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EDUCATION > Universities

The “2018 university problem”

  • January 3, 2018
  • , Sankei , p. 20
  • JMH Translation

As the population of 18-year-old continues shrinking on account of the declining birthrate, Japanese university officials are paying attention this year to “the 2018 university problem,” in which the number of students who advance to universities is expected to turn downward. The percentage of students enrolling in universities is reaching an upper limit, 40 percent of universities will fail to meet their intake quotas, and consolidation and closing down of  universities will accelerate. Japan’s universities are entering a difficult period, desperately attempting to survive. At the same time, universities are required more than ever to provide high-quality education to keep the level of students high. What will happen to universities facing this turning point?


According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the population 18-year-olds began declining from 2.05 million in 1992, which was the second peak in the postwar period. The number has continued to fall ever since and dropped to 1.18 million in 2014. After 2014, the population slightly increased from 1.19 to 1.2 million; however, it is anticipated that the population will fall to 1.18 million  in 2018 and will eventually drop to less than 1.0 million in 2031. Currently, the university entrance rate seems to have reached a limit in the upper 50 percentile. Universities’ earnings primarily come from students’ tuition, so the decline in the population of 18-year-olds is a vital matter that directly affects schools’ bottom lines 


Difficulties surrounding university enrollment, however, were already apparent before “the 2018 university problem” emerged. In fiscal 1996, 96.2% of private universities were able to replenish their student quotas at 100% or higher, but the number dropped to 60.6% in fiscal 2017. Currently, about 40% of private universities chronically fail to replenish their student quotas. About 10 schools fill less than 50% of their student quotas.


Due to financial difficulties, consolidation of universities is frequent. According to MEXT, a total of 14 private universities across the country were integrated into six schools and 10 schools closed after fiscal 2003. (Abridged)

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