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Study in Japan: Education in Japan

The Japanese university system offers Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degrees in a range of fields and disciplines. Higher education in Japan is provided by either private or public universities and junior colleges. The governmental authority responsible for education, culture and language matters is the Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture (MEXT). 

The education culture in Japan is established on the Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism philosophy and during the 19th and 20th century has adopted various reforms through the adaptation of rules from various education systems, aiming towards the internationalization of education.

The Japanese university system is characterized by equality, quality and performance. In Japan, an average student scores 540 in reading literacy, mathematics and science based on the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), making the country one of the top countries in students’ ability and skills globally! 

The Japanese university system follows a 4-scale grading system: 

  1. A: yū (優) Very Good (80-100%)
  2. B: ryō (良) Good (70-79,99%)
  3. C:  ka (可) Average, Pass (60-69,99%)
  4. F: fuka (不可) Fail (0-59,99%)

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How long is a Bachelor’s degree?

The duration of Bachelor’s studies (学士 gakushi) in Japan is four years except medical, dentistry, veterinary and pharmacy programs which last up to six years of studies. In junior colleges, the duration of studies is two to three years, depending on the department and program. Most universities and junior colleges in Japan have their academic year from April to March of the following year. The first semester runs from April to September, while the second from October to March. 

Keep in mind that some universities show flexibility to international students regarding which semester they can choose to start their studies. In order to be awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Japan, you have to gather at least 124 course credits. 

In order to be eligible for Bachelor’s studies in Japan as an international student, it is mandatory to have completed at least 12 years of formal education in your home country. In case you haven’t completed the compulsory 12-year education, you are still eligible to apply, but you will be asked to pass the national entrance examination test which will confirm your qualifications for studies in the country. Furthermore, you need to provide your high school transcript of records, a personal statement letter and possibly letters of recommendation.

Overall, if your Bachelor’s is taught in English language, you need to provide proof of language proficiency through language tests like TOEFL or IELTS. In case your study program is taught in Japanese, then you need, as an international student to demonstrate your Japanese language proficiency through the following tests:

Master Studies in the Japanese University System 

Postgraduate studies (修士 xiūshì) in Japanese universities combine lectures, research, various projects and the writing of the student’s dissertation. In order to be eligible for a Master’s degree in Japan, you need to have completed a four-year Bachelor’s in education. The duration of Master’s in Japan is two years for the majority of programs and a student will be awarded with a Master’s degree after the completion of 30 course credits. 

As stated above, you must be able to prove your English or Japanese language proficiency through language tests, depending on the language of instruction. Don’t forget that Japan offers a lot of English-taught Master’s as well!

For your Master’s admission, you need to provide your Bachelor’s transcripts, two letters of recommendations, a personal statement letter where you can describe why you want to be a part of the particular program and possibly your resume and working experience, along with a research proposal for your dissertation. 

What about Doctorate studies in Japan?

A doctoral degree (博士 hakase) is the highest level of academic achievement and the Japanese university system offers globally highly respected PhD programs to international students, based on quality research and high-tech teaching techniques. The duration of a Doctorate degree in Japan is a minimum three years for the majority of disciplines, except medical PhD degrees. 

Students who want to pursue a Doctorate degree in Japan need to have completed their Bachelor’s and Master’s education first. However, an interesting fact is that some Japanese universities offer the opportunity to international students to apply for a Phd right after their Bachelor’s, even without a Master’s degree! That automatically means that your Doctorate degree duration will expand to five years instead. 

In order to get admitted to a Doctorate degree in Japan, you therefore need to provide the academic transcripts of your previous degrees, provide proof of your foreign language command in English or Japanese, letters of recommendations and resume, a research plan and possibly your Master’s dissertation and summary.

Study in Japan - Overview

Over 300,000 international students choose Japan as their study abroad destination every year. Click here to learn why.

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Student Visas

Do you need a visa to enter Japan to study? Learn more about the student visa process, and what you need to enter the country, depending on your citizen status. You will also be required to bring certain documents with you to passport control at the airport, which we cover as well.

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Housing & Living Costs

No matter where you study abroad, it’s important to create a budget in advance so that you’re prepared. Therefore, we’ve detailed average living and housing costs so that you can get a better idea of what you would be paying as a student in Japan.

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Tuition Fees & Scholarships

Tuition fees for degree programs in Japan may vary. Both international and domestic students are expected to pay tuition fees in Japan. To cover the rest of the costs, there’s plenty of scholarship opportunities available.

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Language & Culture

Japan is a country rich in history and culture. Find out more about what the country offers in terms of language, culture, and more!

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Application Process

All countries have specific admissions requirements for students to gain acceptance into a university. Learn more about the ins and outs of admission to programs in Japan, and what you need to apply, depending on your citizenship.

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Last update: 28 Jun 2021

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