Finally feasible or fresh façade? Analyzing the internationalization plans of Japanese universities

2014 IJRSE – Volume 3 Issue 4


Chapple, Julian*
Faculty of Intercultural Communication, Ryukoku University, Japan (


Recent policy moves in Japan reflect further attempts to internationalize the nation’s higher education sector. Building on previous plans, such as the goal of accepting 100,000 international students, Japan is now pinning its sights on a further increase (300,000), employing more foreign faculty, sending more Japanese students abroad to study, and teaching a greater number of classes in English. Falling under the broad auspices of the ‘Global 30’ national project, Japan hopes its forthcoming ‘Super Global Universities’ plan will see it achieve the goal of 10 of its universities in the world’s top 100. However, despite the slogans, the actual goals of the present plans appear decidedly domestic. The quality of higher education in Japan has long been a concern, and the nation’s desire for a more globally-active and competent workforce in face of a dramatically dwindling student population base are obvious. By using a mixed method approach to examine the content of recent plans, this paper seeks to ascertain what is really being sort after and whether it can be achieved. The above-mentioned four plans reveal little in terms of policy but speak volumes about Japan’s interpretation of the concept of internationalization. In particular, the widely held belief that teaching more classes in English is a remedy for the various present problems is looked at in detail. The paper concludes by examining what issues are overlooked in Japan’s discussion and what they reveal about the need for societal internationalization as a pre- or co-requisite for educational internationalization.

Keywords: Japan; internationalization; higher education; English medium instruction; curriculum



*Corresponding Author