Japan is keen to attract more international students, and has set a target of having 300,000 foreign students in the country by 2020 (it reached the 100,000 mark in 2003). As a result, universities are focusing on making life easier for foreign students, from the application process all the way through to finding a job after graduation. One thing that will certainly help to attract international students is the introduction of more courses taught partly or entirely in English. Other schemes to attract more overseas students include :
- Hiring special staff to support international students
- Allowing students to start courses in September (instead of April, which is when Japan’s academic year usually starts)
- Recruiting more teaching staff from outside Japan
- Increasing exchange programs with universities in other countries
Aware that living and studying in Japan is expensive compared to many countries, the government has also introduced additional financial support for foreign students. Various university scholarships and grants are available through the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO).
Visa : If you are a citizen of one of the over 50 countries, with which Japan has a "general visa exemption arrangement", you need only a valid passport to study at a Japanese language school for short periods of time (generally up to 90 days). All other foreign students in Japan need a student visa in order to study in Japan. Visa applicants require an educational institution as their sponsor in order to obtain a student visa. Student visa holders are not allowed to engage in any paid activities, unless they get the permission of the school and the immigration office. Even then, students may work only a set maximum number of hours per week. Working on a tourist visa is prohibited.
Scholarships and Exchange Programs : Scholarship programs for international students are provided by the Japanese government, local governments, the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) and private organizations, foundations and companies in Japan and abroad. Likewise, there are various governmental bodies, organizations and educational institutions inside and outside of Japan that offer short term exchange programs for secondary and post-secondary students to study in Japan and experience life in Japan.
Universities in Japan : Japanese universities offer 4-year undergraduate programs, 2-years graduate programs, and 3-4 years of doctoral programs. The academic year starts in April and ends in March, with summer vacation from mid-July to the beginning of September, and winter vacation from the end of December to the beginning of January. Most programs are taught in Japanese but nowadays universities often offer some programs in English as well.
University application : Most universities in Japan recruit twice a year, for the spring semester starting in April, and the autumn semester in September. There is not a unified admission platform for students to apply centrally. Each university sets its own schedule, so the application deadline can be different from school to school, usually 6 months before the start of the semester. Nowadays many universities open their applications online and you can find their application deadlines on their website. The documents you need to submit with your application are usually:
- Application form
- Personal statement
- Official transcript from high school and/or university
- Graduation certificate
- Valid standardized test scores (SAT/ACT/TOEFL/IELTS/EJU)
- Letters of Recommendation
- Passport photocopy
Tuition : Public universities have unified prices: annual tuition fee of 535800 Yen, admission fee of 28200 Yen, plus other minor fees, about 850000 Yen (about $8000 USD) in total for the first year of undergraduate programs. Private universities vary on tuition fees and charge more than public universities up to twice as much, about 1600000 Yen (about $15000 USD) per year, but prices differ from school to school.
Scholarships: Here are some scholarships that international students can apply for to study in Japan:
- Scholarships by Mext: for degree students only
- Scholarships by Jasso: for degree students, japanese language students, and exchange students
- Scholarships by local governments
- Scholarships by international associations
- Scholarships by private foundations
- Scholarships by language schools and universities
Living Expenses : On top of the tuition fees, you will probably need about 100000-150000 Yen per month to cover your living expenses such as accommodation, food, and travel, etc. If you study in a smaller city where the accommodation and travel costs are low you might get by on less, but in Tokyo, it is easy to spend much more especially if you live in your own apartment. Many people think that Japan is expensive but this is not entirely true. Shopping and food is often cheaper than in Europe, not least considering the quality that you get. Student accommodation, on the other hand, can be a bit costly in Tokyo considering the size and standard that you get.
Work in Japan as a student : Students that have obtained a work permission are allowed to work part time in Japan. Then you can work 28 hours per week on school weeks and 40 hours per week during semester breaks. Students are not allowed to take any jobs related to night clubs or adult entertainment. This even includes being a DJ or working as a dishwasher in a night club. Most students work in shops or restaurants where you can earn around 1000 Yen per hour. However it can be hard to find a job before you speak decent Japanese. The best paid jobs for students is often to work as a teacher in your native language. Either at a school or just give private conversation lessons in a café then it is not unusual to earn up to 3000 Yen per hour. The work permit is a sticker in your passport. To obtain it you must be in Japan on a student visa. The easiest way to get the permit is to apply directly at the immigrations in the airport when you first arrive in Japan. Then you can get it immediately. Otherwise you will be stuck in the Japanese bureaucracy where you will need several visits to the Immigration Bureau and at least 3 weeks processing time before you can get your work permit.
Student Visa : Many nationalities can take a short language course in Japan for up to 90 days on visa waiver. Some nationalities can even extend this with another 90 days. Read more about visa free entry to Japan. If you want to study in Japan for a longer period of time you will need to apply for a student visa. This procedure starts with applying to and becoming accepted by a school in Japan including sending the school a number of visa related documents. You will need to apply to your school approximately 6 months before the course starts. Then they will send you a CoE, Certificate of Eligibility, about 1 month before your course starts. With this document you can do the final visa application at the Japanese Embassy in your home country.