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The number of foreign students in Japan will grow in 2023

After a sharp decline during the pandemic, the number of foreign students in Japan rebounded in 2023, although it remains below pre-pandemic levels, a public survey shows.

The increase came after the government began gradually lifting COVID-19 travel restrictions in 2022.

The research results, released Friday by the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO).show a 20.8% increase in the number of foreign students – 279,274 – as of May 2023 compared to a year earlier. During the same period, the number of foreign students enrolled in Japanese-language schools nearly doubled to a record high of 90,719.

JASSO is a quasi-autonomous agency responsible for scholarships and student loans.

In contrast, the number of foreign students enrolled in higher education institutions, which grew from 181,741 in 2022 to 188,555 in 2023, saw a much slower increase. The latter figure represents just over 80% of pre-pandemic levels.

The number of foreign students participating in bachelor’s and associate degree programs has even fallen by 2.4% compared to 2022.

In terms of origin, students from China continued to make up the largest share at 115,493. But the number of students from Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and the United States surpassed those in 2019, a year before the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed transnational travel.

JASSO also examined the number of Japanese students studying abroad – especially those on exchange programs – using data from universities in Japan. Based on the latest data, which covers 2022, the number of Japanese students studying abroad increased fivefold from a year earlier to 58,162, although this is still less than half the 2019 figure.

According to the survey, the top destinations for Japanese students studying abroad in 2022 were the United States, Canada, Australia, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

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