COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on International Students in Japan and the United States:

Comparative Study From National and Institutional Context


  • Yuriko Sato Tokyo Institute of Technology
  • Prof. Dr. Krishna Bista Morgan State University
  • Prof. Dr. Yukari Matsuzuka Hitotsubashi University



International students, international education, COVID-19, USA, Japan


The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted a tremendous impact on international higher education (Coffey, 2020; IIE, 2020; Jayadeva, 2020; Mok et al., 2021). We assume that it will lead to some structural transformation in student mobility and international education. To foresee such structural transformation, we propose a comprehensive framework to monitor the changes not only in destination countries but also in source countries, and not only at institutional level (meso), but also at individual level (micro) and government level (macro).
As a case study utilizing this framework, we present some analytical results of international student surveys conducted in the USA and Japan at the beginning of 2021: more than 400 international students shared their experiences and choices during the pandemic. We compare the responses not only by study destination (the USA and Japan) but also by student home country income level (World Bank classification). We examine the influence of government policies, institutional responses, and the relation of their host and home countries on their responses.
As the result of the analysis, we found out that, in both the USA and Japan, the most serious issue perceived by the majority of international students is financial difficulty. Its main causes derive from loss or decrease of part-time jobs, decrease in scholarships, and disruption of remittance. The difficulty is more strongly felt by students from low or lower-middle-income countries than those from upper-middle-income countries.
Their future plan has also been greatly affected by the COVID-19: 64 percent of the respondents in the USA and 87 percent of those in Japan who had planned to find employment in their study destination replied that they changed their plan because of the decrease in job offers, internship, interview and part-time job opportunities, caused by the COVID-19.
Although most international students are rather satisfied with online classes, insufficient interaction between instructor and students and/or among students and unstable internet connection are among the issues reported by the international students.
Regarding the future inflow of international students from their home country to their current study country, 63 percent of the respondents in the USA and 58 percent in Japan predict that it will decrease. Remote learning and decrease in employment opportunities in the study country are among the top reasons for their negative prediction.
Although international higher education has expanded in the last twenty years (OECD, 2020), we may witness its decline in the near future. Many higher education institutions may struggle with the increased needs of online education and its price setting. Values and Cost-effectiveness of face-to-face “real” education will be reexamined by international students. Employment prospects and enhancement of employability will become more important in students’ choice of study destination. Employability is closely related to “soft skill” and “tacit knowledge,” which are likely to be acquired through face-to-face communication. Higher education institutions will be required to respond to such demand of international students.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Prof. Dr. Krishna Bista, Morgan State University

Krishna Bista is an Associate Professor of the Department of Advanced Studies, Leadership and Policy at Morgan State University, Maryland, United States. His research focuses on college student experiences related to classroom participation, faculty-student relationships, role of advisors, and learning strategies in higher education. He is the Vice President of STAR Scholars Network and the founder of the Journal of International Students.

Prof. Dr. Yukari Matsuzuka, Hitotsubashi University

Yukari Matsuzuka is a Professor in Economics of Education at Hitotsubashi University, Japan. She is also Senior Research Affiliate at the Institute on Education and the Economy in Columbia University, Visiting Professor at Research Institute for Higher Education, Hiroshima University, Board Member at Association for Life and Economy, and Executive Vice President and Board Member for AIESEC Japan. Her research interests include students and skills mobility, higher education financing, and globalization of education.


Coffey, J., Cook, J., Farrugia, D., & Burke, P. (2020). Intersecting marginalities: International students' struggles for “survival” in COVID‐19. Gender, Work and Organisation.

IIE, Institute of Higher Education. (2020) COVID-19 Snapshot Survey Series,

Jayadeva, S. (2020). The impact of Covid-19 on postgraduate-level student migration from India to Germany. CGHE Working Paper, The University of Oxford.

Mok, K. H., Xiong, W., Ke, G., & Cheung, J. O. W. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on International Higher Education and Student Mobility: Student Perspectives from Mainland China and Hong Kong. International Journal of Educational Research, 101718. doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2020.101718

OECD. (2020). Education at a Glance. Paris: OECD.




How to Cite

Sato, Y., Bista, K. ., & Matsuzuka, Y. (2022). COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on International Students in Japan and the United States: : Comparative Study From National and Institutional Context. Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education, 14(3b).



Summer 2022 Special Edition