Kyoto, Kyushu schools to hire more foreign nationals in bid to boost graduates' competitiveness

Universities to boost classes in English


Staff Writer

In an effort to accelerate the internationalization of their institutions, Kyoto University and Kyushu University are looking to drastically boost the number of classes taught in English and educators who are foreign nationals over the next few years.

Kyoto University plans to hire about 100 foreign instructors to teach a half of its liberal arts classes in English. Currently, only about 5 percent of roughly 1,100 liberal arts classes are taught in English.

About 5 percent of classes at Kyushu University are also presently taught in English, but the institution, located in Fukuoka Prefecture, aims to raise that to 25 percent over the next few years by increasing the number of foreign teachers and Japanese instructors who have overseas teaching experience by about 30.

The two national universities both have received five-year subsidies from the education ministry to achieve their goals.

The effort is observed as part of the education ministry’s Global 30 project, which aims to promote the globalization of higher education institutions. Under the project, 13 public and private institutions, including Kyoto and Kyushu universities, have been urged to create an international academic environment for both Japanese and international students.

Kyushu University created its Faculty of Arts and Science in October 2011 to reinforce the liberal arts education for its undergraduates before they enter specialized fields. As a part of that effort, the university aims to strengthen its English education, one university official said.

Public universities have been promoting internationalization for Japanese students to gain skills necessary in an increasingly globalized world. Under the Global 30 project, the government aims to have some 300,000 international students enrolled in Japanese universities by 2020.

Separately, the Japan Association of National Universities set goals for public universities to double the numbers of foreign instructors and classes taught in English by 2020. The association is also aiming to increase the ratio of international students to 10 percent from 5.8 percent in 2012.

The need for Japanese colleges to boost international competitiveness has often been often pointed out.

According to Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings, only two Japanese colleges make top 100 — the University of Tokyo in 27th place and Kyoto University at No. 54.

Public universities are also taking other steps to promote internationalization, with the University of Tokyo hoping to start a fall enrollments in five years to boost international students.

  • Willhemina

    This is a really fantastic idea for both students and teachers, and as has been shown by universities who already have a much higher quota of classes in English as well as Japanese (APU in Beppu, for example), it’s also great for attracting international students. This is an incredibly important point to consider if ‘internationalisation’ is your goal, as it’s not only within the classes that you learn, it is among your friends and in community interest groups that you really get an insight into other ways people think and communicate, as well as the levels of importance they place on various aspects of life. Many of these friendships become lifelong ones, and as people move from university into business, art, science and other fields, they take with them these perspectives and friendships.

    What’s also important to note is that graduates from these universities are also highly sought after by employers.

  • WithMalice

    Gee. Imagine if English were taught more effectively at JHS/HS levels.

  • jansob1

    But as most of these foreign instructors will be hired as part-timers or on a temporary contract basis, with no chance of tenure, it will make little difference. They will (understandably) not have the commitment to the institution needed to become a real force in their departments. Until foreign instructors can have the same sort of stability and security as their Japanese counterparts, they will never have the influence to really change the academic scene.


    only around 20years too late

  • disqus_5pyzZ628Dq

    Better late than never. I think it is very very necessary step to be
    taken Japanese universities if they realy want that their next generation will
    lead the world in Science and technology. Other universities should follow the
    step of Kyushu and Kyoto University. Also consider the foreign instructor/teacher
    should get a fair chance so that they can make maximum efforts. People like me
    who am serving a National Univesities in Japan for long time but only for a
    contract period, difficult to consider ourself as a strong part of a plan. Stability
    and security of job will motivate the foreigners to think that we are a counterpart
    to build an efficient nation.

  • Guest

    i think it’s a good start to do that. The introduction of the lesson given in Enlish, however,should be introduced much earlier, for instance, from the junior high school . Plus, to make Japan more competitve, the way the lesson is taught needs to be changed to being more interactive.

  • Peppy

    Miyazaki International College has been teaching all liberal arts classes in English for almost 20 years, and foreign faculty there have de facto tenure, many of them teaching there for a dozen years or more.

  • True that this is extremely late in the game for the universities to up the ante in having more classes taught in English, but it’s definitely necessary. They should start teaching children English from an early age in order to grasp the language better though. I’ve learned English and French since elementary school (French being the primary language at school and in living surroundings) and have grown up to be perfectly bilingual. I don’t see how this can’t be applied in Japan when it’s applied in a lot of other countries.

    Rakuten apparently announced that in 2010 that they would be implementing English as the standard language for most of their work at their headquarters, from documents to cafeteria signs. It’s actually pretty interesting to read and watch on the WallStreet Journal’s site.

  • Roan Suda

    As a retired professor who still teaches part-time, I say ho-hum, the same old song. The notion that lectures in a foreign language few Japanese understand or speak very well will somehow magically improve the quality of higher education has been heard many times before and rings no less hollow now. Faulting the Japanese for their monolingualism, as if such were a grave sin, is likewise drearily familiar. Yes, the methodology is poor, but there is a chicken-and-egg factor here. The fact is that learning to do more than eikaiwa chitchat takes a huge amount of time (and, yes, talent), and few people have either. The fundamental problem with Japanese higher education is systemic, not linguistic, but the Ministry has no incentive to deal with it, so it simply recycles old scams.

  • Masa Chekov

    Some classes in English is nice for those who want them, but it’s hardly essential. Japan’s been a leader in technology for decades without using English in its classrooms.

    I certainly think bilingual education is enriching, but there’s no shame in monolingualism either.

  • c brown

    If Japanese universities wish to attract more international students and faculty, they need to carefully consider how to implement stronger support services for those who do decide to come.

    Simply increasing numbers, without adequate planning, and with a self-serving focus, is foolish. Students and faculty who have never before experienced life in Japan, and who have limited Japanese language skills, need to know that their host institutions have 100% well-organised, culturally sensitive systems in place to nurture them.

    This requires Japanese support staff to have good English skills, cross-cultural training, and preferably experience of life beyond Japan themselves, in order to deal with the many issues that international long-term visitors inevitably face.

    At the same time, hosting institutions must be very careful to identify and root out instances of ‘in-house’ racism, which, though often unintentional, is common here, and must not view students as ‘cash cows’ or simply a means to social ends which benefit only Japan.

    Those who come need to be genuinely welcomed, not just for the economic revitalization they may bring to Japan’s flagging tertiary institutions, but also for the diversity they have to offer. They, too, must be guaranteed a rich, and rewarding experience, which includes high academic standards, that will stand up internationally, warm acceptance, and opportunities for genuine social integration with ordinary people in their local Japanese communities.

    Only if Japan can offer this kind of considerate, holistic experience, will those who come, return to their home countries with words of encouragement for others to do likewise. If not, the long overdue ‘internationalization experiment’ will inevitably backfire.

  • Dennis Grass

    If Japan truly wants English speakers in high level positions, then high ranked public and private Universities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Waseda, Keio, and Kobe Universities need to introduce a meaningful English interview as part of the entrance exam / requirements.

    I question the value of teaching classes in English, as Japanese students often view ANY liberal arts university class as meaningless.
    Japanese University students often understand the diploma obtained from a high ranked University will enable them to find a job. The employing organization will TEACH what is necessary to be a productive employee.

    However, foreign students from outside of Japan will appreciate the classes in English.

  • disqus_MQpNF5ygXV

    Good in theory, hard to do in practice where culturally and historically speaking, children grow-up looking at foreigners (including English teachers) as “outsiders” or the less-polite Japanese version of this word…where no matter how much you learn, most people have little or no chance to actually use the language in real life and where the business-side of English education via various forms of outsourcing hiring and teaching, always seems to benefit more than the students the system is supposed to serve. Also, rather than trying to bring English education level up to TOEFL standards, I strongly believe that teaching students to order a burger, ask or give simple directions and actually say anything remotely meaningful in English is a more practical goal. All this being said…good luck!