Mainichi: Global 30 strategy for bringing in more foreign exchange students to be axed, while fewer J students go overseas than Singapore


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Hi Blog.  Another article making the case the Japan is withdrawing inwardly these days — with fewer Japanese students going abroad than even Singapore, and a prominent program to bring foreign exchange students to Japan being axed.  Arudou Debito


Japan’s new educational isolation
By David McNeill.  Mainichi Japan, December 20, 2010, courtesy of EK

Would Mainichi readers be surprised to learn that Japan is preparing to ax one of the cornerstones of its higher education internationalization strategy?

The government’s cost-cutting panel, which is trying to slash costs in a bid to trim the country’s runaway public debt, voted on Nov. 18 to abolish and “restructure” the Global 30 project.

Launched last year with a budget of 3.2 billion yen, Global 30 envisioned “core” universities “dramatically” boosting the number of international students in Japan and Japanese students studying abroad, said the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The ministry’s strict selection process, however, meant that just 13 elite universities made the initial grade. Now the project has been terminated.

Can Japan afford this? Fewer than 4 percent of Japan’s university students come from abroad — 133,000, well below China (223,000) and the U.S. (672,000). Just 5 percent of its 353,000 university teachers are foreign, according to Ministry of Education statistics. Most of those are English teachers.

At the opposite end of the education pendulum, students here are increasingly staying at home: Japanese undergraduate enrollments in U.S. universities have plummeted by over half since 2000. Numbers to Europe are also down.

Japan, in the view of many, may be entering another period of educational sakoku — or self-enforced isolation.

South Korea, with about half Japan’s population, sends over twice as many students to the U.S. At some American universities, such as Cornell, Japan is behind not just China and South Korea, but even Thailand and tiny Singapore.

Japan’s share of global research production, meanwhile, fell from 9.45 percent to 6.75 percent over the last decade, according to the latest Global Research Report. While the report noted “areas of excellence” in Japan’s profile, it blamed its faltering performance on a dearth of international collaborations.

Global 30 was supposed to partly remedy those ills, helping Japanese universities reach a government goal of 300,000 foreign students by 2020, while sending the same number of Japanese students abroad.

“We think those universities will set an example for other colleges by leading with good practice,” said Kato Shigeharu, deputy director of Higher Education Bureau at the ministry. “This practice will then diffuse to other colleges around the country.”

That interview came before the government decision.

With the worst public debt in the industrialized world — 900 trillion yen ($10.6 trillion) — Japan has much less fiscal leg-room than its competitors. So budget cutting may be inevitable, but why not intensify the effort to target useless dams or highways rather than education?

The decision has been greeted with dismay. “This government is destroying Japan,” said Yoshida Go, a professor with the Office of International Strategic Planning at Nagoya University — one of the 13 selectees.

“Quite honestly, Japan is late in the game of globalization in higher education. But the government’s left hand doesn’t know what its right hand is doing.”


David McNeill writes for The Independent and Irish Times newspapers and the weekly Chronicle of Higher Education. He has been in Japan since 2000 and previously spent two years here, from 1993-95 working on a doctoral thesis. He was raised in Ireland.

(Mainichi Japan) December 20, 2010


5 comments on “Mainichi: Global 30 strategy for bringing in more foreign exchange students to be axed, while fewer J students go overseas than Singapore

  • “But the government’s left hand doesn’t know what its right hand is doing.”
    This is not just a Japanese problem, but is clearly visible here. The real issue is that different government departments have different briefs, and consequently different priorities, so for example, the Tourism Ministry wants to encourage more foreign visitors, whereas the Justice Ministry sees all foreigners as potential terrorist threats, and strives to keep them out. What you are witnessing here is incoherence as a consequence of the lack of joined-up thinking.

  • I’d say it’s more like the usual xenophobia, the only welcome gaijins are those in the revolving door who will leave any valuables behind whilst not polluting yamato.

    Edo 2.0 on the horizon.

  • Thanks for posting this; so far David McNeill (of both The Chronicle of HE and Mainichi) seems to have been the only journalist to pick up on this in the English language media. I also suspect that this is government incoherence rather than outright xenophobia, abetted by the change of administration last year. The G30 project was arguably half-cocked anyway, as it ignored private universities and did not seem to offer any new incentives, so maybe it presented itself as an easy sacrifice for a committee obsessed with cost-cutting. However, it is still disappointing, and I would like to know more about the justification for this decision; is that available yet? I work at a G30 (13) institution and colleagues are nonplussed about this decision, not least as as we have just squandered much of our publicity budget for 2011.

  • Sorry to be brief but the one word that is clearly resounding in my mind after reading this suits my feelings so perfectly….



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