The number of students studying abroad is constantly growing, and there are now more than 1.5 million foreign students studying around the world. As of May 2012, 138,075 are international students in Japan. Students considering studying in Japan are drawn by its high standard of education and affordable tuition.
International students in Japan will receive the benefits of some of the highest educational standards in the world. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, has ranked Japanese high school students number one in the world for mathematics, and number two for scientific literacy. In addition, Japan has the highest number of Nobel prize winners of any other Asian country. 49% or Japanese high school students go on to enter one of Japan's 700 universities. Ten of those universities rank in the top 200 worldwide.
Students considering studying in Japan should familiarize themselves with the many educational options available to them, in order to best choose the school that's right for them. International students in Japan have five options from which to choose: graduate schools, universities, junior colleges, technical colleges, and vocational schools.
Graduate schools are an option for university graduates who wish to continue their education in a specialized subject while studying in Japan. A masters course takes two years to complete, while a professional graduate course takes one to three years, and a doctorate takes more than five years.
Universities are the most common form of higher education in Japan. 49% of Japanese high school graduates go on to universities. An undergraduate degree at a university generally takes four years to complete, but degrees in medicine, dentistry, and occasionally pharmacy and veterinary science take six years.
Another option for students studying in Japan is junior college. The standard term of study in junior college is two years, three in the case of nursing courses and some others. Half of the course subjects at junior colleges are art, home economics, education, or social studies-related, and about one third of junior colleges are women-only.
Technical colleges are meant for junior high graduates to acquire practical and specialized knowledge and skills required for a specific vocation. Many of these colleges specialize in engineering, but maritime colleges are also an option. A degree at a technical college takes five years to complete.
Vocational schools aim to teach the skills required for a specific vocation. A course is generally two years, but there are also three and four-year courses.
For students wondering why study in Japan, tuition fees can be a major deciding factor. Especially in comparison to the US, tuition fees in Japan are comparatively cheap. In the US, "in-state" students generally pay at least $10,000 a year on tuition, and "out of state" and international students pay several times more. Tuition fees at Japanese public universities are 535,800 yen, or $6,500. Academic fees for the first year generally consist of admission fee, tuition fee, and facility and equipment usage fee, but in Tsukuba, the regular entrance fees and first year tuition fees have been waived.
Another deciding factor for students wondering why study in Japan is the tuition fee exemption system and the scholarship system, which are better in Japan than many other countries. Partial and full tuition fee waivers are granted to high-achieving students from poorer backgrounds, and a wide range of scholarships are available to students. These scholarships are provided both by the universities and by public and private organizations. Some scholarships provide a monthly living allowance, and either a travel allowance in the first year or paying fees in later years.