Japanese students overlooking education opportunities in Europe (for Japan Today)


TOKYO — Like Miki Matsuoka, who graduated last year from top-ranked IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, a generation of young Japanese stifled by their country’s grim economic and social situation – and roused, perhaps, by a newfound post-Fukushima appreciation for life’s transience – are increasingly alert to the vast professional opportunities available to them after an overseas education.

The OECD reported last September that the number of Japanese studying abroad in 2012 (60,138) grew from the previous year (57,501), ending a 7-year slump beginning in 2004 (82,945).

These statistical changes signify Japan’s renewed interest in study abroad – even to Europe, traditionally a less popular destination for Japanese students, says Richard Kelner, academic cooperation officer at the Delegation of the European Union to Japan. Indeed, the EU Delegation’s European Higher Education Fair, held every May in Tokyo and Kyoto, reported in 2014 upwards of a 60 percent increase in visitor intake from two years earlier.

According to Warren Stanislaus, researcher at the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, the Japanese business sector’s growing demand for college graduates with cross-cultural experience, together with the Japanese government’s new corporate-sponsored ¥20 billion study abroad support program (TOBITATE! Young Ambassador Program), is incentivizing Japanese universities to “aggressively encourage” their students to go overseas.

Though still in its infancy, TOBITATE! – which financed 300 college and graduate study abroad students in 2014, its inaugural year – aims to double the number of Japanese studying abroad to 120,000 by 2020.

Despite Japan’s mounting interest in study abroad, Europe – where most universities offer English-language degree programs – remains largely overlooked by young Japanese who instead gravitate towards education opportunities elsewhere in the English-speaking world – namely, the United States.

“An important point we make to Japanese students is that they can pretty much study in any country in Europe – any university in Europe – and they will find a course in English. This, whilst still making the most of the multicultural diversity that Europe has to offer,” says Kelner. “It’s something that isn’t perhaps as widely known as it should be.”

Even with Japan’s general lack of knowledge about European higher education – and notwithstanding that over time fewer Japanese study in Europe – data from the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) indicate that in recent years the percentage of Japanese studying in North America declined drastically while the percentage of Japanese studying in Europe held steady. In 2001, 61.8% of Japanese studying abroad were in North America while only 14.2% were in Europe. In 2011, 34.7% were in North America and 16.8% in Europe.

“From what I understand, it’s the cost [of American universities] more than anything else that concerns Japanese students,” says Kelner.

Due to their generous funding by the EU, most European universities can afford to lower their tuition fees significantly. According to a 2010 Higher Education Strategy Associates report, the average annual cost of a university education is $13,856 in the United States, but only $5,288 in the United Kingdom, $933 in Germany, $585 in France and $530 in Denmark.

Though universities in some European countries charge international (non-EU) students a higher rate of tuition, Japanese will still find that an education in the Eurozone is much cheaper than one in the United States. And this is to say nothing of the innumerable and often substantial scholarship opportunities offered to international students by the EU – namely, through the Erasmus+ and Erasmus Mundus programs – as well as by individual universities and private organizations.

Add to these affordable education options the extensive professional opportunities available to young Japanese studying abroad and students should have no remaining doubts about leaving their home country.

“Only recently it was the students who actively pursued such paths that missed out on career defining recruitment opportunities or encountered re-acculturation challenges – some may say discrimination,” adds Stanislaus. “Now with barriers being lifted and the development of a new consensus, it is the students that stay at home who risk losing out.”

Bringing together people from all walks of life through existing professional networks is the most important global investment anyone can make, says Fabien Roudier, the director of Campus France Japon. “I cannot speak for Europe as a whole but France for one is working a lot on what we call cultural diplomacy,” says Roudier. “Through the France Alumni network launched last November, we are working closely with French companies to post job opportunities for our [Japanese] alumni, and we are going to work with Japanese companies to do the same.”

“To generalize,” says Isao Ogake, the director of global business development at DISCO, one of the world’s leading private human resources firms for Japanese-English bilinguals, Japanese “students who had strong goals in studying abroad and worked hard at school to become top candidates are picked up gladly by a lot of top firms at our events, often receiving offers in the space of just a few days.”

European Higher Education Fair will be held at Meiji University (May 15-16) and Doshisha University (May 17). External Link: http://www.ehef-japan.org

Copyright © 2015 Elliot Silverberg. All rights reserved.

About Elliot Silverberg

I am an essayist, freelance journalist, poet, and screenwriter; an avid reader with a fascination for historical fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy fiction; a student of the Ancient Greek and Roman cultures; and a tennis enthusiast.

Posted on May 5, 2015, in Articles and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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