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MEXT: How to Get Free Education in Japan

Japan is one of the most popular countries in Asia for international students. Over 200,000 students from more than 170 countries and regions study at higher educational institutions in the Land of the Rising Sun. It attracts foreigners as a developed country with high education standards.

We tell you about the features of Japanese higher education, the cost of living, and scholarships that allow you to study and live in Japan for free.

Features of Education in Japan

The country has over 600 universities. Many of them are private.

The high level of Japanese education is recognized internationally. Five universities in the country were included in the top 100 universities in the world in 2021: The University of Tokyo ranks 24th, Kyoto University is 38th, Tokyo Institute of Technology is 56th, Osaka University is 72nd, and Tohoku University is 79th. Kyusu, Waseda, and Keio Universities are also among the country's top schools.

Instruction takes place in English and Japanese. The following areas of study are in demand:

  • IT

  • Engineering and technical professions

  • Architecture

  • Science

  • Economics

  • Marketing

  • Entrepreneurship.

The Academic Year

Traditionally, the academic year begins in April and ends in March of the following year. It's conventionally divided into two periods of 6 months, the first lasts from April to September, and the second lasts from October to March.

The division, however, may differ depending on the university. Some academic institutions have almost no holidays, and some divide the year into trimesters, like in Japanese schools.

Entrance exams and application deadlines are usually set for April.

Education Structure in Japan

Japanese universities are divided into full-cycle universities with four years of study and a bachelor's degree and accelerated-cycle universities with two years of study.

In the second type of university, graduates are awarded an accelerated bachelor's degree. After that, graduates can enter a full-cycle university.

Undergraduates can earn a Master's or Ph.D. if they wish to continue their studies. A master's degree program takes two years, while a Ph.D. degree will take three years or more.

Free Education in Japan

You can get a quality education for free. Japan provides numerous scholarships for international students.

The Honjo International Scholarship Foundation selects up to 20 international students already enrolled in graduate or undergraduate programs to receive a scholarship of ¥150,000 or more. Master's students shouldn't be older than 30, and Ph.D. students shouldn't be older than 35. During the selection process, special attention is paid to excellent academic performance, proficiency in Japanese, and the ability to find work in your home country.

Science Ph.D. candidates can get a scholarship from the Matsumae International Foundation, provided that they're under the age of 49. The foundation selects 20 people studying science, medicine, or engineering and covers their education/internship, accommodation, and other costs from three to six months. Note that this should be the recipient's first trip to Japan. The scholarship is worth ¥220,000.

Universities may also offer their own scholarships. The relevant information should be verified prior to enrollment.

MEXT Scholarship

Every year, the Japanese government gives international students the chance to study and live in the country for free via the Ministry of Education's MEXT scholarship, which can be divided into seven categories:

Undergraduate Scholarship

A high school diploma is required to participate. Candidates must be between 17 and 21 years old to get this scholarship. They can enroll in the humanities, sciences, and medicine degree programs.

Studies last for seven years for medical courses and five years for the others. This period includes a year of preparatory Japanese language courses.

The scholarship is around ¥117,000 per month.

Scholarship for Masters and Ph.D. Students

Candidates must have a college degree and be at least 35 years old. Instruction lasts for two years, including the time spent studying Japanese.

The scholarship amount starts from ¥143,000.

Scholarship for Pedagogical Majors

Candidates must have a teaching degree and 5 years of experience and not be older than 35.

Instruction lasts for 18 months, including the time spent studying Japanese.

The scholarship amount starts from ¥143,000.

Scholarships for Japanese Studies Students

Applicants between the ages of 18 and 29 who are already enrolled in higher or specialized education institutions outside of Japan can apply. They're encouraged to study in the country for a year and return to their home university.

The scholarship amount starts from ¥117,000.

Scholarship for Specialized Preparatory Programs

Candidates should be aged between 17 and 21 and have completed their high school education.

Instruction lasts for three years, including the time spent studying Japanese.

The scholarship amount starts from ¥117,000.

Scholarship for Technology Majors

Candidates should be aged between 17 and 21 and have completed their high school education.

Instruction lasts for four years, including the time spent studying Japanese.

The scholarship amount starts from ¥117,000.

Scholarship for Young Leaders

Candidates under 40 years of age and involved in public administration, law, municipal and medical administration or under 35 years of age and involved in business administration are considered for this scholarship. Management experience is important.

The program lasts for one year.

The scholarship amount starts from ¥240,000.

How to Apply for MEXT

Those wishing to become scholarship recipients must apply at the Japanese embassy or consulate in their country. Candidates are expected to take two exams: A language exam and a subject-specific exam. After the exam, prospective students are interviewed in Japanese or English.

If you pass the selection process at the embassy, you can send your approved documents to the selected universities. The Ministry of Education will choose where the student will study from among the several universities in Japan that accept candidates.

The application deadline in 2022 is April-May. It is recommended to start preparing documents in the winter. The process of obtaining a scholarship is quite long.

You'll need:

  • A document about your education (certificate or diploma)

  • Letters of recommendation

  • A motivation letter

  • A research proposal

  • A certificate of proficiency in Japanese or English

  • A portfolio (certificates, honors, and awards confirming your achievements)

  • Scientific works if available (for Master's and Ph.D. applicants).
When enrolling in programs taught in Japanese, a Japanese proficiency level of H2 or higher is required. To study in English, you need to justify your reason for studying in this language in Japan and have an IELTS score of 5.5 or a TOEFL score of 80.

A research plan is essential for admission. You need to know what you're planning to study and why. It's often based on the plan that the decision to grant a scholarship is made.

Cost of Living in Japan

The international student spends an average of ¥120,000 or more per month. Dormitories cost around ¥28,000, and a flat rental costs around ¥35,000. Accommodation costs depend on the city and its location. The highest prices are in Tokyo.

On average, medical insurance costs around ¥20,000 per year.

We recommend getting a student travel pass. Even with it, everyday trips can cost ¥4,000 per month.

Tuition at a public university will cost from ¥500,000 per year for a Bachelor's degree and ¥400,000 for a Master's degree. Private universities are usually at least 1.5x more expensive.

Students can work part-time up to 28 hours a week if they wish.
I want to study in Japan! Can you help?
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