A growing number of Japanese undergraduates are taking an extra year to complete their degree courses in the hope of being headhunted for top jobs.
Around 15 per cent of them now extend their study to five years, adding up to Y3.7 million (Pounds 22,000) in fees and living expense to the cost of their course.
Hidenori Fujita, professor of education at Tokyo University, said some are taking longer to complete degrees because they hope to secure well-paid, high-status positions with Japanese blue-chip companies.
The companies are ignoring strict rules on when they can start recruiting the most promising final-year students to pick the best before their competitors, he said.
Recruiting is officially supposed to begin in August but is secretly starting from early April.
Some firms arrange private meetings with students, often through an alumni network, and whisk them off to exotic resorts to persuade them to sign up.
Many students who are not head hunted and fail to secure good jobs in the normal recruitment round now stay on if they think their contacts are good enough to give them another chance.
With fees averaging 900,000 a year and rising to three times that for medical courses, along with average living costs in urban areas of Y1 million a year, they have to be sure that they have good prospects of success.
The trend may worry parents, who take responsibility for most of the costs. But it is also a concern for universities, which are hoping to persuade more students to progress onto postgraduate courses. Only 1 per cent of students are on postgraduate courses.
"Many institutions are very nervous about whether they can keep up their student numbers. For that reason they need to make their curricula as attractive as possible," said Professor Fujita.