Japan to pay Ph.D. students in quest for cutting-edge tech

Nikkei -- Jan 31
Beginning in April, 7,800 doctoral students in Japan will be eligible to receive an annual 2.4 million yen ($23,139) in living expenses, as they take part in a government program meant to maintain the country's global competitiveness in cutting-edge technologies.

The government will provide the funds to universities, which will pick the recipients. Universities working on artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and other disciplines are more likely to be chosen to take part in the program.

In giving universities the discretion to choose grant recipients, the government will ask them to shoulder a quarter to one-third of the financial aid.

The government also plans to support the research expenses for some of the students on top of the cost-of-living support. The amount is likely to be 500,000 yen, or $,4780, per doctoral student per year.

In Japan, many gifted students have to think twice before advancing to doctoral courses due to the financial plight these studies inflict.

Among scientific students taking master's courses, 23.6% regarded "upgrading of financial support" as the most important factor in deciding to advance to a doctoral program, while 21.6% cited "employment in the private sector," according to a survey conducted in 2008 by the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy. The economic situation surrounding graduate students has become worse since this survey, may experts say.

The financial aid is meant to avert a drop in the number of doctoral students, which would result in fewer young researchers engaging in cutting-edge lab work.

In 2000, 16.7% of students advanced to doctoral programs from master's courses, but by 2018 the ratio had dropped to 9.3%.

- Nikkei