Higher education in Japan: internationalization, the Sustainable Development Goals and survivability

Sachi Edwards*, Akemi Ashida

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper reviews the national and institutional internationalization activities in Japan's higher education sector and considers the extent to which these efforts have attempted to incorporate and/or contribute to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Design/methodology/approach: This paper was developed based on a review of available demographic data on internationalization in Japan (in both English and Japanese), a survey of recent scholarly literature on this topic and conversations with numerous faculty and staff members working on internationalization issues in a wide range of higher education institutions throughout the country. Findings: There are substantial internationalization efforts being made at both national and institutional levels, yet scholars and practitioners of higher education question the extent to which genuine internationalization is occurring. Moreover, the metrics used to track internationalization are somewhat limited and the available data, in many cases, can be complicated to interpret. A bit of tension also exists in Japanese universities between those who support the movement to internationalize and those who see it as a passing fad, an intrusion on their academic freedom and/or as a guise for Westernization – a tension that some cite, along with language barriers and system misalignment, as a challenge to internationalization. Originality/value: Numerous scholars discuss the internationalization of higher education in Japan. The originality of this paper is in the comparison of Japan's higher education internationalization efforts to the movement to achieve the SDGs – both in Japan and as a global effort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-119
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Comparative Education and Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Higher education internationalization
  • Japanese higher education
  • Sustainable Development Goals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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