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National universities to accept more international students

TOKYO >> The Japan education ministry plans to allow an increase in the number of foreign students studying at Japan’s national universities beginning in the 2022 academic year, in an effort to increase the universities’ international competitiveness and secure their financial stability. National universities are distinct from public universities, which are run by local governments.

The “liberalization” of tuition fees, which would allow the universities to increase tuition for foreign students, is likely to be discussed as well.

Currently, universities seeking to increase their quotas of international students must first get approval from an advisory council for the education minister. Since the 1990s, when the population of 18-year-olds began to decline, the ministry has maintained that increases are generally not allowed, stating that they would strain the financial security of competing private universities.

Since 2005, total enrollment at Japan’s national universities has hovered at about 96,000.

In 2019, there were 13,070 foreign students studying at national universities, about 3% of the total number of students. The percentage at private universities is slightly higher at 3.7%.

The ministry plans to issue a notice by next summer. It has not yet decided on a new ceiling on foreign student admissions. There are concerns that increases without limits could lead to a shortage of teachers and classrooms.

One goal of the plan is to attract talent that would improve universities’ research capabilities and garner international recognition. International university rankings are based on various statistics, such as research paper citations, the ratio of international students and other factors related to the globalization of universities.

In the World University Ranking 2021, released in September by the British publication Times Higher Education, only two Japanese universities ranked in the top 200: the University of Tokyo at 36 and Kyoto University at 54. The government aims to have at least 10 universities in the top 100 by 2023, though achieving that goal is considered difficult.

The bottom lines of national universities also could benefit from an increase in international students. Currently, the standard annual tuition for national universities is set at $5,117 for both Japanese and foreign students. But a ministry plan being considered will allow institutions to increase foreign student tuition by up to 20%.

In 2019, most foreign students studying in Japan were from China (41%), followed by Vietnam (nearly 20%), Nepal (8%), South Korea (7%) and Taiwan (3%).

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