• Kyodo


It isn’t exactly underwater basket-weaving, but one can sign up for a Golf Culture class at a university in Yamaguchi Prefecture that’s desperate to check falling enrollment.

Hagi International University, a small private school that opened in the historic city of Hagi in 1999 with mostly public subsidies, was authorized to take up to 300 freshmen this academic year. But only 30 enrolled, and just six of them were Japanese.

Despite Hagi International’s best efforts to attract Japanese with new courses, critics say it’s a lost cause, as 60 percent of its students are foreigners.

The school, which received 4 billion yen of its 6.4 billion yen opening fund from the prefecture and the Hagi Municipal Government, has never had full enrollment.

To overcome the problem, it began actively accepting foreign students in the 2001 academic year. This year, 279 of its 422 students are from overseas.

Last year, however, 26 Chinese students bolted, presumably to find illegal employment. Immigration authorities responded by not issuing resident permits to foreign students who were to be enrolled at Hagi International this year.

“We really can’t understand what the university is trying to accomplish here,” one Hagi resident said.

“It hasn’t drawn on the city’s heritage,” said another, referring to Hagi’s fame as the birthplace of Meiji Restoration leaders, including Kido Takayoshi, and its renown in the art world for Hagi ceramics.

Small colleges are seeing student ranks shrink due to the declining birthrate. According to a recent education ministry report, 18 colleges were forced to stop recruiting in the past four years, a trend that is expected to continue.

In response to a policy being studied by the education ministry to prioritize student quality instead of quantity, Hagi International has decided to limit the number of foreign students to 60 per year.

By improving the quality of students, the school stands to receive more subsidies from the ministry, which has so far allowed universities to accept more foreign students.

But it may change that policy after it was found that many Chinese students at Sakata Junior College in Yamagata Prefecture had dropped out and were working illegally in Tokyo. The college was eventually ordered closed.

In addition to the Golf Culture course, which will be taught by pro golfer Masahiro Kumamoto, Hagi International will offer Restoration Studies and Hagi Ceramic Art Culture next year.

“We feel the number of Japanese students taking our entrance exams will increase next year,” Vice President Masanori Hatachi said.

But only 19 attended a July-September open campus.

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