire to switch to an autumn academic year and appointed the group to examine options. The panel appears to have ruled out full autumn enrolment by 2015, although final policy will not be decided until July.

As Japan’s most prestigious university and Asia’s highest-ranked institution in the Times World University Rankings (27), the role of Todai is seen as crucial in encouraging other Japanese universities to follow suit.

Meanwhile, a government education panel has called for a more international approach to education in order to foster global talent, with a goal of having 10 universities ranked within the top 100 within a decade. The panel recommends that the number of Japanese students studying abroad should double to 120,000, along with previously stated ambitions to attract 300,000 international students by 2020 – according to the Japan Student Services Organisation (Jasso), there were 137,756 international students in Japan in 2012.

Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura has indicated that the government would provide scholarships for short-term overseas study to fill the gap created by a switch to international enrolments.

In line with the government plans, Waseda University, already Japan’s largest host of international students, has announced plans to nearly double its number of overseas scholars to 8,000 by 2022, while also aiming for the same number of its domestic students to study abroad on exchange programmes.

Furthermore, one of Tokyo’s top high schools has announced extracurricular English-taught classes for students interested in study abroad. Musashi Senior and Junior High School, operated by the Nezu Educational Foundation and traditionally one of the top feeder schools to the major domestic universities, is offering the evening classes for 120 students from September. “Amid the age of globalisation, we want students to have options overseas. We want to nurture human resources who can play an active role as international citizens in the future,” said a school statement.

The June issue of Study Travel Magazine includes a feature on Japanese universities.

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