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Chapter 1: Higher Education System

Section 1.1: Schematic Description of the Higher Education System

Note:
(1) * indicates specialized course
(2) Higher Education schools, secondary education school/latter period courses, universities, junior colleges, and special needs schools can have separate courses with course terms of 1 year or more.
(3) Age and admission requirements for specialized Training College General Courses and Miscellaneous Schools are not defined uniformly.

Section 1.2: Description of Higher Education System

Institutions of higher education in Japan include universities, junior colleges and colleges of technology (kosen). In addition, specialized training colleges offering postsecondary courses may be regarded as one type of higher education institution.

Universities are intended to conduct teaching and research in depth in specialized academic disciplines and provide students with advanced knowledge. Universities require for admission the completion of upper secondary schooling or its equivalent, and offer courses of at least four years leading to a bachelor’s degree (gakushi). Universities may set up a graduate school offering advanced studies in a variety of fields leading to master’s (shushi) and doctor’s (hakushi) degrees. Graduate schools normally last five years, consisting of the first two-year courses leading to a master’s degree and the following three year courses leading to a doctor’s degree. However, there is a possibility for those who are especially successful in their studies to get a master’s degree in one year, and a doctor’s degree in two years. Also professional and vocational universities opened in 2019 as a new higher education institution emphasizing on practical vocational education, which is positioned within the higher education system. The completion of which leads to the conferral of a “bachelor’s degree (professional) (Gakushi (Senmonshoku))”.

Junior Colleges aim at conducting teaching and research in specialized subjects and at developing in students such abilities as are required for vocational or practical life. Junior colleges require for admission the completion of upper secondary schooling or its equivalent, and offer two- or three- year programs in different fields of study, which lead to an associate degree (tanki-daigakushi). (tanki-daigakushi). Most courses offered in these colleges are in such fields as humanities, social sciences, health sciences, teacher training and home economics. Those who have completed junior college may go on to university and their credits acquired at junior college may be counted as part of the credits leading to a bachelor’s degree. Junior colleges are also allowed to offer advanced courses which may lead to a bachelor’s degree. And professional and vocational junior colleges emphasizing on practical vocational education opened in 2019 too. The completion of which entitles the conferral of an “associate degree (professional) (Tanki-daigakushi (Senmonshoku))”.

Colleges of technology (kosen), unlike universities or junior colleges, accept those who have completed lower secondary schooling, and offer integrated five-year (five and a half years in the case of maritime technology) programs. Since its establishment in 1962, the kosen system has helped engineers acquire practical and creative skills. Students who graduate kosen are granted a title of associate and may apply to transfer to a university or go on to advanced courses.

In addition to the above mentioned institutions of higher education, there are educational institutions known as “Specialized Training Colleges Post-secondary Courses,” which offer a variety of practical vocational and technical education programs in response to diverse demands of people in a changing society. The great majority of these schools are privately controlled.

Courses provided in Specialized Training Colleges may be classified into three categories: Upper secondary, Post-secondary and General Courses. Specialized Training Colleges offering Post-secondary Courses are called “Professional Training Colleges.” The course gives at least 40 students systematic instruction, lasting not less than one year, for 800 class hours or more per year. Professional Training Colleges accept those who have graduated from the upper secondary schools or Upper Secondary Courses of Specialized Training Colleges and award the title, “Diploma,” to those who complete Post-secondary Courses that fulfill certain criteria, including a study period of at least two years, or “Advanced Diploma,” to those who complete Post-secondary Courses that fulfill certain criteria, including a study period of at least four years.

Section 1.3: Number of Higher Education Institutions

As of May 1, 2020, following number of higher education institutions are established;

  • 795 Universities (National: 86, Public: 94, Private: 615)
  • 323 Junior colleges (Public: 17, Private:306)
  • 57 Colleges of Technology (National:51, Public: 3, Private:3)
  • 2,779 Specialized Training College Post-Secondary Courses (Professional Training Colleges) (National:9, Public: 184, Private: 2,586)

Section 1.4: Number of Students in Higher Education

Number of students by type of institution (as of May 1, 2020)

Type of institution
Total
National
Public
Private
University
2,915,605
598,881
158,579
2,158,145
 
Undergraduate
2,623,572
435,162
139,694
2,048,716
 
Graduate
254,529
152,007
16,668
85,854
 
 
Master’s program
160,297
93,720
10,699
55,878
 
 
Doctorate program
75,345
50,886
5,222
19,237
 
 
Professional Graduate School
18,887
7,401
747
10,739
Junior Colleges
107,596
5,548
102,048
Colleges of Technology
56,974
51,217
3,800
1,957
Specialized Training College Post-Secondary Courses
604,415
299
23,293
580,823

Number of international students (as of 1 May, 2019)

Total: 228,403 (source: JASSO)

  • Graduate Schools: 53,089
  • Undergraduate Schools/Junior Colleges/Colleges of Technology: 92,952
  • Specialized Training Colleges: 78,844
  • University Preparatory Courses: 3,518

Number of Japanese students studying abroad;

Japanese students studying abroad in 2017 (mainly degree seeking students): 58,408  (source: OECD, IIE, etc.)

Japanese students studying abroad (students in Japanese university) in 2018
Total: 115,146 (source: JASSO)

  • more than one year: 2,034
  • one month to one year: 35,880
  • less than one month: 76,545

Section 1.5: Structure of Academic Year

The academic year of schools in Japan normally starts from April and ends in March of the following year. Many universities in Japan adopt a semester system (two terms), with a first semester from April to September and a second semester from October to March. Some of the universities adopt a trimester system (three terms) or a quarter system (four terms). In general, students in Japan begin school in April, but some universities – especially graduate schools – also have a September or October admission program.

Section 1.6: National Qualifications Framework (or Similar)

Not applicable.

Section 1.7: Learning Outcomes in Higher Education

In order to ensure the quality of university education from admission to graduation, universities in Japan are required to set and announce their three integrated policies, such as Diploma Policy, Curriculum Policy and Admission Policies.

Section 1.8: Admission Requirements to Higher Education

In principle, complete the following years of education is required to apply;

  • For admission to a university (undergraduate), junior college; 12 years of education
  • For admission to a college of technology; 9 years of education (11 years of education is mandatory for transfer students from other institutions)
  • For admission to a graduate school (master’s program); 16 years of education

Please refer to NIC-Japan’s website below for detailed information.
https://www.nicjp.niad.ac.jp/en/japanese-system/admission.html

Section 1.9: Grading System

Under the Standards for Establishment of Universities, universities in Japan shall, when assessing students’ academic achievement and approving their graduation, present them with a clear outline of the standards thereof, in advance, so as to ensure objectivity and rigorousness, and shall conduct an assessment and approval process appropriately in accordance with said standards.

Assessment system is different from each university.
As of 2018, 702 universities have introduced GPA (Grade Point Average).

Section 1.10: Tuition Fee System for International Students

The tuition fees, etc. in an undergraduate program in Japan is around JPY536,000/academic year at a national university, JPY536,000/academic year at a local public university, and JPY912,000 at a private university.

The first academic year’s school expenses need the admission fee in addition to the above-mentioned tuition fee, etc. (facility/equipment usage fee, among other things).
Depending on the programme and the type of institution, the tuition fee and admission fee are different.

For more information, please see “JASSO Study in Japan Basic Guide”
https://www.studyinjapan.go.jp/en/other/sgtj/

Section 1.11: Graduation Requirements and/or Qualification Awarding Requirements

To complete a programme and award a degree, the followings are required;

Universities

  • a minimum of 4 years of study with 124 or more credits for a bachelor degree
  • for medicine and dentistry, 6 years with 188 or more credits
  • for pharmacy, 6 years with 186 or more credits
  • for veterinary medicine, 6 years with 182 or more credits

Graduate schools

  • Master’s programs: a minimum of 2 years of study with 30 or more credits, receiving necessary guidance on research, approval of a final dissertation or specifically assigned study, and success in an examination.
  • Doctoral programs: a minimum of 5 years of study (including 2 years of study in a master’s program) with 30 or more credits (including those earned in a master’s program), receiving necessary guidance on research, approval of a final thesis, and success in an examination.
  • Professional degree programs: a minimum of 2 years of study with 30 or more credits and completion of necessary academic programs.

*The number of credits for each subject is determined at each higher education institution based on the principles described by the Standards for Establishment of Universities.

Please refer to NIC-Japan’s website below for detailed information.

https://www.nicjp.niad.ac.jp/en/japanese-system/qualification.html

Section 1.12: Relevant Current and Prospective Reforms in Higher Education

  1. Promoting measures for future university education
    Japan is now confronted with various domestic issues including declining birthrates and an increasingly aging society. At the same time, the nation must also grapple with the drastic societal changes of globalization and a knowledge based society. Against this backdrop, universities will play an extremely important and diverse role for the nation’s wellbeing and socio-economic development by nurturing human resources possessing a broad range of knowledge and a high level of expertise, in addition to being able to solve society’s various problems through a variety of research methods. Universities also serve as a base for the revitalization of local communities and must actively lead society in the creation and dissemination of new knowledge and values.
    In order to respond to the nation’s needs, MEXT strives to ensure the execution of university reform in order to realize university education of the highest international standards while considering the proposals and deliberations made by the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding and the Central Council for Education.
  2. Promoting the Internationalization of Universities and Two-way Student Exchange
    The world is rapidly globalizing in various aspects, and giving people the skills needed to play an active role in the international arena is becoming increasingly important. Playing a vital role in developing highly capable human resources, Japanese universities are strongly expected to work on internationalizing their education and research environments and promoting two-way student exchanges. In order to promote the acceptance of international students in Japan and the dispatch of Japanese students overseas, there are various scholarship programs such as MEXT scholarship programs and programs supported by contributions of the private sectors. In addition, MEXT is moving ahead with the Top Global University Project, which is designed to support universities that are thoroughgoing in their efforts to internationalize – including new efforts to build and accelerate partnerships and exchange programs with world-leading universities, as well as the Inter-University Exchange Project, which provides support to collaborative programs with universities in strategically important countries and regions while assuring the quality of higher education, and so on.
           For more information on
           “Top Global University Project”;https://tgu.mext.go.jp/en/index.html)
          “Inter-University Exchange Project”;

 

Chapter 2: Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Section 2.1: Quality Assurance Body in Higher Education

Quality assurance system
Responsible body
Standards for Establishing University (SEU) Government (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; MEXT)
Establishment-approval system (EAS) Government (MEXT)
Certified Evaluation and Accreditation System (CEA)
  • National Institution for Academic Degrees and Quality Enhancement of Higher Education(NIAD-QE) (for universities and colleges of technology)
  • Japan University Accreditation Association (JUAA) (for universities and junior colleges)
  • Japan Institution for Higher Education Evaluation (JIHEE) (for universities and junior colleges)
  • Japan Association for College Accreditation (JACA) (for junior colleges)
  • Japan Association for Quality of University Education (JAQUE) (for universities)

Section 2.2: Quality Assurance System

In Japan, the quality assurance framework consists of the Standards for Establishing University (SEU), the establishment-approval system (EAS) and the Certified Evaluation and Accreditation System (CEA). The framework has both the advantage of the prior regulations that assure proper quality in advance, and the checking afterwards that assure quality constantly, while respecting the diversity of universities. Thus, it has been assumed that this combination of systems is the most effective and efficient for quality assurance.

Study programme
Institution
Voluntary
Compulsory
※ 1
X
Regularity
※ 1
At least once in every 5 years
X

At least once in every 7 years

External
※ 1
X
Internal 
※ 1
X
Further information:
※1applied for only Professional Graduate Schools and Professional and Vocational Universities
Universities, Junior Colleges and Colleges of Technology are required for institutional evaluation and accreditation.
Please refer to NIC-Japan’s website below for detailed information.

https://www.nicjp.niad.ac.jp/en/search/index.html

 

Chapter 3: Credit System in Higher Education

Section 3.1: Description of Credit System

Under the Standards for Establishment of Universities, it is required as follows:

The number of credits for each class subject shall be determined by a university. When determining the number of credits set forth in the preceding paragraph, a class subject for one credit shall normally be organized to contain contents that require 45-hour learning, and the number of credits shall be calculated based on the following standards, in light of the educational effects of said class and required learning other than that during class hours, in accordance with class methods;

  1. regarding lectures and seminar, one credit shall consist of classes conducted for a number of hours determined by a university between 15 hours and 30 hours;
  2. regarding experiments, practical training, and skills practice, one credit shall consist of classes conducted for a number of hours determined by a university between 30 hours and 45 hours; provided, however, that regarding skills practice classes tutoring in the artistic fields, one credit shall consist of classes conducted for a number of hours determined by a university; and
  3. when using two or more methods out of either lectures, seminar , experiments, practical training, and skills practice for one class subject, one credit shall consist of classes conducted for a number of hours determined by a university in light of the standards prescribed in the preceding two items, in accordance with the combination of such methods.

Section 3.2: Credit Transfer System(s)

A university may, when deeming it to be effective from an educational standpoint, regard credits that its student has acquired by completing class subjects at other universities or junior colleges, as credits acquired by completing class subjects at said university, to an extent not exceeding 60 credits, as specified by the university.

Section 3.3: Additional Information

With regard to students who have completed one class subject, a university shall grant credits after examinations for them.

Section 3.4: Application of Credit System in Higher Education Institutions Obligatory?

Yes.

Section 3.5: Number of Credits per Academic Year/Semester

With regard to the number of credits to be acquired as graduation requirements, a university shall endeavor to fix an upper limit for the number of credits for which its students can register for a year or for a term, so that they should take class subjects appropriately for each school year.

Section 3.6: Number of Credits per Higher Education Cycle

To complete a programme and award a degree, the followings are required;

Universities

  • a minimum of 4 years of study with 124 or more credits for a bachelor degree
  • for medicine and dentistry, 6 years with 188 or more credits
  • for pharmacy, 6 years with 186 or more credits
  • for veterinary medicine, 6 years with 182 or more credits

Graduate schools

  • Master’s programs: a minimum of 2 years of study with 30 or more credits, receiving necessary guidance on research, approval of a final dissertation or specifically assigned study, and success in an examination.
  • Doctoral programs: a minimum of 5 years of study (including 2 years of study in a master’s program) with 30 or more credits (including those earned in a master’s program), receiving necessary guidance on research, approval of a final thesis, and success in an examination.
  • Professional degree programs: a minimum of 2 years of study with 30 or more credits and completion of necessary academic programs.

*The number of credits for each subject is determined at each higher education institution based on the principles described by the Standards for Establishment of Universities.

Please refer to NIC-Japan’s website below for detailed information.

https://www.nicjp.niad.ac.jp/en/japanese-system/qualification.html

Section 3.7: Description of Credit Unit

Under the Standards for Establishment of Universities, it is required as follows:

The number of credits for each class subject shall be determined by a university.  When determining the number of credits set forth in the preceding paragraph, a class subject for one credit shall normally be organized to contain contents that require 45-hour learning, and the number of credits shall be calculated based on the following standards, in light of the educational effects of said class and required learning other than that during class hours, in accordance with class methods;

  1. regarding lectures and seminar, one credit shall consist of classes conducted for a number of hours determined by a university between 15 hours and 30 hours;
  2. regarding experiments, practical training, and skills practice, one credit shall consist of classes conducted for a number of hours determined by a university between 30 hours and 45 hours; provided, however, that regarding skills practice classes tutoring in the artistic fields, one credit shall consist of classes conducted for a number of hours determined by a university; and
  3. when using two or more methods out of either lectures, seminar , experiments, practical training, and skills practice for one class subject, one credit shall consist of classes conducted for a number of hours determined by a university in light of the standards prescribed in the preceding two items, in accordance with the combination of such methods.

With regard to students who have completed one class subject, a university shall grant credits after examinations for them.

 

Last updated in 2021

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