Japanese universities continue their trend of moving to urban areas

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A building under construction just a 10-minute subway ride from Tokyo Station and located near Myogadani Station of the Tokyo Metro was spotted on a recent day covered in a blue tarpaulin.

Chuo University plans to open its new campus there in April next year. Some 5,800 law school students at the Tama campus, located 30 kilometers away in Hachioji, west of Tokyo, will move to the new site.

“I’m happy to be able to pass through various places on my way to and from campus,” said an 18-year-old law school student.

It takes an hour by train to reach Tokyo Station from the Tama campus, where the law student is currently taking classes. The student said the location would be too remote if she wanted to seek employment in central Tokyo while studying on campus.

COMPETITION FOR STUDENTS

A growing number of college operators are moving campuses to urban areas in hopes that their better accessibility will help attract more applicants and strengthen cooperation with third parties, thereby creating higher quality programs.

An expert noted that the trend comes as universities vie to win over students in their fight for survival amid Japan’s plummeting birth rate.

Chuo University moved its social sciences and humanities departments in 1978 from the Chiyoda ward in the central part of the capital to the western Tama region to ensure a wider study area.

About 80% of its students currently use the Tama campus.

The university operator opened its law school in the Shinjuku district of central Tokyo in 2004. Other facilities, including a new department set up nearby in 2019, have also been established in the urban area.

The planned relocation of the law school would mean that the rate of students taking classes in central Tokyo will increase to 45%.

Nobuyuki Sato, vice president of Chuo University, stressed the importance of the transfer, saying the new campus will “strengthen coordination” within the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Science and Engineering located one station further.

Chuo University invites its alumni working as legal experts and civil servants to offer lectures and seminars to students, and the relocation should make it much easier for those working in central Tokyo to participate in such projects.

The school also believes that the new, easier-to-access campus in the urban area will lead to more potential students.

Although an entrance examination official at Chuo University said that no increase in the number of applicants has been seen this fiscal year due to “insufficient publicity efforts”, the college plans that the number will increase in the next fiscal year.

More and more high school teachers in charge of students’ post-graduation careers are responding positively to the prime location of the planned campus, according to the representative’s accounts.

The Women’s University of Japan also opened its faculty of social sciences in Tokyo’s Bunkyo district in April 2021. Students in the department previously studied at another campus in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Tokyo University of Science is to transfer its faculty of pharmaceutical sciences from its campus in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, to Tokyo’s Katsushika district in April 2025.

Schools outside the greater Tokyo metropolitan area are also jumping on the city train.

Hiroshima University will locate its law school in central Hiroshima in fiscal year 2023, although it is now 20 km inside a campus in Higashi-Hiroshima.

Around the same time, Tohoku Gakuin University in Miyagi Prefecture is expected to integrate three campuses in Sendai and neighboring Tagajo into one in the central area of ​​Sendai.

RETURN TO THE CAPITAL

Universities in the metropolitan area around the capital have moved their campuses to central Tokyo intermittently since the 2000s.

The installation of new faculties was previously restricted in the central part of Tokyo due to legislation introduced in 1959 in an effort to prevent the area from becoming even more densely populated. However, the law was repealed in 2002.

This led Toyo University, Aoyama Gakuin University and other operators that previously had campuses in suburban areas to relocate them to central Tokyo.

“Today, college applicants tend to prefer schools that are easier to get to,” said Shigeru Izawa, head of data research division at educational information provider Daigaku Tsushin. “Operators apparently hope to attract more applicants by filling the need.”

Izawa said attracting a number of applicants on an ongoing basis is key to maintaining student quality.

“Schools attract (excellent) students by building travel convenience,” he said.

Having campuses in urban districts sometimes allows for better educational courses, as schools in those areas can team up with outside groups or organizations and bring in company employees with expertise to double as teachers, a said Izawa.

The moves come as competition between universities to recruit students intensifies.

BIRTH DOWN

Department of Education data shows that the 18-year-old population began to decline after 1992, when 2.05 million people were 18 years old. The age population has since fallen to 1.14 million last year.

The number of new university students has not dropped so far due to an increasing percentage of individuals going to college, but the number is expected to continue to decline from now on.

Fewer people than the total private college student quota were enrolled in schools in this category last year for the first time.

“Some universities have already felt the heat of the fire,” Izawa said. “Based on their financial strength, we assume they will continue to move from now on.”

(This article was written by Chika Yamamoto and Yukihito Takahama.)

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