UK universities can still attract Japanese students despite a slump in the number of young people from the country studying abroad, a survey has found.
Some observers have blamed Japan’s precipitous slide in overseas study – taken up by 57,501 students in 2011 compared with 83,000 in 2004 – on an “inward-looking” attitude held by a young generation which was unwilling to venture beyond the comfort of its home nation.
But a survey of 2,004 Japanese students by the British Council found that respondents had an attitude to international education which was similar to or more positive than their counterparts in other developed nations.
Forty-five per cent of Japanese students surveyed said they had studied abroad or wanted to study abroad, compared with 46 per cent who said they did not want to.
Previously, a survey of UK students carried out by the British Council found that 37 per cent were considering study overseas, compared with 41 per cent who were not. A similar exercise in the US found 44 per cent answering “yes” to enrolling abroad and 32 per cent saying “no”.
The British Council found that the most common obstacles to overseas study cited by Japanese respondents were a lack of good foreign language skills, the cost, and a perception that it was unsafe overseas.
But the organisation suggested that more should be done to emphasise the benefits of international education to Japanese learners, after their survey found that students who had studied abroad previously were the most optimistic about their own future while those who were the most pessimistic were those who were not interested in going overseas.
Among the Japanese students who were considering studying overseas, the UK was the third most popular destination, with 15 per cent of respondents answering they wanted to travel here. The US led the way on 24 per cent, ahead of Australia on 16 per cent.
Of students who wanted to study in the UK, 69 per cent said they were attracted to the country because of the opportunity to experience living in the culture. World-class universities was the reason given by 29 per cent of respondents, with 24 per cent saying the UK had the best prospects for a career abroad. A perception that the UK was safe was a plus for 23 per cent of respondents.
Anna Esaki-Smith, the report’s author, said: “With a deeper understanding of what students see as the benefits of study abroad, and the possible advantages to be gained, the potential to inspire more Japanese students to become more globally competitive through study abroad increases.
“The benefits to be gained can be shared widely, not only by the students themselves but by more diverse university populations, an invigorated Japanese private sector and the global economy as a whole.”