Open University of Japan attracting renewed interest

TOKYO — The Open University of Japan is drawing renewed interest as a recurrent education center in the age of digital transformation, ahead of the 40th anniversary of its opening in April 2023.

The institute for distance learning offers more than 400 courses on demand and teaches about 90,000 students mainly in the working generation.

As the government campaigns to promote reskilling of workers, the university has started open courses to develop highly skilled digital human resources in response to rising demand.

Until recently, the university had suffered a decrease in students, who totaled some 86,400 in the second half of the 2019 academic year that ended in March 2020.

But the number has turned up on increasing demand for study at home due to the spread of COVID-19, reaching 87,100 in the second half of the 2020 academic year and 88,900 a year later.

As a reason for the recovery, a university official cited “an increase in people who start studying by taking advantage of their increased time at home and who see a need to get qualifications after losing jobs or being put on furlough.”

The university has a faculty of liberal arts, which offers six areas of study including living and welfare, psychology and education, and informatics.

Informatics, which covers programming, was least popular in the past. Now it is second to the most popular area of psychology and education, attracting young men amid the pandemic.

In fiscal 2019, the government set a target of increasing the annual number of adults who study artificial intelligence and data science in recurrent education courses to about 1 million by 2025.

In response, the university launched open courses on the subjects, which had a total of 4,000 students in the 2021 academic year.

“Our mission is to provide a wide range of reskilling opportunities for workers. We will continue to focus on this,” the official said.