Study in Japan as an International Student
10 Key Facts
- The Japanese government continues to be very keen to increase the number of international students attending Japanese universities. With each year a growing number of programmes are offered fully in English and there are many dedicated international governmental and institutional scholarships on offer.
- Japan is globally recognised for pushing the boundaries of technology and science and, as such, is a very attractive country for STEM students.
- Many universities offer excellent support for international students. They have special staff to deal with overseas recruitment, the option of September starts (the traditional start to the academic year is in April in Japan), an increasing number of exchange programmes, and numerous scholarships and tuition waivers. I have also found the quality of the information provided on institutional websites to be very good.
- Japan may have relatively high living costs , but tuition fees are generally a lot lower than the UK and USA – approximately 4,400 to 8,750 USD per year.
- International students can work up to 28 hours per week – more than in most other countries.
- Japan offers a fascinating blend of ancient and modern culture. There are both diverse natural environments and modern megacities to be explored. Cities are generally very safe, but it is important for new students to know that Japan has a very respectful social etiquette and anti-social behaviour is taken very seriously.
- Undergraduate degrees in Japan are usually 4 years and blend academic theory with practical learning experiences. Class hours are often greater than many other countries and attendance is closely monitored.
- In order to attract international students, most universities offer alternative application pathways that circumvent the rigorous examinations required of Japanese students. Japanese taught programmes will require the EJU – Japanese University Admission for International Students Test – but English taught programmes more often rely on a holistic review which could include transcripts, application essays and interviews. There are often two application rounds – one for a document/academic screen and the second requiring an online test or interview. There is no centralised application system so requirements and deadlines will differ between universities and programmes.
- Extra curricular activities and student clubs are a big part of student life in Japan and universities offer a wide range of activities for students to engage in outside of class. Many offer special groups and cultural activities for students new to Japan.
- In order to get a study visa for Japan, students first need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from their university. You can then apply for a visa through their nearest Japanese embassy or consulate. You may also need to provide proof you can pay for the course and details of your medical history.
Universities in Japan with Programmes in English
University of Tokyo
A public research institution and home to around 14,000 undergraduates, the University of Tokyo offers two programmes in English through Programs in English at Komaba (PEAK) to students who exhibit leadership potential and intellectual curiosity.
- International Program on Environmental Sciences – students complete a broad two years liberal arts curriculum before progressing to two years in their chosen specialism.
- International program on Japan in East Asia – students take a range of social science and humanities courses that enable them to develop a deep understanding of Japan/East Asian politics, economy, society and culture in a global context.
The PEAK program is selective – in 2022 the university made 59 offers from 258 applicants – and requires two screenings: an academic document review and interview/testing. Accommodation is offered in the 1st year and merit scholarships are available requiring no separate application. Numerous support systems are in place for international students and all those joining the PEAK program are allocated a Personal Academic Advisor who they meet with regularly.
Kyoto, founded in 1897, is the second oldest university in Japan; it is a public research institution with around 13,000 undergraduates.
The Undergraduate International Course Program of Civil Engineering is a 4 year course enrolling 30 students each year in April. During the first two years, students take general education courses common to all science students, including liberal arts classes, Scientific English, and Japanese. In the 4th year they complete a special research project. Kyoto promotes a ‘spirit of freedom’ within a liberal academic environment and encourages students to build a deep understanding of the basics before choosing their specialisms. Study and research overseas is possible.
International students take compulsory Japanese classes and there is a tutoring system to help adjust to life in Japan. The application process includes a review of academic documentation and an interview. The application window is from August to September. Merit scholarships are available and all students are guaranteed accommodation in their first year.
Home to 15,000+ undergraduates, Osaka is a very productive public research university offering two international degree programmes in English. Alongside Tokyo and Kyoto it is considered one of the top public universities in Japan.
- The Human Sciences International Degree Programme has been running since 2011 and offers three semesters of shared foundation courses before students start their advanced specialist classes. There are three focus areas on offer: Diversity and Inclusion Studies, Japan Studies, And Political and Global Studies. All lead to a Bachelor of Human Sciences. Students also gain proficiency in Japanese.
- The International Undergraduate Program in Science is a four and a half year programme with students completing four years of undergraduate studies and half a year as research students. Students are required to take six months of intensive Japanese before commencing their first year and classes are taught in Japanese from the second year.
The application period is during December and January and involves a document screen and possible interview. Scholarships and tuition fee waivers are offered.
Established in 1907, Tohoku is a public university located in Sendai City, around 1.5 hours from Tokyo by bullet train. It was the first Japanese university to accept both foreign students and women, and is currently home to 11,000+ undergraduates, including 2,100 international students from 87+ countries.
Through the Future Global Leadership Program, Tohoku admits international students for three undergraduate programmes taught entirely in English: Advanced Molecular Chemistry, Applied Marine Biology, and International Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The mission is to produce graduates with a solid foundation in the fundamentals and who have the capacity to be international leaders in their field through engaging in cutting edge research.
The 4 year programmes start in October with students applying the preceding January. Students’ documents are given a first screen and then applicants may be asked to take a written test and/or interview to assess their academic ability, motivation and communication skills. A range of scholarships are offered and housing is given for the first two years. Students are also offered optional pre-enrolment classes in Japanese language and global issues and culture.
Nagoya, home to 17,000+ students, is located in the heart of Japan’s business and industry; its mission is to cultivate ‘leaders with genuine courage and intellect.’
Its English taught program has been in operation since 2011 and there are a wide range of specialisms on offer. Degrees are multi disciplinary with students completing a general education curriculum of common basic courses and Japanese classes in their 1st year. The courses on offer are: Automotive Engineering, Physics, Biological Science, Chemistry, Law, Economics, and Japan in Asia Cultural Studies.
All programmes are four years starting in October and there are over 300 international exchange programmes for those who wish to study abroad during their degree. Housing is guaranteed in the 1st year and support for international students includes academic advising, extra curricular clubs and societies, and mandatory annual health checks for all students.
There is no written entrance exam, but all applicants are interviewed or given an oral exam following the initial document screen. Admissions are holistic and students are required to submit two essays and two references.
Founded in 1903, Kyushu is a public research university located in Fukuoka. There are around 19,000 students with 2,300+ of these being international.
The School of Engineering offers four English-taught programmes: Applied Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Kyushu aims that students have a broad education and that an understanding of the environment, ethics and the role of human beings in the environment is essential. As such, students take core liberal arts and sciences classes in the first year and then proceed to their specialisms. Japanese language classes are also taken.
80-85% of undergraduates at Kyushu progress to a master’s degree in Japan or overseas. There are extensive extracurricular activities on offer and incoming students are offered accommodation in their first year. The application period takes place in January and successfully applicants will commence their classes in October. Tuition waivers and scholarships are on offer.
Tokyo Institute of Technology
Founded in 1881, Tokyo Institute of Technology is a public national research university and the largest in Japan dedicated to science and technology. Their programmes are delivered in a project-based learning and hands-on format.
The Global Scientists and Engineers Program (GSEP) is a four year trans-disciplinary bachelor of engineering degree. In English, students study science, engineering and management courses with a focus on solving real world problems. All applicants are considered for the Japanese government scholarship (MEXT).
There are other courses for international students offered in Japanese – to apply for these, students must take the EJU and Tokyo Tech’s Special Screening Exam for Privately Funded International Students, in addition to their General Entrance Examination.
Students enrol in April and there are eight places for MEXT students and ten for privately funded applicants. The application window is mid August to early September.
University of Tsukuba
Tsukuba is located just 60km from central Tokyo, offering students more affordable college-town living an easy train ride from the capital. Despite being a Japanese Science City, it is located in one of Japan’s most tradition areas and also has one of the highest percentages of foreign residents for a Japanese city.
There are seven English programmes on offer for which no Japanese language skills are required: GeoScience, Biology, Bio-resource Science, Global issues, International Social Science, Interdisciplinary Engineering and International Medical Science (transfer only). For those with substantial Japanese skills there are also four courses offered through the Japan-Expert Program.
Tsukuba has a vibrant International Student Centre and some of the best sports facilities in Japan. Scholarships and full/partial fee waivers are available and international students pay domestic tuition fees. Courses start in October with the application period taking place in March and April.
Hokkaido was founded in 1876 and is one of the seven major national universities offering a comprehensive range of programmes. It is known for its top level research and offers substantial career support for international students.
There are 2,100+ international students at Hokkaido and it offers two full English degrees:
- The Modern Japanese Studies Program is a 4 year bachelor that kicks off with 6 months of intensive Japanese language study if students do not already have sufficient ability, and courses cover the history, culture, sociology and political economy of Japan.
- The Integrated Science Program is a cross disciplinary programme for students interested in the natural sciences. Students take classes in Biology, Chemistry and Physics before choosing their specialisation. In keeping with the traditions of a liberal education, students also take electives in business, leadership, management, and the Japanese language.
Japanese government and university scholarships are available, as are tuition waivers.
The main campus is in Sapporo – one of Japan’s largest cities – and the surrounding province offers a high quality of life and plentiful opportunities for outdoor pursuits. The International Student Support Desk offers a full range of services to support incoming students and help them settle in.
Waseda is a highly prestigious private research university in Tokyo. It was founded in 1882 and has educated nine prime ministers of Japan. A large institution with over 47,000 students, Waseda is particularly strong in the humanities and sciences.
Waseda has one of the widest range of undergraduate programmes in English spanning six academic schools. The courses on offer include: International Liberal Studies, Mechanical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science, Political Science, Economics, and Global Political Economy. Japanese language ability is not required for entry and they will accept SAT/AT, IB, A Level, and many other international high school qualifications.
The online application period runs in January and February, with most courses starting in September. There are a number of merit based scholarships on offer and around 40% of international students receive financial support. Admissions statistics are clearly located on the website.