This joint project aims to propose a strategic method for developing an innovative social infrastructure and a framework to invite foreign human capital to Japan. To this end, the project will execute the following action plans and advocate for new immigration policies based on those activities.

1) The project team will conduct a comparative study of Canada and Australia, which successfully invite competent, talented workers who meet each country’s respective needs. In those countries, foreign credential evaluation (FCE) and National Qualification Framework (NQF) are believed to be essential elements for promoting cross-border mobility for students and skilled professionals.

2) Based on the comparative study, the project will implement a sophisticated FCE system in Japan based on guidelines set by UNESCO’s Tokyo Recognition Convention.  Also, the project will create a prototype for a Japanese National Qualification Framework and examine the impact and effectiveness of the prototype, by working with various professional associations.  

3) Using JSPS funding, as of October 2020, the project leader has launched an online system that provides academic transcripts and certificates.  This project will establish an online credential recognition service for foreign human capital by utilizing this online system.

4) The final stage of the project is to advocate for new immigration policies to attract talented and skillful foreign human capital.


  • Shingo Ashizawa (Vice-President, Kansai University of Internatonal Studies)
  • Keiichi Yoshimoto (Professor, Graduate School of Health Care Sciences, Jikei University of Health Care Sciences)
  • Hidefumi Shida (Director, Research Division for Professional Education, Jikei Education Science Center, Jikei Group)
  • Toshihiro Menju (Managing Director, Japan Center for International Exchange)
  • Hiroshi Ota (Professor, Hitotsubashi University)
  • Koichi Nakasaki (Principal researcher, Institute for Future Engineering)
  • Katsumi Shiraishi (Director-General, Asian Students Cultural Association)
  • Kenichi Shishido (Vice-President, JICA)
  • Takahiro Suzuki (Specially-appointed Professor, Josai International University)
  • Masami Matsumoto (Principal, Mundo de Alegria (School for Brazilians and Peruvians with Japanese ancestry))
  • Bhupal Man Shrestha (Senior Adviser (formerly President), Everest International School, Japan)
  • Sayaka Jess Kankolongo Watanabe (NPO WELgee)
  • Shohei Sugita (Partner, Global HR Strategy law firm)
  • Reiko Nebashi (Professor, School of Information and Communication, Meiji University)
  • Kenryo Tanaka (Director of the Secretariat, The Federation of Consumer Goods Industries and Consumer’s Associations (Seidanren))
  • Akira Matsuno (Secretariat, The Federation of Consumer Goods Industries and Consumer’s Associations (Seidanren))
  • Takashi Sekiyama (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Advanced Integrated Studies in Human Survivability (GSAIS), Kyoto University)

Analysis of the current situation and vision for the future

The goals of this project

Regarding the intake of foreign personnel, Japan has, at the request of industry, accepted people of Japanese ancestry from South America, and established visa categories such as the technical intern training system, EPA, and specified skilled workers. However, it has been pointed out that these measures lack consistency and fail to offer future prospects. There is a call for strategic measures to secure the highly qualified personnel and skilled labor force which Japanese society needs in the long term, and for a system to evaluate such personnel in order to support these measures.

In countries with immigration policies which have been successful in securing the necessary labor force, FCE systems which evaluate overseas study records and qualifications appropriately and fairly have been developed. For example, in Canada, evaluation criteria entitled “A Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications” (2009) have been put in place. Under this system, FCE (foreign credential evaluation) specialists issue an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA), taking into consideration the personnel needed and the size of the labor force. In Australia, the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) has been employed to establish qualifications standards across different industries. The Australian government uses this mechanism to strategically prioritize the issue of visas permitting work to the personnel needed by the nation. In order to construct such a system in Japan, the following kinds of system will need to be designed and infrastructure prepared at a national level.

1. As personnel continue to become ever more internationally mobile, ensuring that there are systems to accredit qualifications and degrees obtained in another country so that it is easy for them to move across national borders has become a global issue. In Europe, North America, Australia, and so on, foreign credential evaluation has already been implemented, allowing these countries to successfully welcome excellent international students and able or useful personnel. In Asia, too, the Tokyo Agreement, which came into effect in February 2018, has obtained the participation of nine countries including Japan (as of October 2020), and UNESCO is playing a central role in its operation. In the future, system design and monitoring will also be needed in Japan to ensure that FCE is carried out here in an appropriate manner.

2. Europe and Australia have put in place National Qualifications Frameworks which set out clear standards for qualifications across different industries. This is necessary infrastructure in order to apply the accreditation of professional qualifications and skills spanning various fields of work to foreigners. In order to carry out FCE appropriately, Europe is making use of the analysis of learning achievements (an outcome of the Tuning Project and other initiatives), and of qualification accreditation tools such as National Qualifications Frameworks which classify all degrees and qualifications obtained through education or training according to UNESCO’s International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED). National Qualifications Frameworks accurately evaluate professional and academic histories, and are an indispensable system for lifelong learning and the promotion of “high-quality vocational education” (Yoshimoto 2006). As such, it has also been argued that an NQF is needed in Japan.

3. In Europe, North America, Australia, and other places where FCE has become well-established, the digitization of certificates related to academic histories is progressing ever more rapidly. Moves to put certificates into electronic format, making data on a person’s academic history portable, began in Europe. In order to coordinate data management and systems development aspects internationally, specialists came together in Groningen, the Netherlands, in 2012, to launch the Groningen Declaration Network (GDN). The GDN aims to “make ‘digital student data mobility’ happen”, thereby helping to meet the academic and employment mobility needs of citizens around the world. As of July 2020, 30 countries and 110 agencies have joined the network, and international collaboration on the digitization of academic certificates is moving ahead. On the other hand, the issue of fake degree certificates and so on has surfaced around the world, causing difficulties in hiring suitable foreign personnel. From this perspective, moving ahead with the digitization of certificates to ensure that their authenticity can be verified is an issue which must be resolved in order for Japan to receive foreign personnel.

[Reference] Keiichi Yoshimoto (2006), “The role of a national system for educational and professional qualifications in the promotion of lifelong learning” (National Institute for Education Policy Research)

Research content and methods

This research will implement three initiatives:

  1. Research into and validation of precedents (from Canada, Australia, etc.) for the use of FCE and NQFs in the intake of foreign personnel
  2. The application of FCE to Japan and the clear expression of qualifications standards and career paths for foreign personnel in Japan through collaboration and synthesis with NQF research teams
  3. The construction of a system allowing the issue of online certificates for qualifications obtained by foreigners both overseas and within Japan.

By setting out an explicit NQF and constructing an FCE system, applicants for residency status as foreign personnel will become able to check what kind of academic history or professional experience or qualifications will allow them to obtain this residency status, as well as the process by which these will be evaluated. Moreover, by embodying the “principles of transparency, consistency, trustworthiness, and fairness” in FCE spelled out in the Tokyo Agreement (which came into effect in 2018), holders of foreign qualifications or academic records will be able to receive a proper and rational evaluation.

At present, the project leader (Shingo Ashizawa) and other members of the team which was awarded the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research are moving ahead with proof-of-concept, under the slogan of “Digitization of certificates for academic and other qualifications”, with current students and graduates of Japanese universities as its main target . This project will further develop the online system which has been used in practice for the proof-of-concept, delivering a systems environment in which foreign personnel can take their own initiative to design their careers and disseminate information about their academic records. Concrete details of the project content and methods are as follows.

<First year>

  • Move ahead with a comparative study of Canada, Australia, etc., investigating methods of analysing personnel requirements in the labour market, ways of using NQFs, personnel qualifications required, ways of demonstrating professional experience, and methods of attracting foreign personnel needed in these countries.
  • Compile information about the skills and qualifications required of foreign personnel, and publish this as data. In particular, look at examples of personnel evaluated highly by employers or of successful entrepreneurs in order to publish (anonymized) model case studies of academic histories or qualifications and an overview of an NQF for Japan online.
  • Implement an online FCE service for foreign personnel considering studying and working in Japan and launch a test evaluation, focussing on the Asian Students Cultural Association, which has a track record of FCE.

<Second year>

  • Specify entry qualifications for higher education institutions and cross-industry qualifications reference standards, and publish a prototype NQF for Japan (two fields of industry) online, accommodating both higher education degrees and qualifications in professional education.
  • Identify the groups among foreign personnel for which an FCE service could be expected to deliver rapid results, and deliver a focused FCE evaluation service related to entrance qualifications for universities, etc., and employment requirements (100 cases per year).

<Third year>

  • In collaboration with vocational colleges and industry groups, publish a prototype NQF for Japan (six fields of industry). Continue the FCE service in Japan (200 cases per year). Implement a trial of an advisory business on lifelong learning for foreign personnel in Japan (200 cases per year). Exchange opinions based on the study and research results with a variety of stakeholders, develop this into an effective and comprehensive policy proposal, and seek ways to put this proposal into practice.
  • Launch the “Online Academic Record System for Foreign Personnel”, putting in place an environment in which foreign personnel can take the initiative in disseminating their academic records.
  • Cooperate with the “Japan Platform for Migrant Workers towards Responsible and Inclusive Society” promoted by JICA and exchange opinions with relevant people from the Southeast Asian countries which supply many of the personnel to Japan in order to consider the potential for dissemination and development.

Plans and prospects for this initiative after the grant period ends

Even after the end of this research project, we will continue with initiatives aiming to implement the policies proposed in practice and to resolve the issues.

  1. In order for the principles of FCE based on the Tokyo Agreement to become established in Japan, we will promote awareness-raising activities in collaboration with UNESCO and others. The FCE evaluation service using an online system will be continued at the Asian Students Cultural Association. At the same time as applying for public funding, fees will be collected from the foreign users and the employers to cover the costs.
  2. We will move ahead with verification of the prototype NQF for Japan, together with industry groups, professional groups, vocational colleges, and others. We will approach government agencies such as the Cabinet in order to gain official recognition as a National Qualifications Framework.
  3. With the goal of providing career support for foreign personnel, we will build a consortium with higher education institutions, the University of the Air, etc., to implement a lifelong learning curriculum based on the NQF.
  4. The project members will continue to make policy proposals linking the principles of NQFs and FCE, looking to establish types of residency status which are appropriate and suited to the needs of the Japanese labour market in the long term. It should be noted that the Tokyo Agreement also advocates for recognition of the qualifications of refugees who do not possess documentary evidence, and we will also approach the relevant government agencies so that appropriate FCE evaluation for refugees can become a reality in Japan, and implement monitoring of such evaluation.