Japan Boost to Study for Chinese as Too-Blessed Financial Support
10, 16. 2009
Chinese media has reported that studying in Japan is the new fad. This seems possible thanks to a plan to welcome 300,000 overseas students, which the Japanese government has been promoting by easing immigration regulation. However, some people doubt whether Japan should accept more foreign students since it is still in a serious economic slump.
Applicants Surge Ahead to Brokers
According to the Chinese wire service Record China, People's Daily Online on September 29, 2009 reported that Japan's plan for 300,000 overseas students triggered a study abroad boom in China. Student visa acquisition rate in April 2009 rose 12.5% on the same period last year. The number of those who want to study in Japan also was up 20%.
Singapore's Chinese language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao said on August 13 that a study abroad broker in Jilin Province, China, has seen a surge by those who want to study in Japan. The broker opened a Japanese language school, and the number of students registered has doubled. While half of the visa applications have been turned down at the Japanese Embassy in the past, visas are issued for almost all the applicants this year, according to the news source.
In July 2008, former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda formulated the plan for 300,000 overseas students as a strategy to deepen the relationship internationally. While there are 120,000 foreign students in Japan today, the Japanese government plans to reach a new goal in 2020, by providing opportunities to take examinations outside Japan or supporting to find accommodations.
Statistically, Chinese who study in Japan has been decreasing in the past two years because the number of universities in China has risen. But the study-in-Japan wannabes are likely to grow in number again thanks to the recent boom.
This has also been seen as a business opportunity. Leopalace 21, a major provider of apartments for rent, opened its offices in Shanghai and Beijing in September 14, 2009. A person in the public relations section, who prefers to remain anonymous, said, "Because we have just started our operation in China, we have provided less than 40 rooms for Chinese students here, but we aim to increase up to 300 rooms by the end of the 2009 fiscal year. In Japan, we have doubled the number of Chinese residents who have contracted our apartments for 10 years."
Government-Sponsored Students Given 2.2 Million Yen Annually
The PR person also said that 90 percent of international students coming to Japan are privately funded, and most Chinese students are, too. While more students are coming from China, the PR person mentioned, "Probably those Chinese who are gaining a higher income are increasing. I think they love Otaku culture, or look for business opportunities in Japan."
There may be, however, another reason. International students have been blessed with financial support for residence thanks to the plan for 300,000 overseas students. As housing is subsidized, a single student is granted 80,000 yen for two years while 130,000 yen are provided for a family if a college rents apartments for its students. According to Leopalace 21, there are dozens of colleges renting student accommodations.
Government-sponsored foreign students are well-funded with the government scholarship. Japanese students are able to receive only scholarship loans, which they have to reimburse. But government-sponsored students are granted a scholarship, and have no obligation to pay back. Ten percent of overseas students in Japan are government-sponsored with scholarship benefits, 18 percent of which are Chinese, the largest group, followed by South Korean and Indonesian. Most of such students are from Asia.
The Japanese government budgeted 22 billion yen for the fiscal year 2009, and has budgeted almost the same amount annually. As there are 10,000 government-sponsored foreign students, it is calculated that 2.2 million yen are provided yearly per student. A scholarship for an undergraduate student is about 125,000 yen per month. Tuition is free for public schools and there is a 30 percent discount for private universities. Round-trip air fare is also provided.
In the Internet community, quite a few users are suspicious of such generous financial assistance under the circumstances of serious economic downturn. There are those who argue on the Internet by saying, "It is quite common (for Japanese students) to be in debt because (they) can't refund it (while some international students are well-supported)."
The Student Services Division of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has paid attention to those opinions and explained, "Financial assistance for foreign students was originally a part of the Official Development Assistance budget. Thus, it is different from the support for Japanese students." About the possibility that this system may become unsuitable when a country, like China, is growing, MEXT said, "It may be true that the importance of ODA (to support international students) is lessening. But it is still a national strategy to have those excellent students become pro-Japan, and play a roll in creating a human network or contributing to economic development."