Foreign students on university campuses

James W. Porcaro, Toyama University of International Studies


Quick guide

  • Key words:University campuses, foreign students, oral communication
  • Learner English level:Low intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity:University
  • Preparation time:A few hours
  • Activity time:Two 90-minute lessons
  • Materials:Handouts, PowerPoint or overhead projector transparencies


The university campus is as much a part of the real world as every other venue in society. Life on campus can and should be incorporated into English lesson content. Over the past decade there has been a dramatic rise in the number of foreign students at many universities in Japan, and they are a prominent presence on these campuses. Presently there are about 132,000 foreign students in Japan, and the Ministry of Education has set a goal of tripling that number in future. Oral communication courses can take up this topic to generate interesting and meaningful discussion.


Step 1:Gather graphic data on the subject of foreign students at Japanese universities (see JASSO, “International Students in Japan” <>) and prepare one or more handouts for students with selected items of information. Also, put selected graphics on PowerPoint or overhead projector transparencies (depending on class size, logistics, and teacher preference) in preparation for student oral presentations.

Step 2:Prepare ahandout with points for students to discuss in pairs which will encourage them to draw from their experiences, provoke their critical thinking, and engage their imagination. I include the following:

1. What are some of the many reasons that foreign students come to study in Japanese universities?

2. For foreign students, what are some of the advantages of studying at a Japanese university?

3. For Japanese universities and their students, what are some of the advantages of having foreign students enrolled at the institution?

4. What are the advantages for Japan itself?

5. What are the disadvantages for the foreign students, the Japanese institutions and students, and Japan itself?

6. What kind of personal contact or association have you had with foreign students on this campus?

7. How could this university recruit more foreign students?

8. Would you want this university to have many more foreign students?

Step 3:Arrange for some foreign students on the campus to attend the second class meeting on this topic, ideally one for each pair of Japanese students or at least one for each group of four. The greater the variety of nationalities, the more stimulating the lesson will be. It is important that the invited foreign students have a level of English proficiency within the range of the Japanese students. Moreover, they must be briefed beforehand so that they understand in particular that all communication will be in English and that they are expected to engage in a discussion with all members of the pair or group on the given points, not to give a lecture.


Step 1.Give students the graphic data and discussion question handouts in the class prior to the lesson. Ask them to study the graphic information and prepare to make an oral presentation of it, and to prepare to discuss the questions.

Step 2.Select a few students to make a presentation of the data from the front of the classroom with PowerPoint or overhead projector. They are expected to describe briefly the data shown. More advanced students might add some analysis. This form of public speaking actually is not so difficult because a limited vocabulary is employed and most of the terms are present in the graphics themselves. However, it is important that the data are described with precision. Then, students in pairs discuss the questions in the handout. This activity is suitable for a class that is already well-trained, practiced, and proficient in this form of student-centered, interactive oral discourse conducted entirely in English.

Step 3:After all the topics have been discussed by the Japanese students, the invited foreign students join the pairs in the following class meeting, adding their input and perspective as the discussion points are reprised and extended with questions and answers within each group. If time allows, a representative from each group could briefly summarize the most cogent points made.


Students appreciate the opportunity to discuss such a tangible campus issue and one that has academic merit in and of itself. Many other aspects of campus life likewise can be taken up in English classes.