Written by Hannah Slack
Japan is a fascinating place that attracts students wishing to take advantage of the country’s impressive investment in technology, as well as those interested in cultural studies and history. Additionally, with the government pushing for its universities to make world-wide connections, Japan is increasingly becoming a place for international students to thrive.
There are plenty of funding opportunities in Japan, from government scholarships to industry and university grants. International students will also find that they can benefit from government initiatives to help secure and afford accommodation costs. For this page we’ve covered all the main funding options for PhD applicants, and explained how you can use this information to best support your doctoral studies.
Japanese PhD funding – what you need to know first
Several of Japan’s universities rank among the best in the world, making it a desirable location for prospective students in all fields. By embracing technological research, Japan has become particularly popular for those wanting to study a number of scientific fields.
Aside from their research prowess, what do you need to know about PhD funding in Japan before you apply?
- Many of Japan’s tuition costs for PhD study are fixed by local and national authorities. Historically these have been lower than the cost of studying in other popular countries and significantly lower for those facing international fees.
- Japan offers many scholarship opportunities which international students are eligible for. These scholarships also typically come with monthly stipends and cover for travel costs.
- Japan also has government institutions that offer accommodation support to international applicants.
- While many scholarship programmes can be applied for before you arrive in Japan, some can only be applied for upon arrival. This means that funding many not be guaranteed before starting your PhD.
- However, each year many universities will announce new grant and scholarship programmes and so there is lots of opportunity to secure funding before and during your studies.
The cost of a PhD in Japan
As most universities have their fees fixed by local and national authorities, you aren’t likely to find a large variety in tuition costs. International students are also less likely to pay significantly higher fees than domestic students, making the country an affordable option.
Japan has three types of universities, national, public and private. The PhD fees for both national and public universities are set by the local or central authorities. Usually, universities will have a higher set charge for international students, though not by much.
Currently, national university fees are set at around ¥820,000 (USD $5,508) per year. This is significantly cheaper than the tuition fees international students are required to pay in the UK which average around £15-25,000 per year.
The cost to study at a public university in Japan is very similar to their national universities, though the admission cost is slightly higher.
However private universities can be much more expensive and tuition fees tend to vary depending on the subject. Fees can range from ¥850,000 (USD $5,708) to ¥1,000,000 (USD $6,715).
Students will also have to pay a one-off admission fee which differs between universities so best to check their webiste for more information!
Make sure to check whether or not you will actually have to pay these fees. Japan has many scholarship programmes and tuition fee reduction schemes that extend to international applicants. Depending on your area of study or academic record, you may be eligible for lower or no fees.
To obtain a visa international applicants are expected to have sufficient funds in their bank account and/or a source of sufficient income.
For more information and advice, see our guide to living in Japan during a PhD.
The Japanese Government expects all international students to have National Health Insurance. The price can differ per provider and location, and you may want to add additional aspects such as University Student Health Insurance, Personal Accident Insurance or Personal Liability Insurance.
Japanese government PhD funding
Japan has multiple scholarship opportunities for international PhD students. Most of the prestigious research scholarships are awarded by MEXT or JASSO, two government-led organisations.
Funding for PhD studies can also be secured through a university or local authority. These opportunities can be quite changeable, with many awards only running for one year. So, it is important to communicate with the university you intend to apply for so they can provide you with the most up-to-date information.
MEXT Postgraduate Scholarships
MEXT scholarships come from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. This award is applicable for any international student wishing to pursue postgraduate study in Japan. All subject areas are accepted and no Japanese language proficiency is needed.
The scholarship covers air fares for travel, university fees, a monthly grant of ¥143,000 (USD $960) and help finding accommodation. Students will also be offered the opportunity to undertake a six-month Japanese language course.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Japanese academics in their field if they plan to apply for this scholarship. Those in the UK are able to apply online, but applicants from other countries should apply through the Japanese Embassy in their own country.
Local authorities and industry
Many local governments and local international associations offer scholarships to students living and attending universities in their district. This often means that these scholarships cannot be applied for until after you arrive in Japan, with no guarantee that you will be awarded them.
Those applying to industry or private foundation scholarships will usually be expected to have a certain level of Japanese language proficiency. Typically awards are granted in the form of a monthly stipend to help support living costs and tuition fees. Students who receive a monthly stipend might be required to sign the university's International Student Enrolment Register on a monthly bases. The money may also be withheld if you cannot prove that you were living in Japan at the beginning and end of each month. Make sure to check the regulations with your university and funding body beforehand.
University scholarship programmes
Universities will also offer their own scholarship, grant and fee waiver schemes. They will advertise these individually on their websites and so it is worth while doing some research on a university’s opportunities before you apply. Usually, they will be subject specific. Some of the most prominent ones include the WISE Programme and the Global Science Graduate Course (GSGC)
The WISE Programme
Devised by the One Health Frontier Graduate School of Excellence, this programme is to aid students who are enrolled in the the Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine and the Graduate School of Infectious Diseases.
Each year a limit of 20 students are admitted onto the doctoral programme. Students enrolled on this programme will have access to financial support in the forms of a scholarship, research grant and travel expenses.
Global Science Graduate Course (GSGC)
This is an international graduate programme set up in the Graduate School of Science at the University of Tokyo. Welcoming graduates from all over the world in all fields of science, students are able to study in English. The programme is a five-year integrated scheme where students will complete a two-year Masters programme before advancing onto three years of doctoral study. Monthly scholarships are provided to students on this programme as well as support in finding employment opportunities post-graduation.
Our postgrad newsletter shares courses, funding news, stories and advice
PhD Study in Japan – A Guide for 2024
A PhD in Japan represents an excellent opportunity to hone your research skills in a safe, stable society that values education very highly. Our guide explains fees, funding, visas and more.Read more
Last Updated: 27 November 2023