Encouragement to increase UTokyo’s internationalisation

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Posted on February 28, 2024


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Japan aims to increase internationalisation in higher education, and as a result, 50% of students enrolled in the University of Tokyo’s new five-year combined bachelors and masters degree, which will open in 2027, are from outside the country.  

The declaration follows the April 2023 launch of an ambitious new internationalisation plan by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who claimed that studying overseas for young people “is the key to transforming society.” 

According to the institution, the curriculum will be a component of its new interdisciplinary College of Design, which will span the humanities and sciences and concentrate on technology solutions to global problems like climate change.

The language of instruction will be English, and students will be able to choose from undergraduate and graduate programs that are already offered at UTokyo, in fields like education, medicine, and public service. A year of study outside of the institution, either in business or overseas, is also included in the program.  

Japan’s 18-year-old population has decreased by half since 1990 to little over a million, or 1% of the nation’s overall population.  

Since private universities account for more than 80% of higher education institutions, their closure is generally anticipated. This rapidly declining youth population is also contributing to a decline in the number of applications to universities. Cofounder of research consultancy Education Rethink, Anna Esaki-Smith, stated.

With the launch of its new initiative, UTokyo hopes to increase the percentage of foreign students enrolled in undergraduate programs to at least 30% and that of graduate programs to 40% by 2049, from current levels of 2% and 30%, respectively.  

Esaki-Smith claims that the importance of luring more international students is highlighted by the fact that the prime minister, not the education minister, introduced the internationalization agenda. 

UTokyo opened its Center for Global Education in April 2023 in compliance with national legislation. It provides “robust support for the internationalisation of all students,” including English-taught courses that center on the sustainable development goals of the UN.  

Instead of the entrance tests that Japanese colleges require, admission to the program will be determined by each applicant’s unique application, much like in other nations.

Along with commencing in autumn 2027 instead of April as is common in Japan, the school year will also be in line with international universities. Japan’s economy is suffering from its aging population; in 2023, it will rank fourth in the world’s economies, surpassing only Germany’s.  

Japan’s workforce needs to become more globally aware and highly skilled in order to compete, according to Esaki-Smith.

The country’s economic agenda, she continued, “includes greater internationalization of higher education in order to attract foreign investment and create an international labor market.” 

The largest and oldest university in Japan, UTokyo, held the highest position of any Japanese university in THE’s 2024 global university rankings, coming in at number 29.  

At UTokyo, international tuition is far less expensive than in many other countries; undergraduate costs begin at 485,900 yen (£3,520). In addition to being among the safest in the world, the nation draws students with its pop culture and delectable food.  

Esaki-Smith claims that certain universities have encountered resistance to offering more degrees taught in English because their faculty members are either unable or unwilling to adapt.  

“This is a major challenge for many universities,” stated Esaki-Smith. “It will take not only training but also a shift in institutional priorities.”