Higher Education System in Japan

University landscape in Japan

The subject of education is very important in the Japanese tradition. Among other things, the Japanese rely on intensive early childhood training. Your offspring will therefore learn their first Kanji characters in kindergarten. The subsequent school years are considered to be one of the most demanding in the world, yet 97 percent of the students finish high school. More than half of them then go to university. See agooddir for history of Japan.

The Japanese university culture was formed after 1868 in the so-called Meiji Restoration: With the increasing interest of the Japanese in Western culture and the political opening of the country, nine imperial universities were founded. They were based on the Berlin Humboldt University: the ideal of free, self-sufficient research that is closely linked to teaching. Japan recruited highly paid foreign experts to teach Western knowledge and modernize the traditional country.

Today exist in Japan

  • over 750 universities (Daigaku)
  • 400 junior colleges (Tanki Daigaku)
  • 60 technical colleges (Kôtôsenmongakkô) without university status.

The most important role is played by private educational institutions: they make up three quarters of the university landscape in Japan and their number is growing steadily. Most of the private universities have an international focus and often specialize in certain subject areas. The public universities are financed by the Ministry of Culture and Science Mombu-Kagaku-shō and administered by the state and regional authorities.

A little over three million people study at Japanese universities. International students studying abroad in Japan make up only a small percentage of this: in 2009 it was around four percent, of which over 90 percent came from the neighboring Asian countries of China, South Korea and Taiwan. Japan is still considered a kind of insider tip among German students, so that only about 450 of them find their way to Japan each year.

The main barrier international students face to studying abroad in Japan seems to be that most universities only offer courses in Japanese. Many foreigners have only taken part in language courses so far. Studying in English in Japan is currently only possible at a few universities. The majority of courses in English are only offered as part of a few exchange programs or at particularly internationally oriented universities.

Quality assurance of universities in Japan

One of the current goals of the Japanese government is to encourage more international students to study in Japan. The number of foreign students is to be tripled by 2020. So far, 13 selected universities such as the University of Tokyo or Ritsumeikan University have taken part in the Global 30 project initiated for this purpose. In addition, the Japanese government supports the science and research centers in further expanding their international contacts. And it encourages international institutions to settle in the country.

Three bodies check and guarantee the quality of Japanese universities:

  • the Standards for Establishing University (SEU),
  • the Establishment Approval System (EAS) and
  • the Quality Assurance and Accreditation System (QAAS).

Nevertheless, there are major differences between the universities in Japan: On the one hand there are some renowned top universities with highly qualified lecturers, the best equipment, individual support and a large budget of scholarship and travel funds. On the other hand, there are also mediocre universities that only offer short courses.

Anyone who decides to study in Japan will quickly notice that oral participation at Japanese universities is less important than in Germany. First and foremost, exams serve to query the knowledge gained. In the professional world, it is less the subject of study or the final grade than the reputation of the university and soft skills that are in demand. Career changers from outside the field have a good chance if they are loyal and committed to the company.

Study in Japan – cost

The amount of tuition fees at the Japanese universities is very different. It varies depending on the type of institution (private or public), the chosen subject and the duration of the course. The most expensive are private universities and highly practice-oriented subjects such as medicine and engineering. Private universities pay an average of around 800,000 yen (around EUR 7,300) a year, while public universities pay around 500,000 yen (around EUR 4,500).

The cost of living in Japan is quite high compared to the European one. Living space is extremely expensive, especially in metropolitan areas. The cheapest and therefore most sought-after accommodations are student residences. The rooms can be rented from around EUR 350 plus a one-off collection fee and deposit. Shared apartments are rather uncommon in Japan. It is more common for individuals to rent an apartment, but even if it is small, it can cost the equivalent of 600 to 900 euros basic rent. Usually a deposit of three to six months’ rent is required, part of which the landlord withholds as a fee.

Higher Education System in Japan