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Higher education in Japan for international students. List of 84 top institutions, 2024 fees, rankings

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Education information

The Japanese education system is considered one of the most ancient, it originates in the VI century. Initially, education in Japan was strongly influenced by China and Korea, so in these countries education is similar and is based on the general principles of morality of the whole East:

  • The predominance of the value of community (family and society as a whole);
  • Respect and adherence to family and state traditions;
  • The presence of a strict hierarchy in the family and society based on respect: the younger ones always obey the elders implicitly.

Japan is famous all over the world for its achievements in the field of high technology, high-quality education and high standard of living of the population. Japanese universities annually get into the rankings of the best universities in the world, and the competition for the most prestigious educational institutions reaches 20-30 people per place.

Universities in Japan do not follow trends – they form them. It is here that the most advanced laboratories in the world are located, revolutionary discoveries are being made at local universities, and the quality of Japanese products, equipment and studying is known all over the world. For many years, the Land of the Rising Sun was closed to foreign students, but at the end of the XX-beginning of the XXI century, the doors of most Japanese universities opened for young people planning to connect their lives with advanced technologies, innovative developments and science.

Advantages of obtaining higher education in Japan for foreign students

  • International rankings and high quality of education

 The QS ranking placed five Japanese universities in the list of the 100 best educational institutions in the world: University of Tokyo (22), Kyoto University (33), Tokyo Institute of Technology (58), Osaka University (71) and Tohoku University (82). Also they stand out among Asian universities: the University of Tokyo took 8th place in the ranking of THE in 2019.

  • Attracting foreign students

 In May 2012, the Japanese Government adopted the Global 30 initiative aimed at increasing the number of international students in the country from 140,000 to 300,000. In this regard, universities offer foreign students simplified admission procedures, English-language preparation programs and assistance in finding a job. Some universities even allow students from other countries to start their studies in September, instead of April, which is unusual for Europeans.

  • Financial assistance

 In Japan, there is a large number of scholarship programs created specifically for international students. The government, universities, prefectural municipalities, commercial and non-profit organizations are ready to provide students with financial support.

Higher education system in Japan – specifics of studying

The vast majority of Japanese continue their education at public and private universities. To date, there are about 730 educational institutions of this type in the country.

Obtaining the higher education in Japan consists of three stages:

  • Bachelor's degree;
  • Master's degree;
  • Postgraduate studies.

Bachelor's degree programs last mainly 4 years. Students of the specialty in medical fields (medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine) study for 6 years. The academic year begins in April and ends in March of the following year.

The curriculum consists of theoretical classes, lectures, seminars, laboratory work, master classes, internships and research. At the end of the studying, students usually write and defend a scientific thesis. Undergraduate graduates have the right to look for a job or continue their studies in a master's degree.

Master's and doctoral programs are organized by graduate schools, which can be either independent educational institutions or part of universities. The studying usually lasts two years. The subjects are divided into three categories: basic, research and electives. The first three semesters are devoted to the study of theory, and the last semester is devoted to writing a scientific thesis. At the end of the studying, students take final exams and defend their work.

Doctoral studies take an average of 3 years. For admission, students need to have a master's degree and pass entrance tests. In addition, students should usually contact the future supervisor in advance by sending a letter with the goals, objectives and justification of the relevance of the work, as well as details of the planned research.

Higher education in Japan – enrolment requirements for foreign students

The main thing for admission to higher educational institutions in Japan is a document of secondary education (plus one or two years at the institute) and excellent knowledge of the Japanese language. The language preparation of foreign applicants is treated very strictly here. You must provide a certificate that you have studied at least two semesters at a language school, and confirm your knowledge on the exam.

To prepare well for admission, it is optimal to attend preparatory courses during the year, for example, at the International Students Institute or Kansai International Students Institute. All applicants pass the general entrance exam and a number of disciplines, depending on the chosen faculty. For humanities, it is necessary to pass mathematics, world history and English, and for natural sciences - mathematics, physics, biology and English.

One of the most important entrance tests is the Japanese language exam. It is passed by both foreign applicants and the Japanese themselves. The exam involves checking the knowledge of hieroglyphs and vocabulary, listening and grammar knowledge, as well as four levels of difficulty. To pass the first level, you need to know 2000 hieroglyphs, for the second — 1000 and then descending. If an applicant passes the first-level exam, then in fact the doors of any university are open for him, but for some the second or even the third is enough.

One-year Japanese language courses have been organized especially for the preparation of foreign applicants at the Osaka International Student Institute.


Learning programs-summary information

Name Meaning Equivalent Min. age Duration,
Next stage Cost
GCSE General certificate of secondary education secondary education (non-accomplished) 14 1–2 A-Levels 15,000 USD+
A-Levels Advanced level secondary education (accomplished) 16 2 University 15,000 USD+
BTEC Business and Technology Education Board secondary special education 14 2–3 University/ work 15,000 USD+
Oxbridge Preparation Preparing for Oxford and Cambridge secondary education (accomplished) 17 1 University 15,000 USD+
International Baccalaureate International baccalaureate secondary education (accomplished) 16 2 University 18,000 USD+
Foundation/ Pathway Year Preparatory year admission to the 1st year of university 17 1 University 14,000 USD+
NCUK The Northern consortium 2 year university 17,5 1 2 year University of NCUK 13,000 USD+
Special Preparation (Medics/Math/Business) Specialized training - 14 optional optional 4,000 USD+
Academic English Academic English Language school 8 + 6–12 months School or University 8,000 USD+

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1 University of Toronto
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11 University of Manitoba
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25 Humber College
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27 Mohawk College
28 Centennial College Toronto
29 Niagara College
30 Capilano University
31 Seneca College
32 Algoma University
33 Saint Clair College
34 Douglas College
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Times Higher Education’s top 50 best universities in USA 2024

World University Rank US Rank University City State
2 1 Stanford University Stanford California
3 2 Harvard University Cambridge Massachusetts
4 3 California Institute of Technology Pasadena California
5 4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge Massachusetts
7 5 University of California, Berkeley Berkeley California
8 6 Yale University New Haven Connecticut
9 7 Princeton University Princeton New Jersey
10 8 University of Chicago Chicago Illinois
12 9 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore Maryland
13 10 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia Pennsylvania
15 11 University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles California
17 12 Columbia University New York City New York
19 13 Cornell University Ithaca New York
=20 14 Duke University Durham North Carolina
22 15 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Michigan
24 16 Northwestern University Evanston Illinois
26 17 New York University New York City New York
28 18 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
29 19 University of Washington Seattle Washington
33 20 University of California, San Diego San Diego California
38 21 Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta Georgia
44 22 University of Texas at Austin Austin Texas
48 23 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign Illinois
49 24 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison Wisconsin
50 25 Washington University in St Louis St. Louis Missouri
53 26 University of Southern California Los Angeles California
=54 27 Boston University Boston Massachusetts
=56 28 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill North Carolina
61 29 Brown University Providence Rhode Island
=64 30 University of California, Davis Davis California
68 31 University of California, Santa Barbara Santa Barbara California
=80 32 Ohio State University (Main campus) Columbus Ohio
=85 =33 Emory University Atlanta Georgia
=85 =33 University of Minnesota Minneapolis Minnesota
90 35 University of Maryland, College Park College Park Maryland
=94 36 Purdue University West Lafayette West Lafayette Indiana
=98 37 University of California, Irvine Irvine California
=101 38 Dartmouth College Hanover New Hampshire
105 39 Michigan State University East Lansing Michigan
=111 40 Vanderbilt University Nashville Tennessee
=114 41 Penn State (Main campus) State College Pennsylvania
117 42 University of Virginia (Main campus) Charlottesville Virginia
120 43 Georgetown University   Washington D.C
=121 44 Case Western Reserve University Cleveland Ohio
=124 45 University of Arizona Tucson Arizona
=124 =45 Rice University Houston Texas
=131 47 University of Colorado Boulder Boulder Colorado
=133 48 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh campus Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
=140 49 Indiana University Bloomington Indiana
=147 50 University of Rochester Rochester (NY) New York

Top 50 best universities in the UK 2024

1 Cambridge
2 Oxford
3 St Andrews
4 London School of Economics
5 Imperial College London
6 Loughborough
7 Durham
8 Lancaster
9 University of Bath
10 East Anglia (UEA)
11 University College London
12 Warwick
13 Exeter
14 Birmingham
15 Bristol
16 Edinburgh
17 Leeds
18 Manchester
19 Southampton
20 Glasgow
21 King's College London
22 Nottingham
23 York
24 Newcastle
25 Royal Holloway, University of London
26 East Anglia (UEA)
27 Aberdeen
28 Queen's University Belfast
29 Sheffield
30 Heriot-Watt
31 Cardiff
32 Dundee
33 Swansea
34 Liverpool
35 Surrey
36 Queen Mary, University of London
37 SOAS University of London
38 Leicester
39 Reading
40 Sussex
41 Essex
42 Harper Adams University
43 Aston
44 University for the Creative Arts
45 University of Stirling
46 Nottingham Trent
47 Kent
48 Arts University Bournemouth
49 Oxford Brookes
50 Lincoln
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Egor Eremeev
Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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