The ASEAN region is increasing in importance as a market for Japanese companies because its member states are getting wealthier and accelerating their development. Hence, increasing the number of students from the region studying in Japan is essential to nurture future businesspeople or politicians to work between Japan and ASEAN member states.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology aims to increase the number of foreign students to 300,000 by 2020, from about 200,000 currently. ASEAN is driving the rise of foreign students.
As of May 1, 2014, Japan had 184,133 foreign students, up 9 percent from 168,145 a year earlier, according to the Japan Student Services Organization, or JASSO.
Students from ASEAN member states increased at a higher pace than those from other parts of the world. Over the same period, Vietnamese students increased to 26,439, the second largest number of any country following Chinese, and almost double the 13,799 from a year earlier. Thai and Indonesian students, with the sixth and seventh most respectively, saw 13 and 14 percent jumps, while Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore, in the 10th, 15th and 29th spots, enjoyed respective 21, 12 and 22 percent hikes, according to JASSO.
Students from ASEAN’s 10 member states more than doubled to 38,970 as of May 1, 2014, from 15,095 in 2010, according to JASSO.
ASEAN is moving toward closer integration and more economic prosperity, and amicable relations with Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, would be a big plus. Japan, with an aging society and low birthrate, is seeking new markets besides China, making the geographically close and growing ASEAN market attractive. As such, Japanese universities are looking to attract foreign students, including those in the ASEAN region, while the college-age population shrinks rapidly in Japan.
Under such circumstances, the education ministry selected 11 universities in seven groups as recipients of subsidies — tens of millions of yen annually for five years from fiscal 2013 — to participate in its ASEAN International Mobility for Students (AIMS) program. The universities use the money to run exchange programs with ASEAN counterparts.
AIMS was initiated by the South-East Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Center for Higher Education and Development, to promote academic exchanges between ASEAN members and other countries.
“ASEAN was trying to integrate and Japan committed to contributing to ASEAN. When Japan offered to cooperate on AIMS, it was the only country in East Asia to do so,” an official from the Japanese education ministry said. “The program is beneficial for both Japan and ASEAN.”
Participating countries are Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Japan, according to the education ministry website. The program applies to a variety of academic disciplines, including hospitality and tourism, agriculture, language and culture, international business, food science and technology, engineering and economics.
Participating Japanese schools are the University of Tsukuba, Hiroshima University, Sophia University, Waseda University, Ritsumeikan University, a consortium of Hokkaido University, the University of Tokyo and Rakuno Gakuen University and another consortium of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Ibaraki University and Tokyo Metropolitan University.
Under the program, students spend one semester in their foreign counterpart universities and the instruction is in English, except for Japanese language classes, and earned credits are transferrable between participating universities.
The Hokkaido University consortium’s program is dubbed “Collaboration on Veterinary Education Between Japan and Thailand: For the Sound Development of Asia.” It aims to train vets, as well as veterinary researchers and educators, to confront various problems facing Asia such as emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, food safety, animal welfare and environmental conservation from a global perspective with the goal of contributing to the sound development of Asia.
Their Thai counterparts are Kasetsart University and Chulalongkorn University. For four years from fiscal 2014, 25 Japanese and 25 Thai students will spend a semester in the other countries’ universities.
The University of Tsukuba won the AIMS subsidy with its project, dubbed “Trans-ASEAN Global Agenda Education Program.” The purpose of the project is to contribute to the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals, both initiated by the U.N. to promote international cooperation in tackling global issues such as hunger and environmental problems, by providing specific information aimed at solving such issues.
Students study food science, agriculture, international business, language, culture and hospitality and tourism.
The university has four partner universities in Malaysia, three in Indonesia, five in Thailand, one in Vietnam and four in the Philippines. It also has non-AIMS partner universities, with two in Australia and one each in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.
The Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) consortium’s project is called “ASEAN Initiative to Foster Next-Generation Talents to Lead Environmentally Friendly Food Production, Technological Innovation and Regional Planning.”
The courses offered in the three Japanese universities are “Advanced Agro-environmental Science/Food Technology” and “Environment-Oriented Innovation Engineering” by TUAT, “Regional Sustainability Science” by Ibaraki University and “Regional Development with Tourism” by Tokyo Metropolitan University.
The exchange program also includes fieldwork, internships at companies and lab work.
The three Japanese schools have two counterparts in Thailand, three in Indonesia and two in Malaysia.
Hiroshima University named its project “Core-Human Resource Education Program for Economic Development, Trust-Built and Peace in Asia.”
Based on its guiding principles “The Pursuit of Peace” and “Collaboration with the Local, Regional and International Community,” Hiroshima University offers advantages of educational and research resources in each academic discipline and fosters core human resources contributing to peace-building based on the common economic development of Asia and the establishment of a relationship of mutual trust.
Students study in the disciplines of food science and technology and agriculture; engineering; economics; and Japanese language and culture.
For this project, Hiroshima University is working with universities in Indonesia and Thailand.
Sophia University’s “Trans-Disciplinary Human Development Education Program Aiming for Harmonized Diversity” aims to establish a new model for international higher education through collaboration between Japan and Southeast Asian countries. This program provides an educational platform for students from Southeast Asia and Japan to study together and analyze global issues affecting Asia and the world.
Students take a mandatory “Introduction to Trans-Disciplinary Human Development” course and several from electives, including “Basic Environmental Science,” “Culture and Society” and “Global Affairs.”
Sophia University has two counterparts each in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, as well as one in Malaysia.
Waseda University’s project is called “AIMS7 Universities Consortium Plurilingual and Pluricultural Program,” which will foster cosmopolitan people active on the international stage and pursue success at both global and local levels.
The seven participating universities are Waseda University and six others in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Brunei.
Waseda University offers specialized courses in sociolinguistics, language policy, geopolitics, international relations, history, security theory, anthropology, folklore, civilization, urban studies, comparative religions, environment studies, international business and economics. It also offers Japanese, Filipino, Indonesian, Malay and Thai language courses.
There are also courses on plurilingualism and pluriculturalism.
Ritsumeikan University is conducting a project, titled “Global PBL Program for Innovative Mind and Intelligence,” which is to promote collaboration at the undergraduate level with AIMS partner universities and provide students with the capability to think across engineering, business, society and design.
The university is partnered with Thammasat University in Thailand and Mahidol University, Universitas Gadja Mada, Institut Technologi Bangdung and University of Indonesia, all of which are in Indonesia. The courses to be taught at Ristusmeikan University for the project are engineering, international business, economics and language and culture.