The basics
Japan: Destination Guides - Must read

Higher education in Japan

Are you excited about studying abroad in Japan, but not sure how the education system is organised? Here’s everything you need to know about the structure of Higher Education in Japan...


With an international student population of just over 200,000 and a plan to add nearly 100,000 more by 2020, Japan is a hotbed for foreigners looking to gain an education. In 2015, Japan saw a 13% increase in international students and a 25% jump in the language travel industry. Basically, students are flocking to Japan. Here's why...


The nation is known for its rich culture, unbeatable cuisine, and quality of education and has an adult literacy rate of nearly 100%! Here’s what you need to know about how higher education is structured.


Quick Facts:

  • Around 70% of young Japanese adults are enrolled in higher education
  • Due to high enrolment, Japan is said to have entered the stage of universal access to higher education
  •  Japanese students are required to take extremely difficult exams in order to be accepted at a university but, while international students usually have to take an entrance exam, they are not nearly as difficult as the ones for Japanese nationals.
  • Social Science was the most popular major for Japanese students in 2011, when 879,372 students were enrolled in Social Science programmes across the country.


Types of Institutions


  • Public Universities are regulated public university corporations and local public entities
  • National Universities were originally established by the Japanese Government, but were reorganised in 2004 to be regulated by national university corporations. These universities are still public, but they adhere to national standards.
  • Private Universities make up around 80% of all universities in Japan. These universities are established by educational corporations.


The reorganisation of universities into ownership by corporations has given Japanese universities more autonomy and freedom with budgetary, personal, and management affairs. Giving universities more independence has made them more enticing for prospective students and helped to revitalize research and education in the country.


Other Institutions

  • Junior colleges and specialised training colleges give Japanese students the opportunity to train for specific jobs and qualifications. These programmes usually take less time than university degree programmes and cost less money.


University Degree Programmes

  • Bachelor degrees are completed by students that have completed 12 years of prior schooling. Bachelor degrees take, on average, four years to complete.
    • If your home country does not provide 12 years of schooling prior to university enrolment, Japanese universities usually require one or two years at a university in your home country or additional requirements for acceptance to a Japanese university. Check with your Japanese programme to see if you qualify for acceptance.
  • Master’s degrees require 16 years of prior education, and usually take two years to complete in Japan.
  • Doctorates and Professional degrees are usually completed after a master’s programme. Professional degrees take around two years to complete, but Doctor’s programmes usually require at least five years of participation.
  • Associates and Specialists degrees are acquired through Junior and Specialised training colleges. These programmes usually last two to three years and give students the skills for specific jobs.


Now that you know the structure, why not look for a field to study!

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About Author

Ella Frazer is a student at the University of Puget Sound studying English Literature and Religion. She is currently studying abroad in London and is busy enjoying the collection of museums, constantly losing her way, and being of legal drinking age. When she is not writing for Hotcourses Abroad, you can usually find her searching for manuscripts at the British Library.