HE students down in Japan, language up

14 April, 2014


The number of international students at universities and higher education institutions in Japan declined for the third straight year in 2013, although students at Japanese language institutes rose by 35 per cent, according to data released recently by the Japan Student Services Organisation (Jasso).

The University of Tokyo, one of Japan’s largest host institutions of international students


International students at higher education level fell by 1.6 per cent to 135,519, as measured at May 1st 2013, around 6,000 students below the 2010 peak of 141,774. Ambitious plans to increase Japan’s total to 300,000 have stalled in recent years due to the 2011 tsunami in the Tohoku region, historically high exchange rates and political tensions with the key recruitment countries of China and Korea.

China remains by far the dominant source market, accounting for 81,884 students, 60.4 per cent of the total at higher education level, but a 5.1 per cent decrease in numbers compared with 2012. Korea declined by 8.1 per cent, but retains position as the second largest provider with 15,304 students.

Vietnam has moved into third place with a 43.8 per cent increase to 6,290 students, with efforts by Japanese institutions to diversify markets going some way to compensating for losses from China and Korea. There were also increases from the other top-five source countries: Taiwan (2.2 per cent) and (Nepal (30.1 per cent). Asia is the overwhelmingly dominant source region, providing 91.9 per cent of Japan’s international students.

In terms of study level, 67,437 students were at undergraduate level, 39,567 students were at graduate school and 24,586 were pursing studies at professional training colleges, with the remainder at junior colleges and colleges of technology. Social science is the most popular study area for international students in Japan, accounting for 52,333 students and 38.6 per cent of the total, followed by humanities (28,605 students) and engineering (23,242 students).

Waseda University, a private university in Tokyo, continues to be the top host institution with 3,899 overseas students, up from 3,771 in 2012, followed by Japan University of Economics (3,385 students) and the University of Tokyo (2,839 students).

A 35.4 per cent growth in the number of long-term international students at Japanese language institutes to 36,626 offers future encouragement for the higher education sector that declines can be reversed, notably with an increase of 912 students from China to 15,991 and further substantial growth from Vietnam, up from 1,735 students in 2012 to 7,509 in 2013.

Jasso has only been collecting data for the Japanese language institute sector since 2011 and 2013 represents the first increase in that time.

There was also slight growth in the short-term international student sector – defined by Jasso as a student studying in Japan for one year or less and not working towards a degree. There were 11,717 such students as at May 1 2013, compared with 11,146 in 2012. The short-term sector features a broader spread of nationalities, with the USA behind China in second place, and France, Germany, the UK and Australia also within the top ten source markets.

The June 2013 issue of Study Travel Magazine contained a special tertiary focus feature on recruitment trends at Japanese universities.

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