Higher Education in Japan

Higher education in Japan is provided at universities (大学 daigaku), junior colleges (短期大学 tanki daigaku), colleges of technology (高等専門学校 kōtō senmon gakkō) and special training schools and community colleges (専修学校 senshū gakkō). Of these four types of institutions, only universities and junior colleges are strictly considered postsecondary education providers. The modern Japanese higher education system has undergone numerous changes since the Meiji period and was largely modeled after Western countries such as Germany, France, Britain, and the United States with traditional Japanese pedagogical elements to create a unique Japanese model to serve its national needs. The Japanese higher education system differs from higher education in most other countries in many significant ways. Key differences include the method of acceptance, which relies almost entirely on one or two tests, as opposed to GPAs (Grade Point Average) or other methods of assessment used in Western countries. Because students only have one chance to take this test each year, there is an enormous amount of pressure to do well on this test, and the majority of senior high school education is dedicated to doing well on this single test.

Another major difference is graduate school, as very few non-science undergraduate students go to graduate school in Japan. This is because graduate schools for non-science students are generally considered useful only to those who want to work in academia. This has changed a little since the turn of the 21st century. The law has changed to require those who want to become lawyers to attend a graduate school the Japanese government has designated a law school. Previously, lawyers only had to pass the bar exam, which undergraduate students could take. Major universities have also opened business schools, though few Japanese students attend these because most Japanese corporations still don't regard graduate students as much more qualified than undergraduate students. For this reason, they are mostly attended by foreign students from neighboring East Asian countries, particularly South Korea, Taiwan, and China.

Unlike higher education in some other countries, public universities are generally regarded as more prestigious than private universities, especially the National Seven Universities (University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Tohoku University, Kyushu University, Hokkaido University, Osaka University, and Nagoya University).

As the Japanese economy is largely scientific and technological based, the labor market demands people who have achieved some form of higher education, particularly related to science and engineering in order to gain a competitive edge when searching for employment. According to the MEXT, approximately 75.9% of students who graduate from high school attended a university, junior college, trade school, or other higher education institution.