Studying in Japan

Studying in Japan

There are five types of higher educational institutions in Japan which international students can attend. These include:

  • colleges of technology
  • specialised or professional training colleges
  • junior colleges
  • universities
  • graduate schools. 

As well as undergraduate degrees, masters and doctoral level qualifications are available.

The academic year runs from April to March and each year has two semesters, the first from April to September and the second from October to March. Some institutions start their academic year in the autumn though, so make sure you check this.

What courses can you study?

Masters degrees tend to last for two years while doctoral level qualifications typically take five years.

The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has set up the Global 30 project, which aims to increase the number of international students in Japan. It has selected 13 universities as core institutions to offer degrees taught in English at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. They also provide the opportunity to learn Japanese while you're there and get a true insight into the Japanese culture.

Courses that are available through the Global 30 project include masters and doctoral programmes that cover common topics including agriculture, energy, engineering, IT, science, business and humanities.

How do you apply for postgraduate study?

To apply for a masters course you will typically need a recognised undergraduate degree and for a doctoral course, you will need to have completed a relevant masters. In general, as well as the application form, you will need to submit a CV, any certificates relating to your education and a letter of recommendation from your previous university. You should contact the individual institutions to find out more about any specific requirements they have.

It is likely that you'll have to do an entrance exam which may consist of completing a test and/or essay and having an interview. The Global 30 project aims to make it easier for international students to come to Japan and so it allows the entrance exams to be done while you're in the UK and for interviews to be conducted via teleconference or other devices.

You should check with the institutions to find out about application deadlines and make sure you apply as soon as possible.

Fees and scholarships

Tuition fees tend to be lower than those in the UK and there are also scholarships available to help with the funding. For the first year you will need to pay admission fees as well as the standard tuition fees. These can vary depending on the subject you wish to study and whether the institution is national, local public or private.

Tuition fees tend to be lower in the national and public universities at around ¥535,000 per year. In the private institutions, tuition fees for masters and doctoral degrees can range from ¥515,000 to ¥1,125,000 per year. This is around £3,400 - £7,500. On top of this, admission fees are around ¥200,000 to ¥300,000 (£1,330 - £2,000) for all institutions and subjects.

Japanese government scholarships are available for international students from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. You should contact the Embassy of Japan in the UK for more information.

The Japan Student Services Organisation (JASSO) also offers scholarships to international students who are privately funded. Information on this as well as other available scholarships can be found at JASSO scholarships.

You should also speak to the individual universities to find out if they offer their own scholarships.

Are there any exchange programmes?

Many universities have exchange programmes with institutions in Japan. These are typically short-term courses that last less than a year. You should contact the international department at your university to see if they have any connections with Japanese universities. More information is also available at Study in Japan.

Will your qualifications be recognised in the UK?

Check with the university or higher education institution where you are hoping to study to see if their qualification is recognised or has an equivalent in the UK.

Do you need a visa to study in Japan?

UK citizens need a visa to be able to study in Japan. There is a specific student visa category which covers you for any level of study at a university, graduate school or other type of higher education institution.

To apply for the visa, you must have a Certificate of Eligibility. Your university in Japan will be your sponsor for this and will apply for the certificate on your behalf. You can then use it to apply for your visa.

Visas are issued for various periods of time depending on the length of your course. They can range from three months to over four years. More information is available from the Embassy of Japan in the UK.

Written by AGCAS editors, June 2016