The question of "how many students are in MBA programs?", similar to that of "what, exactly, is an MBA?", is an important one. The number of students in MBA programs is taken from a preliminary survey of schools conducted every year by Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), which reports how many students are attending each of Japan's incorporated educational institutions as of May 1st (with graduate students tallied by major). Furthermore, the public release of data based on these reports related to educational research is mandated by the enforcement provisions of Japan's School Education Act.
Also, MEXT classifies students as "non-degree students" (or “credit students”) if they are not matriculated at the university and are instead taking single classes on a for-credit basis and "degree students" (or "regular students") if their goal is to obtain a degree from the university at the time the preliminary survey is taken. In a previous column, I detailed how data from an article in the magazine AERA revealed that as a result of this policy, there are schools where the graduation rate is depicted as undergoing a precipitous decline. When I examined the data in the tables in this article on degree program completion rates and admission exam pass rates, as sorted by school and major, and looked at the graduation rate data, there were admittedly parts that I must say made me go, "huh?". The article was created by the magazine’s editorial staff based on a survey, and I think the definitions it uses for its total are a bit loose, but it at least offers data on the number of degree students by major at this university.
University institutional standards (non-degree students etc.)
Article 31: Where prescribed by the university, individuals other than students matriculated at this university who are taking one or multiple class subjects (hereafter, "non-degree students") may earn credits for their work.
Enrollment numbers are important when comparing business schools—but another important metric is the ultimate graduation rate for enrollees. This metric (known as the "retention rate") is used in Western society to discuss education from a qualitative perspective. It's not a simple matter of "the higher, the better"; if there is a high percentage of working adults attending the program, then students abandoning their studies due to job or health-related reasons becomes a more frequent occurrence. Strict grading policies implemented to help ensure quality learning outcomes also cause the retention rate to drop.
As the demand for lifelong education deepens, the goals of those attending business schools are also diversifying. The development of online educational technology is also diversifying the points of contact between business schools and learners. As the relationships and channels connecting educational institutions and learners diversify and increase in number, determining the correct approach to take toward new students, enrollees, and graduates will also become more complicated. I hope the day will come when a complete, well-rounded, qualitative comparison of MBA programs can be conducted.