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March 14, 2003

More Universities Closing Doors

The dwindling number of children in Japan has hit many colleges and universities across the country. In the last decade, the population of 18-year olds has dropped from 2.05 million to 1.5 million. The number of schools that have stopped accepting new students has climbed to 17 over the last four years. According to the education ministry, the number was just 1 in 2000, 4 in both 2001 and 2002, but jumped to 8 this year. Most plan to close after the current student body have graduated.

The closures have hit regional single-department junior colleges the hardest. The number of high school students hoping to attend a "tandai" has dropped to less than a quarter of the 1993 level. Seshin Gakuen Women's Junior College in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture opened in 1984 with English as its only department. Enrollment was limited to 100 students but in 2001 there were only 30 enrollees and no new students have been accepted since.

From the late 1990s, junior colleges were transforming into 4-year universities at a rate of 10-20 a year. But just three years after its formation, Risshikan University in Hiroshima became the country's first private university to close since WWII, without having produced a single graduate.

See our Special Feature on the future of higher education in Asia

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