An Education Ministry panel on Mar. 28 adopted a report that calls for improving the complicated approval system for foreign students who wish to study in Japan, officials said.

Under the panel’s proposal, students will be able to get permission to enter specific Japanese universities before leaving their home countries, instead of waiting for approval following interviews and tests that must be taken after they arrive in Japan. The panel, chaired by Tokyo University professor Shigeo Ozono, has been discussing ways to increase the number of foreign students at Japanese institutions since last fall.

Despite the government’s hopes, the number of foreign students coming here to study has not been rising substantially and fell for the first time in 1996. As one of the reasons, experts have pointed out that Japan’s system of processing applications for study is more complicated and harder to understand than in other industrialized countries.

The panel’s report says that, for example, the current system makes it difficult for students to get permission to enter universities of their choice before they leave their home countries, and that many are obliged to first enter Japanese language schools here. Japan should devise a new system that would allow the students to enter the universities they have chosen based on records of their academic performance or recommendations from their teachers, the report says.

The report also points out that graduate schools at Japanese universities initially grant foreign students the unstable status of “researchers.” Such institutions should accept foreigners as regular students from the start of their studies, it says.

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