Japan's English medium instruction initiatives and the globalization of higher education

Heath Rose, James Mckinley

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This article analyzes a recent initiative of Japan’s Ministry of Education, which aims to internationalize higher education in Japan. The large-investment project “Top Global University Project” (TGUP) has emerged to create globally oriented universities, to increase the role of foreign languages in higher education, and to foster global human resources. The TGUP identifies 37 universities: 13 as “top global universities” intended to compete in the top 100 university world rankings and 24 “global traction universities” intended to lead the internationalization of higher education in Japan. Despite the substantial funding behind this initiative, little research has been conducted to evaluate the potential impact of this policy on language planning in higher education in Japan. This paper addresses this gap in its exploration of the TGUP, including key changes from previous internationalization policies. It then presents an analysis of publicly available documents regarding the policy, collected from all 37 of the participant universities. Findings indicate a positive departure from older policy trends and the emergence of flexible, unique forms of English language education in Japan’s universities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-129
Number of pages19
JournalHigher Education
Issue number1
Early online date22 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Japanese education
  • English as a foreign language education
  • internationalization of higher education
  • globalization


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