Japan shy of target

March 20, 1998

Japan is unlikely to meet its target of having 100,000 foreign students in its higher education system by 2000.

The number of foreign students choosing to study in Japan has started to fall after nearly 20 years of rising. With 51,000 foreign students at Japanese universities now, it will be virtually impossible for the ministry of education to hit its target.

To help reverse the trend, Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto has announced plans for Japan's first "Asian university". Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University will open in 2000 in the spa town of Beppu as part of the Kyoto-based university's effort to draw more foreign students.

The number of Japanese students and foreign students will be the same. The initial enrolment will be 1,600 students from East Asia and 1,600 from Japan. More than 40 per cent of the teaching staff will be non-Japanese, and most of the lectures will be presented in English.

About 70 per cent of the university's foreign students are expected to benefit from generous scholarship funds, which will be donated by Japanese companies. Beppu has provided Ritsumeikan with free land, and the government of Oita Prefecture will bear the Pounds 120 million cost of construction work.

A recent survey showed that Japan's high cost of living puts off many students from China, South Korea and Taiwan. The lack of scholarship funds and the desire to learn English in the United States or the United Kingdom has led large numbers of East Asians to bypass Japanese institutions.

One reason that foreign enrolment has become such a priority is that the number of Japanese 18-year-olds has started to fall.

Private universities in particular want foreign students to help maintain their incomes. To increase foreign enrolment, top private universities such as Waseda and Keio in Tokyo have introduced business, English, engineering and other courses geared to overseas students.

The ministry of education, as part of a scheme to boost the international status of Japan's higher education, also encourages foreign enrolment.

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