When the Japanese government liberalized foreign currency exchange rules in 1964 that allowed students planning study abroad to obtain any amount of US dollars, for example, it appeared most students took it for granted that they would return home after graduation.
Fast forward to 2016. Many international students, especially those from China and India, study and are increasingly granted permanent residence in Canada, according to The Economist (January 30, 2016). Since many foreign students in four Anglophone countries intend to get a job in a host country after completing higher education there, Canada and Australia are likely to attract more international students while the US and Britain “could lose out”, the “newspaper” said.
According to The Economist, of the four countries, Canada had the smallest number of foreign students as of 2013, about 195,000 or 10% of total enrolments, while the US led with 975,000, accounting for 5% of total enrolments as of 2014.
Britain, the favorite country among members of Japanese imperial family, had 312,000 foreign students, or nearly 15% of the total. Australia sees education as the country’s “second biggest export industry,” in the words of The Economist, behind only mining. The country’s foreign students in 2014 totaled 348,000, or 25% of total enrolments.
The Canadian government decided about a decade ago that universities could bolster their finances by admitting an increasing number of international students paying higher tuition fees, according to The Economist.
Unlike the US that has tighter visa rules after September 2001, Canada regards foreign graduates as a “valuable source of well-qualified young workers,” The Economist said, adding that “if new graduates can find a job they can automatically stay in Canada for up to three years.”
Separately, the Japanese government has a target to increase foreign students in the country to 300,000 by 2020, similar to Britain in 2014. The number for Japan was 184,155 as of May 1, 2014, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said in February 2015. Those students included 94,399 from China, 26,439 from Vietnam and 15,777 from South Korea.
As for Japanese students studying abroad as of 2012, the education ministry said they totaled 60,138, including 21,126 in China, 19,568 in the US and 3,633 in Britain. The Economist said, “English is quite a useful language to acquire,” while a sizable number of Japanese students appear to be eager to study Chinese.
Among scores of Japanese students enrolled at the University of Oregon in mid-1960s, all but two or three returned home with or without a diploma. One of them stayed after graduation to live with an American wife, and was later divorced by her.
By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo