The COVID-19 pandemic has left no corner of our lives untouched. This exploratory report examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international student mobility to Japan, illuminating recent mobility trends and possible driving factors behind these patterns. To contextualize international student mobility to Japan within broader mobility shifts, international and country-specific reports and statistics were analyzed. To investigate possible factors behind these trends, interviews with four university faculty and administrators responsible for international programming and seven international students enrolled in degree programs at Japanese universities during COVID-19 were conducted.
The analysis finds that Japan’s emphasis on degree-seeking rather than short-term or exchange students has mitigated enrollment drops at Japanese universities in comparison to other popular study abroad destinations. Further, degree-seeking students prioritize safety and degree acquisition over in-country "study abroad experience.”
The findings suggest that as universities endeavor to define the meaning and purpose of online initiatives in international programming, shifting student perceptions of the value of study abroad should not be overlooked. This has implications for the future role of online learning in international education, a central debate for universities devising internationalization strategies for the post-COVID world.
Keywords: International student mobility, COVID-19, Japan, online learning