Japanese students speak with American college students and admissions officers at an event organized by the US Embassy in Tokyo to encourage studying in the US. Image: US Embassy in Tokyo

New Policies in Japan to Encourage Study Abroad in the US - 留学生の増加なるか、日本の新たな取り組み


This article is presented bilingually in English and Japanese. For Japanese, click here. / この記事は日本語でもお読みいただけます。日本語はこちら

Both the US and Japan recognize that student exchanges are a critical component of two-way ties. They foster long-time friendship, understanding, and good will across the oceans. Knowing that the return on investment is high, the US and Japanese governments recently agreed to a goal to double the number of student exchanges by 2020.

Japan is making new efforts, both in public and private sectors, to accomplish that goal. In late September, 2014, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology unveiled a new plan to specially fund international programs at 37 universities, including boosting the number of exchange students. Recent depreciation in the value of the yen has discouraged Japanese students from heading abroad, but increased government funding may alleviate some concerns. These efforts are the result of a sense that Japanese higher education is slipping. According to the most recent World University Rankings for 2014-2015, Japan has five universities in the top 200, while the government aims to have 10 institutions in the top 100 within the next decade. International ties are a category that factor into these rankings, including the ratio of exchange students.

Japanese businesses are also helping, as companies increasingly place more value on hiring employees with international experience. In September, Uniqlo, a Japanese clothing company, announced the establishment of new fellowship programs to sponsor Japanese students who are accepted into the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The fellowship, set to begin in September 2015, will award six students with a total of $1.2 million over the following three years. Another example is Rakuten, an online shopping company, which already made it official corporate policy to conduct all internal business exclusively in English in 2012.

There is some resistance to studying abroad among Japanese students, as doing so may cause them to miss the traditional hiring window that is determined by the Japanese academic calendar. Since most students expect to be employed by the same company until they retire, students can feel significant pressure not to miss a brief window. But as companies’ preference for students with international experience begins to manifest in their hiring decisions, this resistance might diminish.