Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
16th Jun 2021

Japanese agents report that they sent 76% fewer students abroad in 2020

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Japanese agencies report a 76% drop in the number of students they sent abroad in 2020 compared with 2019
  • They also report that students are still interested in study abroad post-COVID
  • Safety concerns are paramount for students in considering destinations

Japan, an important source market for many study abroad destinations, sent 76% fewer students to other countries in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decline was reported by JAOS (Japan Association of Overseas Studies) on the basis of a survey among 43 of its agency members conducted in March 2021. Those agencies sent only 18,374 students abroad in 2020 compared with 77,953 in 2019.

Despite the decline, JAOS provides an optimistic note in its report, adding that, “its agencies continue to receive daily inquiries from those desiring overseas educational opportunities when the pandemic settles.”

Number of Japanese students referred for study abroad by agencies, 2019 and 2020. Source: JAOS.

Before COVID, the top three destinations for Japanese students remained the US, Australia, and Canada, which held 22%, 20%, and 17% share of the Japanese outbound market, respectively. Demand had also been picking up among Japanese students for English-language study in the Philippines, Ireland, and Malta.

JAOS member referrals to the top ten study destinations for Japanese students, 2019 and 2020. The percentage value indicated shows the proportion of total referrals abroad for 2020 for each destination. Source: JAOS.

Students are looking for safe destinations

JAOS says that many of the inquiries its members receive include questions about safety issues in destination countries, highlighting the need for foreign educators to make their safety protocols and procedures front and centre on their websites and in all communications with agents and students.

JAOS states that its members are currently helping students to make decisions with safety risk factors in mind, and the advice they give is “based on the collective experience and knowledge of member organizations, of the destination counties, cities and institutions.”

Japan’s borders remain closed to foreign students

Even as Japanese students continue to plan for study abroad, Japan currently has some of the strictest border policies in the world, similar to those in Australia, China, and New Zealand. International students have launched petitions urging the Japanese government to let them in and feel that their situation is particularly unfair given the government’s plans to welcome Olympics athletes and delegations in Tokyo this summer despite COVID.

But while Japan has had relatively low infection rates throughout most of the pandemic, there was a recent surge in cases in May 2021 and it is unlikely the government will change border policies until cases fall further and vaccination rollouts pick up speed.

For additional background, please see:

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