International Educator - January/February 2013 - 50
S P E CIA L SE CTION
Vietnam, and Indonesia—many Japanese universities require degree-seeking international students to come to Japan to sit for entrance exams—and it launched an intensive Japanese language program of its own. It also has its own recruiting offices in Taiwan, England, Vietnam, China, Korea, and Turkey “to further promote internationalization,” said Nobuo Nakahara, who heads the Office of International Students. The overreliance on enrolling students from China and Korea and the dearth of students from the United States, Canada, and Europe who are interested in studying in Japan are troubling to educators and policymakers alike, who have also watched the upsurge of student interest in studying in China. MEXT’s
to look within the university first…. They have a long way to go if they want to (reach) the level of academic excellence necessary to seriously recruit paying foreign students who are quality students.” Suzuki, the executive director of JASSO, wishes more Japanese universities would make it easier for students to apply from abroad, and she thinks campuses should be quicker off the mark in creating exchange programs. “There are so many committee meetings and things that, when they decide, the partner would be gone. It takes time in Japan,” said Suzuki. “Japanese universities are always doing things in the Japanese way. They have to see how other countries and other universities are doing it.” At MEXT, Osamu Aruga, the new director of the Office for International Planning in the Higher Education Bureau, said that in addition to the Global 30 (or Global 13) initiative, the government is funding two other new internationalization efforts. More than 30 universities are participating in a “Re-inventing Japan Project” that encourages collaboration and exchanges, including credit transfers and degree conferrals, with universities in China, Korea, and the United States. Forty campuses (the “Global 40”) are getting help to encourage study abroad by Japanese students. The government is spending 10 billion yen—$125 million— on these three efforts in 2012 alone, Aruga said. “We hope these programs can accelerate the internationalization of the universities in Japan and increase the number of students from abroad who are accepted.” Aruga is a University of Michigan-trained economist and former director of international affairs for Tokyo Institute of Technology, or Tokyo Tech. He is a firm believer in the need for Japanese universities to internationalize themselves and their students, including by enrolling more students from other countries. While Japanese art and popular culture are a draw, international students also come to study Japanese science and technology “and the Japanese system as well,” said Aruga. Asked what Japan might do differently to attract more international students, he replied, “That’s a very deep question. If I knew the answer then we could improve that immediately.” The earthquake was a setback for the drive to convince more students to study in Japan, but 300,000 “is our goal still,” he said. “We still believe we’re on track for that. We have to believe.” CHRISTOPHER CONNELL is a veteran Washington, D.C. education writer and author of NAFSA’s annual Internationalizing the Campus reports.
The overreliance on enrolling students from China and Korea and the dearth of students from the United States, Canada, and Europe who are interested in studying in Japan are troubling to educators and policymakers alike.
May 2011 survey found only 1,700 students from the United States and Canada and 3,700 from all of Europe enrolled at Japanese institutions. (That count understates Americans’ interest since it misses all those who study in Japan over the summer or in the fall and winter. The number of Americans’ studying in Japan has more than doubled over the past decade to a record 6,166 in 2009–10, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2011.) “It’s a real crisis for people in the Japanese government,” said David Leheny, a professor of East Asian studies at Princeton University and an expert on Japanese politics and culture. “They are worried that it’s gone from being the desirable, interesting country in Asia to the backwater no one wants to study in.” A big part of the problem is the difficulty of learning Japanese, he added. “It’s just hard. It’s really rare for foreigners other than the Koreans and some Chinese who are good enough to handle college-level classes.” Philip Altbach, director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, said, “They’ve ramped up enrollments by letting a lot of students from their neighboring countries in, but they have not been able to lure very many students from other parts of the world.” “In a way Japan has been eclipsed by China, but it certainly hasn’t disappeared. It’s still a very important country. If you look at patents and other evidence of scientific productivity, Japan continues to do well,” said Altbach. “There’s a lot of good higher education in Japan that foreigners could take advantage of.” Temple’s Stronach, a former president of Yokohama City College who has lived and worked in Japan for 23 of the past 36 years, scoffs at the 300,000 goal. If Japanese universities truly want to internationalize and increase their global competitiveness, “they have
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR J A N + F E B . 13