Japanese government to double scholarships to encourage Japanese students to study abroad

Japan’s Education Ministry is set to double the number of study scholarships available to Japanese college students in a bid to encourage more prospective undergraduates to study abroad. The proposal, details of which were outlined by the Japanese Education Minister, Hakubun Shimomura, forms part of a series of education initiatives pitched by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, in an attempt to equip more of Japan’s young workers with valuable international experience.

The Japanese government’s bill comes as a response to the rapidly-decreasing numbers of Japanese students choosing to study outside of Japan. Reports revealed that whilst the number of students studying overseas hit an all-time high of 83,000 in 2004, this number has since dropped dramatically, to just 58,000 in 2010. It is thought that Japan’s economy, which has weakened in recent years, could be a contributory factor to the drop in numbers, as many students have chosen to seek jobs to aid their families financially, rather than choosing to pursue further education options abroad.

If accepted, the Japanese government’s funding – currently set to increase the scholarship base to 71 million dollars – would be introduced as early as 2017. The Japanese Education Ministry has said that it will be trying to encourage private sectors to contribute to the programme, by offering tax incentives to companies who agree to offer scholarships. Prime Minister Abe hopes that an increased number of Japanese citizens with experience in international education will be a boost to Japan and will help the country to become a more competitive contender in the global market.

However, the grants will only be offered to students at the few Japanese universities which decide to rearrange their academic calendars to match that of other countries such as the US and the UK. Whilst Japanese universities typically begin their academic year in the spring, many countries begin in the autumn, and as such, the Japanese government’s proposal falls in line with a larger policy shift that seeks to change Japan’s academic calendar. Whilst many are happy with the transition, some have criticized the proposal, suggesting that such a change would result in a gap of almost six months between high school and university.

On the other side of the coin, some Japanese universities are trying to encourage more foreign students to study in Japan. Kyoto University, recently placed in the top ten universities by the Times Higher Education Asian University Rankings, has proposed to grant permanent residence status to overseas students, as an incentive for foreign students to consider the Japanese institution among their university choices.

Sources include The Japan Daily Press, New York Times

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