The MEXT scholarship (or Monbukagakusho Scholarship) is a scholarship awarded by the Japanese government for international students.
There are different types of the scholarship to cover undergraduate studies, graduate studies, short-term exchange, teacher’s training, and technical training. Of these the scholarship for graduate studies has the most scholarship slots available and is open to applicants from the greatest number of countries.
My expertise is in the MEXT scholarship for graduate students, so that is what this article and all other articles on TranSenz focus on.
What does the MEXT Scholarship Provide?
MEXT Scholars receive:
- 143,000 – 145,000 yen living expenses stipend per month
- Full coverage of tuition and entrance exam expenses
- International travel expenses covered for trip to Japan at start of studies and trip home at the end*
*Students selected under the “Domestic Selection” scholarship scheme at Top Global Universities do not receive coverage for travel expenses to Japan, since they are assumed to be living in Japan at the time of selection.
As of 2019, the monthly stipend for graduate students is 143,000 yen for research (non-degree program) students, 144,000 yen for Master’s-level students, and 145,000 yen for Doctoral-level students. In some locations, students receive a 2,000 – 3,000 yen per month cost of living adjustment bonus. In specific colder regions, students receive a 3,000 yen per month bonus from November through March each year to cover additional heating costs.
The average monthly salary in Japan is about 351,000, according to the National Tax Agency, but that includes all industries and all levels. The monthly stipend MEXT scholars receive is close to the monthly pay that many university contract employees receive. You should have no trouble living on that amount, and I have even known scholars that supported spouses and children on that stipend with no other income.
According to a JASSO 2015 survey of international students in Japan, the average cost of living was 141,000 yen per month, but that figure includes tuition expenses that MEXT scholars do not have to pay. Without tuition, the average cost of living was 90,000 yen per month.
MEXT scholars do not have to pay tuition or entrance exam expenses.
Depending on the application process you go through, you may have to pay admission exam expenses at first, but if you are selected for the MEXT scholarship, then you would receive that money refunded to you later.
MEXT will pay for a one-way international ticket for you from the international airport nearest your home of record to the international airport nearest the university where you will be studying. You will also get a return ticket from MEXT after you successfully complete your studies, unless you decline it (to stay in Japan, etc.).
You will still have to pay for domestic transportation between your home and the international airport and from the airport in Japan to the university, as well as any airport usage taxes or fees, but that is a relatively minor cost!
What Studies Does the Scholarship Cover?
The Scholarship covers graduate studies in all fields taught in Japan.
Any field of study taught in any university in Japan. Of course, you have to have the required language ability to enroll in the program, so if a field of study is only taught in Japanese, you would have to be fluent in Japanese.
The MEXT scholarship covers your studies as follows:
- Research (non-degree program) students: Up to 24 months if you arrive in April or up to 18 months if you arrive in the fall semester (September/October).
- Master’s Students: 24 months
- Doctoral Students: 36 months
You can apply to extend your scholarship if you are advancing academically. For example, if you advance from Research Student to Master’s Degree student, you can apply for an extension and, if selected, you would get 24 months of scholarship payment starting from when you start your Master’s Degree.
You cannot apply for an extension if you are not graduating on time, though.
Who Can Apply?
At the graduate level, anyone from a country that has diplomatic relations with Japan and who meets the eligibility criteria listed in the application guidelines.
To find out if your country has diplomatic relations with Japan, check the list of Japanese diplomatic missions abroad at:
How Do You Apply?
You can apply either to the Japanese embassy or consulate in your country or directly to a Japanese university. In either case, you will find specific instructions on the embassy or university website, with the exact forms and submission methods.
The Embassy application process usually starts in April or May and the University application process starts in the Fall. I recommend that you start your application with whichever comes next for you!
The exact dates for each embassy, consulate, and university are different, so be sure you check with them directly!
To learn more about the differences between the application processes, where and how to get the forms, and how to apply, check out this article about getting started with the MEXT scholarship application.
What is the Purpose of the MEXT Scholarship?
The goal of the MEXT scholarship is to attract outstanding scholars from around the world who have the potential to go on to become leaders in their countries and communities. MEXT wants to bring these students to Japan to establish and strengthen relationships so that they will become bridges between their home countries and Japan in the future.
It is a merit-based scholarship designed to attract the best students from around the world, not a need-based scholarship.
Want to know more?
My book, How to Study in Japan on the MEXT Scholarship: Getting Started describes the scholarship in detail, including the purpose and coverage, the eligibility criteria, how to develop a successful applicant mindset, and how to craft your application strategy for the greatest chance of success!
Please let me know in the comments below!
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