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Japan aims to rebuild foreign enrolment by 2027

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Japan’s enrolment remained down by nearly 30% last year, from pre-COVID levels
  • The government has set out plans, including more active recruitment and improved language and career transition supports, that aim to rebuild the foreign enrolment base within the next five years

The Japanese government has laid down plans to recover the country’s foreign enrolment by 2027. Speaking at a 2022 press conference, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Shinsuke Suematsu attributed Japan’s declining international student numbers to extended border closures during the pandemic.

“Because foreign students were unable to enter Japan for a period of time, the percentage of (foreign students) getting a job in Japan also declined, significantly affecting the country’s ability to secure talented workers,” explains an accompanying report from the Ministry.

Commenting on the government’s plans, The Japan Times outlines that: “The Ministry plans to rework its strategy on the regions from which it will seek to attract students and their fields of study…It is also planning to strengthen promotional campaigns for educational institutions in cooperation with representatives of Japanese universities abroad, and reinforce alumni networks to aid the recruitment of new students.” And finally that, “The Ministry will enhance opportunities for the students to improve their Japanese-language skills, and will increase support for those seeking employment after graduation.”

The Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) monitors international enrolment in the country and in its latest figures reports a total of 231,146 foreign students in Japan as of 1 May 2022. That represents a year-over-year decline of about -5%, and the lowest enrolment level for Japan in nearly a decade.

It also amounts to a nearly -26% drop from pre-COVID levels (there were more than 312,000 foreign students in Japan as of May 2019).

Of those enrolled in 2022, roughly 21% were registered with Japanese language schools. More than half (54%) were in higher education with another 22% studied in “specialised training schools”.

The vast majority of international students in Japan come from elsewhere in Asia, with China, Vietnam, Nepal, Korea, and Indonesia the five largest senders and combining for 80% of total foreign enrolment in 2022. China remains by far the largest student market for Japanese educators with nearly 104,000 students last year (and accounting for 45% of total enrolment by itself).

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