International Educator - January/February 2013 - 48
S P E CIA L SE CTION
International Students Counteract Plunging Number of Japanese Students But Recruiting Is Down Since Disaster
Bringing in more international students also helps mitigate the insularity of college life for Japan’s own 3.5 million students, fewer of whom are venturing forth to study abroad amid worries about finding a job in an economy that has weathered almost two decades of stagnation. The number of Japanese students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities has plunged from 47,000 in 1997–1998 to barely 21,300 in 2010–2011. Once the leading exporter of students to the United States, Japan is now seventh.
Masahiro Yamaguchi, a Tohoku University professor and special adviser for student international exchange, said its international student contingent shrank from 1,721 in November 2010 to 1,584 in November 2011. Most are graduate students from China, South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Malaysia. Asked if recruiting had become more difficult, Yamaguchi replied, “Yes and no. In terms of degree-seeking students, we have successfully retained the students’ interest in studying here even after the March 2011 earthquake.” More than 97 percent returned after the earthquake and temporary evacuation, but “on the other hand, the number of incoming exchange students is decreasing.”
Japanese Government Aims to Assist Its Universities to Expand Programs
Tohoku is one of 13 elite universities that are getting government help to expand their English language degree programs and recruiting under an initiative called Global 30. Budget cuts after the Liberal Democratic Party lost control of the government to the Democratic Party of Japan in 2010 left MEXT without the funds to expand the program to 17 additional campuses. The University of Tokyo, Japan’s top university, which enrolls more than 2,900 international students, launched in September 2012 two, new, English-language degree programs in environmental science and Japan’s role in East Asia. It recruited students from 20 countries with offers of scholarships and Japan’s
Students attend class at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, Japan.
generally low tuition, which is the same for domestic Some campuses far removed from the March 2011 disasters are still dealing with their repercussions. Bruce Stronach, dean of Temple University, Japan Campus, said, “For us there is no doubt that the effects of March 2011 are lingering. When we go on our recruiting trips abroad, what happened in March 2011 is still very, very fresh in people’s minds.” The Temple branch now has 700 undergraduates, down from 830 two years ago. Its retention rate plunged from 85 percent to 50 percent for fall 2011, and while it rebounded to 83 percent for fall 2012, Stronach said that “hole in enrollment has to work itself out over time.” Two-thirds of Temple’s students are U.S. citizens while the rest come from 55 other countries. “When we go on recruiting sessions abroad, people are still asking us what the radiation level in Tokyo is,” he said. Radiation is still on people’s minds. Tohoku University in Sendai, where the quake destroyed buildings but took no lives, still reports radiation readings daily on its website—they are well below the world average. and international students. “We don’t feel we are affected by the earthquake as far as our recruitment is concerned,” said Mariko Watanabe of the Programs in English at Komaba (PEAK) Undergraduate Admissions Office at Todai, as the University of Tokyo is commonly called. “We received more applications than we expected.” But only 27 of the 38 students accepted by PEAK decided to enroll, according to the Yomiui Shimbun newspaper, which it said “shows that even Todai, which usually enrolls more than 99 percent of admitted students, is vulnerable to international competition for programs starting in autumn.” At Sophia University, more than 900 international “Even after March 2011, the number is almost equally back to previous years,” said Midori Nakajima of the International Liaison Office. The number of exchange students “has recovered up to around 80 percent of our annual average.”
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR J A N + F E B . 13
students were enrolled for the 2012–13 academic year.