Japanese students lured to provinces

June 6, 1997

Japan's provincial towns and cities are introducing initiatives to attract new colleges and universities and to help existing ones to expand in a bid to stem the flow of young people to the big cities, where most leading universities are located.

The colleges and universities will also help to promote economic growth in parts of Japan that have suffered most from the recent economic downturn.

"A larger pool of graduates in provincial areas will help to attract new industries and revitalise local economies," said lecturer Yoichiro Kimura.

"Many of Japan's new industries are high-tech industries that require large numbers of university graduates."

More high-spending students will also inject larger sums of money into the local economy and benefit local services. There are fears the continued loss of young people from depressed towns and cities, particularly when the teenage population is declining rapidly, will further weaken higher education in the provinces, endangering the existence of some colleges and universities.

Initiatives to boost student numbers in the provinces so far include the introduction of new career-oriented courses and undergraduate work-experience schemes for students concerned about finding suitable jobs.

Niigata University, a provincial university on the less-developed Sea of Japan coast, has introduced courses taught by local business people as part of its strategy.

Regional universities are also launching major advertising campaigns to draw attention to their lower tuition fees, cheaper accommodation and sports and leisure facilities.

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