Higher Education in Japan
Internationally respected universities are a part of the higher education landscape in Japan which includes national universities, local universities and numerous private universities. Although the public universities are the most highly regarded, about 80 percent of university students attend private universities. In addition to universities, there are various other public and private schools such as colleges of technology, special training schools and junior colleges.
Admission to a national university is based on scores to the national achievement test and to a separate exam administered by each university. Competition for the most prestigious national universities is extremely intense and many students who fail to gain admission initially, spend the following year studying to take the exams again. Private universities only require students take their own university exam and are much less competitive.
Public funding of public higher education in Japan was about 40 percent as of 2003 with the remainder being paid almost entirely by the student and their family. Japan has the 2nd lowest level of public contribution in the world. Higher education is governed by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, which creates policies and authorizes universities and other schools.
Types of Schools and Degrees
The most highly-regarded and selective universities are the over 80 national universities which provide a wide range of research-oriented undergraduate and graduate programs. Another approximately 80 universities are local public universities which are more focused on education relevant to the needs of the local region. The remaining universities which number well over 500, are private institutions.
Aside from universities, there are colleges of technology, junior colleges and special training schools. The colleges of technology are mostly national institutions that offer engineering and technology programs and accept students that have only completed lower-secondary school. The junior colleges, which are primary private, offer shorter degree programs and are primarily attended by women. Special training schools offer programs that teach specific skills in computer science and other vocational and professional areas.
The types of degrees awarded vary based on the type of school conferring them. Universities offer four-year bachelor's, two-year master's, five-year doctoral and six-year professional degrees. Junior colleges only award two to three-year associates degrees while colleges of technology only award five-year associate's degrees. Special training schools award specialists and high-level specialists degrees that can take from two to four years to complete and often prepare students for professional certification or technical licensing.
Although only about 126,000 foreigners, representing about three percent of students, attended higher education institutions in Japan in 2007, Japan has set a goal of recruiting 300,000 students by 2020. This effort will be led by 13 national universities including the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University which have been selected as global centers. One of the easier ways to attend school in Japan is through an exchange program, which are available through most of Japan's universities.
Most undergraduate and graduate courses are taught in Japanese so mastery of the language is necessary except for select English-only degree programs. The number of programs taught in English has started to increase, as a way to attract more international students. Applicants for full undergraduate and graduate programs will typically need to take the same entrance examinations required of Japanese citizens as well as an examination specific to international students that will confirm language fluency as well as academic readiness.
Tuition for international students is the same as for local students with national universities costing the least, private universities costing the most and local public universities somewhere in between. Tuition rates are comparable to rates in countries such as the United States and United Kingdom.
Japan is a densely populated island country in East Asia with a population of about 127 million people. It has the second largest economy in the world and is well-respected for its technologically advanced manufacturing sector with motor vehicles and electronics accounting for a large portion of its exports. It's GDP per capital is the same as the average of the European Union countries.
Although Japan has the highest life expectancy rate in the world, it is only the 10th in the world on the United Nation's Human Development Index. Education is a top-priority in the Japanese culture as demonstrated by the statistic that over 70 percent of 18-year olds enter an institution of higher education. However, higher education has historically been dominated by men with women slowly gaining ground and accounting for about 39 percent of university undergraduates in 2005.