Postgraduate Studies

Academic year and duration of studies

Masters programmes in Japan are generally for two years and doctoral programmes are for three years to complete. Some postgraduate programmes are for five years, comprised of two years of "first half of the doctoral programme" and three years of "last half of the doctoral programme". This is not the case for medical, dental and veterinary undergraduate programmes, which are for 6 years, and do not have Masters programmes. Doctoral programmes for these areas take four years. Academic year starts either in spring (April) or in autumn (September or October).


Masters programmes

In order to be able to apply for Masters programmes in Japan, you have to satisfy one of the requirements below.

  • Japanese university graduates 
  • Students who have completed 16 years of school education in countries other than Japan 
  • Students who have completed a programme with standard study period of minimum three years at universities or equivalent institutions in countries other than Japan and received a Bachelors degree or its equivalent 

 For more detailed eligibility to apply for Masters programmes specified by MEXT, please see here.

PhD programmes

In order to be able to apply for PhD programmes in Japan, you have to satisfy one of the requirements below. 

  • Students with a Japanese Masters degree or students with a Japanese professional degree 
  • Students who have been awarded with a Masters degree or its equivalent or a professional degree by a university or an institution in countries other than Japan 
  • Students who have graduated from universities and have been involved in a research at universities or research centres for minimum two years, and recognized as having academic competency equivalent to those with Masters degree 


For more detailed eligibility to apply for PhD programmes specified by MEXT, please see here.

Finding schools and programmes

There are nearly 1,550 programmes (around 150 at undergraduate and 1,400 at postgraduate levels) taught fully in English. You can search schools and programmes at the following data portals:

       You can choose medium/language of instruction under "Search by major field or school location"

       This site provides information on schools and programmes particularly interested in having students from Africa and participated in Study in Japan fair. It also allows you to search for exchange programmes between Japanese and African universities.

Preparing your application

To apply for a postraduate programmes, you need to:

  • Get a consent from your prospective supervisor
  • Prepare a research proposal
  • Prepare your application documents

1. Finding your prospective supervisor

Applying to a graduate school requires receiving a prior consent from a professor to be your prospective supervisor. Some universities ask an applicant to contact professors directly, or others ask you to contact them through the administration office of the university. This is indicated in their university website or application guideline.

When contacting a professor, it is advisable to have your research proposal ready so that he/she understands your area of research interest. 

2. Preparing a research proposal

 A research proposal is an outline of your research plan and the methodology you intend to use. It will be an introductory document for professor to understand that you have a firm research plan for your study at a graduate school.

In general, a research proposal should include: 

  • Purpose of research
  • Research background
  • Significance of the research
  • Research methodology
  • Bibliography 

and it should be written within approximately 2,000 words.

3. Preparing your application documents

Each university has different required application documents, procedures and deadlines. Please make sure you check the application guidelines of the university of your interest to understand the details of your required application documents.

Basic documents required to apply for Japanese universities are:

  • Application form (as designated by each university)
  • Certificate of a Bachelors degree (or anticipated degree) (for a Masters programme application)
  • Certificate of a Masters degree (or anticipated degree) (for a PhD programme application)
  • Transcripts of the schools attended
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Bachelors thesis (for a Masters programme application) or Masters thesis (for a PhD programme application) and its summary
  • Research proposal
  • Other documents as required by each university

Many schools require these documents to be translated either in Japanese or English. Please contact the school you apply for more exact details. 

Application period

Japanese universities do not have a collective nationwide application period. Most common application period is between June and January. For exact dates of application periods, please check with the universities that you are interested in applying to. Admission takes place either in April or September/October.

Entrance exam

Whether or not there is an entrance exam and the subject you need to take depend on each school and programme. Some schools require applicants to take a written exam, whereas other schools only have an interview. Please contact the school you are applying to find out more details.

Applying for financial aid

Once you receive the acceptance note for admission from your preferred university, first of all, congratulations! Now one can proceed to either:

  • Apply for a scholarship, if the university you applied to has some; or
  • Apply for a tuition waiver or reduction, if the university you applied to has the system in place. 

There are a number of scholarships one can apply for once you receive an acceptance letter from the university. Application procedures are different depending on scholarships, and some need to be applied for directly by an applicant, whereas others need to be applied for through the university you will be studying at.

Quite often, depending on your past academic records or the performance upon application, university will determine whether he/she is eligible for a tuition waiver. Some will waive up to 100%.  Detail should be checked with the university which gave you an admission offer.

You can find more information on scholarships on our Scholarships page.