University seeks protection after students dry up

The From the Japan Times has just reported the first case of something that a lot of people have been expecting for a long time.

Hagi International University in Yamaguchi Prefecture was expected to file for protection from creditors with the Tokyo District Court as early as Tuesday due to a shortage of students, city officials said.

The institution will be the first university to apply for court-led rehabilitation in Japan due to a student shortage, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said Monday.

Similar cases may follow due to Japan’s declining child population.

Most readers already know that low birth rates in a number of industrialized countries, in particular Japan and South Korea, have fallen below the death rate, meaning that the total population will soon start declining. The most obvious sympton of a declining population of young people is the closure of schools. With less young people, there is obviously less of a need for schools to educate them. Is this the first school closure of many? What’s the real story behind Hagi International University?

The private university with four-year international studies courses, the institute’s single department, was founded in 1999 with 4 billion yen in subsidies from the Yamaguchi prefectural and Hagi municipal governments.

This sentence should be a massive red flag. Haji International University was a complete and utter joke. Aside from the utter arrogance of giving the prestigious label of ‘university’ to a tiny school with only a single department and a handful of students, Hagi International University never had any reason to exist in the first place. Japan’s coming population decline has been a widely known issue for years now, and nobody with even the slightest bit of common sense would have ever come up with a plan to actually build a NEW one in 1999!

The university has tried to recruit 300 students a year, but enrollment has fallen considerably short of expectations from the first year, with only 22 students enrolling in 2004 and 42 in 2005.

To deal with the shortage, the university increased admissions of foreign students in 2001. But immigration authorities became increasingly reluctant to issue visas to students from China after many foreign students disappeared after entering the country.

What stupidity. I suppose this school was nothing but another of the utterly superfluous public works projects that Japanese local government is famous for. If any of the officials involved in the establishment of this school still have their jobs, they absolutely deserve to lose them now. In fact, they probably could also stand to be investigated for corruption or illegal profitering. Four billion yen in government subsidies went into the construction of this abomination of a ‘university’ which has now filed for bankruptcy protection, and I would be willing to bet that some fraction of that money ended up in the wrong pockets.

Japan’s population decline is a serious issue, and there may very well be consequent school closures in the future, but this particular case is no such thing. Hagi International University only ever had a total student body of 194 students, out of a planned capacity of 1200. Clearly even if Japan’s population were holding steady, or even growing at a moderate rate, this school was built far, far too large to ever be sustainable.

2 thoughts on “University seeks protection after students dry up”

  1. That makes me wonder: Was it smart for Ritsumeikan to build a brand new Asia Pacific University in such an environment?

    To answer my own question: yes. Rits must have noticed that the era of a buyer’s market in education was fast on the horizon. Thus, creating a college that guaranteed a 50% international student population is a very good idea since Japan is a major destination for the world’s study abroad students.

    Considering Hagi’s failure, clearly the prefecture messed up big time. However, as you know Japan has a hard time saying goodbye to institutions, much like a girlfriend/boyfriend that’s bringing you down yet you just can’t seem to let go.

    Checking the ever-useful Wiki (, it shows that this “protection from creditors” is actually *bankruptcy*. The creation of the school in its current form was actually the restructuring of a failed women’s 2-year college, though this has clearly not been all that successful.

    To fight the lagging enrollment, the university has rearranged its currculum, cut the number of teachers by 2/3, and strengthened its ties to Yamaguchi University, its more solvent and public neighbor.

  2. Dear Sir,
    It appears to me that the whole purpose of education is to teach the rising generation morality, integrity,filal piety,generosity,and patience. This is so that this can also be taught and hopefully these ideals can be retained by the next generation. If paying so much for tertiary education and very little of these are learned then, any education system would have failed.

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