Organized Panel Session
The enhancement of international student mobility is a notable trend in Japan’s immigration policies and one of the key components in the country’s academic globalization. The expansion of degree programs taught in English language (ETPs) is seen as necessary for Japanese universities to gain world class status. These programs are expected to attract competitive international students and faculty who may not be willing to invest in Japanese language training while helping domestic students develop global academic skills. This paper reviews Japan’s recent policies concerning international student mobility and academic globalization, then examines the motivations of international students who enroll in ETPs. What roles have international students played in the Japanese context, and how have these roles changed over time? Why do international students pursue a degree in the English language in non-English speaking Japan, despite the fragile presence of Japanese universities in world rankings? The paper argues that international student mobility plays three roles in Japan’s globalization strategy: 1) as a source of future professional workers with multilingual/multicultural skills, 2) as contributors to “global classrooms” at Japanese universities, and 3) as a substitute migrant category for low-skilled labor. Interviews with international students in ETPs revealed diverse motives behind pursing a degree in Japan, which go beyond the policy’s elitist orientation. The paper asserts that, in addition to the traditional goal of capital accumulation, cultural and interpersonal affinity and the desire for exploration are major drivers of selecting Japan as a place to pursue a degree.