Japan has the reputation for making things smaller, faster and first. Just a few years ago, it was the second-largest economy in the world (it’s now third, behind the US and China). Japan’s economic power lies partly in its strong research and development industry that has produced successful international brands such as Nissan, Toyota, Panasonic, Canon and Sony – as well as producing robots for every need imaginable. Unsurprisingly, an excellent higher education system lies behind all this innovation.
Instead of just submitting a GPA (grade point average) or other academic grades, international students applying to universities in Japan are required to take entrance examinations. The ‘Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU)’ is the standardized test for foreign students, designed to test basic academic skill in areas of science, mathematics and ‘Japan and the world’. Some 95% of national universities, 65% of public universities and 44% of private institutions require the EJU for entrance.
Many universities also require incoming students to take an additional examination. Although the EJU can be completed at test centers across Asia, prospective students must often travel to Japan to take these institution-specific tests. Fees for the tests range between ¥6,960 and ¥12,920 (US$57-$107) and test-takers have just one chance to pass each academic year.
In addition to the entrance examinations, applicants are likely to be asked to provide a completed application form, academic transcripts, proof of sufficient finances to cover tuition fees, academic references, a valid passport and a couple of passport-sized photographs.
International students intending to study for more than three months in Japan will need to apply for a student visa. To do this, you should first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility, which will be applied for on your behalf by the Japanese institution you have been accepted by. Once this has been issued, you will need to apply for your visa through your local Japanese embassy or consulate. As well as the original certificate of eligibility (and an additional photocopy), you will also need to provide a valid passport, a completed application form and a recent passport-sized photograph.
If you want to work in Japan while studying, you’ll need to obtain ‘Permission to Engage in Activity Other than that Permitted by the Status of Residence Previously Granted’, which you can apply for at an immigration bureau once you arrive in Japan. As a general rule, this permission will entitle you to work up to 28 hours a week during term-time and eight hours a day during official holiday periods.
Tuition fees in Japan, although some of the most expensive in Asia, still look very appealing in comparison to Western countries such as the UK or the US. Typically, you can expect to pay between ¥500,000 and ¥1,000,000 (US$4,140-8,280) annually – but don’t make the mistake of assuming the highest rates are charged by the highest-ranked institutions. For instance, Japan’s top two universities in the QS World University Rankings – the University of Tokyo and Osaka University – charge annual tuition fees of ¥535,800 per year (US$4,440) for most programs at undergraduate and master’s level, plus an additional ¥282,000 (US$2,330) for the ‘admission fee’. There is also an additional yearly charge of ¥17,000-¥30,000 (US$140-$250) for examination fees.
Cost of living
Average costs of living in Japan are ¥88,000 (US$740) per month. Tokyo, unsurprisingly, is the most expensive place to live in Japan. Here, the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) recommends a budget of approximately ¥103,000 (US$860) per month to cover rent, food, insurance, entertainment and other living costs.
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