TOKYO (AP) - Japan aims to more than double the number of foreign university students in the country by simplifying immigration procedures and hiring more English-speaking professors, an official said Tuesday.
The government hopes to boost the number of foreign students from 120,000 to 300,000 by 2020, as Japan lags far behind the United States and major European countries.
Some 580,000 international students study in the U.S., with 356,000 students in the United Kingdom, 265,000 in France and 248,000 in Germany, according to the Japanese education ministry.
"The plan is part of our globalization efforts at Japanese universities,'' said Ryuichi Oda, an education ministry official.
"We would like to provide as much governmental support as we can.''
The government plans to simplify immigration procedures and set up workshops on study opportunities at Japanese embassies abroad, Oda said.
While calling on universities to hire more English-speaking teachers, Oda said, the government and schools will also increase the number of Japanese-language classes for foreign students.
"The biggest obstacle for foreign students to study in Japan is the language, " he said.
The government and universities also plan to help foreign students find jobs in Japan after graduation.
Japan's society is rapidly aging, and the demographic shift from a declining birthrate and high life expectancies is expected to lead to acute labor shortages.
A government report last week warned Japan's economy could slow to less than an annual 1 percent growth rate in the 2020s because of the shrinking labor force.