Land of rising opportunities
With the Japanese yen weaker than earlier, studying in Japan is proving to be more affordable as compared to the US or UK
Japan’s rich cultural heritage and oldfashioned rural set-up is quite a contrast to its modern Shinkansen (high speed bullet trains), expensive cities, and the technology edge it has over many other countries. This paradox is quite interesting to explore for students going to the Land of the Rising Sun to pursue higher education.
Being a leader in manufacturing, telecom, business management and engineering, it is a preferred choice for many overseas students. According to a survey conducted by the government’s Japan Student Services Organisation, in 2009, 53.1% foreign students were interested in Japanese society and wanted to live in Japan, 46.4% wanted to learn Japanese and Japanese culture, and 33.2% felt that education and research opportunities in Japanese universities were attractive. “Based on my personal experience of interviewing hundreds of Indian students who want to study in Japan, I have noticed that they usually mention either one or a combination of the following three reasons: technology hub, a unique culture (in which tradition and state-of-the-art technology co-exist), job opportunities (of working for world-class Japanese companies),” says Eda Kei, first secretary, Embassy of Japan.
Until May 2012, 541 Indian students were studying in Japan (both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes) and the numbers have gone up since then. As far as the academic structure of the universities there is concerned, it is unified, says Kei.
A bachelor’s course takes four years, a master’s is for two years and a PhD takes three years. The medium of teaching is the Japanese language in Japanese universities. However, English is also widely used in natural science and engineering fields. “Recently, the number of postgraduate courses in which only English is used as a medium of teaching has increased. Global 30 universities and some other universities provide undergraduate courses in which all classes are conducted in English,” adds Kei.
The ranking of the Japanese universities is relatively higher in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings. As per the QS World University Ranking 2012-2013, ten universities were ranked in the top 200 with the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University and Osaka University being ranked in the top 50. Others include Tokyo Institute of Technology (65), Tohoku University (75), Nagoya University (86), Kyushu University (128), Hokkaido University (138), Waseda University (198) and Keio University (200).
The University of Tokyo and Kyoto University are ranked high even in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2012-2013 at 27 and 54, respectively. Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tohoku University and Osaka University also feature in the top 150. In the World Reputation Rankings too, Tokyo and Kyoto emerge as the highest ranked Japanese institutions at nine and 23, respectively.
“Since the Japanese yen (JPY) is relatively weaker, studying in Japan seems to be an affordable option when compared to the US and UK,” says Kei.
Indian students who are heading to the country for higher studies are upbeat too. “I am going on a scholarship for a course in Japanese Studies from Nagoya University. It is a great opportunity as I am studying Japanese at Jawaharlal Nehru University and my stint in Japan will only boost my skills and give me more exposure to the Japanese culture and people,” says Srijeeta Sarkar, a student.
Kavita Sharma, who got the embassy recommendation to pursue research studies at Chiba University, says, “I am excited to go to Japan as I will get a chance to be closer to their culture. I want to become a professor in Japanese and have done my master’s in Japanese language from Delhi University. To learn a country’s language on its soil is going to be a different experience.”
Avinash Kumar Garg, who has been selected for the Young Leaders Programme, is thrilled with the opportunity. “I worked as a pharmacist in Chandigarh in the R&D division of Ranbaxy. I applied for the programme and got selected. Those selected include people from diverse fields. I chose Japan because it is the best when it comes to engineering and management. I will be getting 2.4 lakh JPY per month as part of the programme,” he says.
Academicians in Japan are quite forthcoming when it comes to Indian students. “Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University has a good number of Indian students as well, and the placement rate for Indian students is almost 100%. We are getting 13 Indian students to Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University and one student to Ritsumeikan University this month. We already have about 20 Indian students studying in these universities. Among students who got admission this autumn, five Indian students have been awarded a 100% tuition waiver,” says Satoshi Hata, general manager, Ritsumeikan India Office.
The university’s India office is part of the Global-30 Project, an initiative of the Japanese government to globalise higher education. The project attempts to invite 300,000 foreign students to Japan. Thirteen varsities have been selected by the Japanese government under this project.
Asian students interact with Japanese students at Ritsumeikan University