Foreign intake rise fuels illegal worker fears

December 5, 2003

A rapid growth in the number of foreign students in Japan has heightened concerns that many enter the country to work full time or to emigrate illegally rather than to study.

There are also growing worries that some institutions have been boosting overseas admissions, even to the point of exceeding government enrolment quotas, to receive state money.

Immigration and education officials have asked institutions to make sure foreign students who have received visas are actually enrolled in and attending classes.

A report by a subpanel of the Central Council for Education, which advises the education minister on improvements to policies on accepting students from abroad, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Since the Chinese comprise the single largest group of international students, they often find themselves subject to negative stereotyping by their Japanese hosts.

Many Chinese complain they are wrongly given a criminal image. This is because there have been widely reported cases of foreign students working in the underground economy, including prostitution.

A number of Chinese-registered foreign students have been caught working full time in violation of their student visas.

There are 70,814 Chinese studying in Japan, or 64.7 per cent of the total number of foreign students, an increase of 21 per cent from last year, helping Japan reach its two-decade-old target of hosting at least 100,000 foreign students.

The official total of 109,508, up 14.6 per cent from last year, is inflated by a large and growing number of students on one or two-term study programmes, and by the 21,233 students at post-secondary vocational schools.

The second-largest group is from South Korea, totalling 15,871 or 14.5 per cent of foreign students, according to figures released by the ministry of education.

The University of Tokyo reported the largest number of overseas students, with 2,070 enrolled, while Waseda University registered the second most, with 1,593.

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