Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
8th Jan 2020

Canada, Philippines, Malta, and Ireland increasingly popular for Japanese students

Japanese employers’ demand for higher English-language proficiency and a growing trend towards lifelong learning contributed to a strong Japanese outbound student market in 2018, according to a new report from The Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS). The report indicates that Japanese students are also considering a wider range of destinations than in the past.

The Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS) surveyed 42 member agencies for its 2019 Survey on the Number of Japanese Studying Abroad. Those agencies sent 80,565 students overseas in 2018, compared with the 38 reporting JAOS agencies that sent 78,110 students abroad in 2017.

The top three destinations for Japanese students remain the US, Australia, and Canada, which hold 22%, 20%, and 17% share of the Japanese outbound market, respectively. But of the three, only Canada saw a bump in Japanese student numbers in 2018.

As in 2017 and 2016, agents reported softening demand among students for studying in the US (17,640 students in 2018 compared with 17,980 in 2017), a development that the JAOS report says may be related to current US immigration policy. Agents sent fewer students to Australia as well (16,425 in 2018, down from 17,025 in 2017). Canada increased its market share from 2017 to 2018 by a percentage point to 17%, with agents sending 13,725 students to this destination in 2018, an increase of 1,150 students, or 9% year-over-year. The JAOS report speculates that the US’s immigration policies are helping to boost Canada’s popularity among Japanese students.

The Philippines effect

As we reported last year, Asia is ever more an attractive choice for students from within the region. JAOS agents sent 22% more Japanese students to the Philippines (8,230) in 2018 than in 2017, and JAOS’s executive secretary, Tatsu Hoshino, says that the Philippines may soon displace Canada and Australia in popularity in the next few years. The Philippines recently overtook the UK to become the #4 most popular destination according to JAOS member data.

The Philippines is overwhelmingly an English-language study destination for Japanese students in contrast to the US, Australia, and Canada, which enrol students more generally across their education sectors. English-language study is also the major draw for Japanese students choosing Malta and Ireland; both countries increased their Japanese student numbers by roughly 30% in 2018. Japanese English-language students are also interested in Singapore and Malaysia according to JAOS member agencies.

JAOS notes of shifting demand among Japanese students for destinations,

“The decrease in the number of Japanese students going to America is not an accurate reflection of overall study abroad market in Japan these days. On the contrary, the overall number of outbound students is actually increasing in spite of decreasing 18-year-old population in Japan, a sign of encouragement in the young generation. Simply put, more students are going abroad and choosing locations other than America.”

JAOS members attribute increased demand for English-language study to “companies having higher and higher expectations for new-hire English ability at the time of application, and English ability increasing as criteria for management-level positions in Japanese companies aiming to break into the global market.”

In addition, notes the JAOS report,

“We are seeing an increase in both university students studying abroad to deepen their studies, and adults looking to advance their career by participating in individual study or company training. Many who study abroad for a period longer than three months are university students who take a break from their studies, and many more are adults who quit their jobs in search of a career change.”

By sector, more than half of students sent by JAOS agents in 2018 chose language studies of less than three months’ duration. The next most popular area was secondary schools, followed by language studies lasting more than three months.

Overall, just over 200,000 Japanese students go abroad to study every year, most of them language students.

Japan is also an increasingly popular destination for students from other countries. In 2018, Japan’s international enrolment jumped for the sixth year in a row, and Japan looks like it will easily meet its goal of enrolling 300,000 foreign students by 2020: there were 298,980 foreign students in 2018, compared with 267,050 in 2017, an increase of 12%.

For additional background please see:

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