I have written an updated version at a new link!
Please click here for the updated version of this article: How to Apply for the 2021/2022 University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship.
I have left the old article in place, as you may find useful information in the comments below, but please refer to the newest version.
MEXT has released the application guidelines and forms for the 2020 University Recommended MEXT Scholarship application for research (graduate) students!
If you have not started your application yet, now is the time to get moving, even if you are still waiting for the official guidelines from the university where you will apply.
Here’s what this article will cover:
- The scholarship types available (General Category and PGP) and number of slots.
- What the scholarship offers
- Scholarship eligibility
- Links to other articles about the forms you will need to complete
MEXT Scholarship for Research Students: General Category and PGP
These are the two primary types of scholarship places available. The primary difference between the two is that PGP programs are very narrowly defined, but have more scholarship places available and therefore a much higher chance of success. On the other hand, General Category scholarships are open to all applicants but there are very few places available, so expect competition to be high.
(There is also a third major type, Top Global University scholarships, but that process is rather different, so I will cover it elsewhere).
What are the MEXT Scholarship PGP Programs?
Almost every year, MEXT reaches out to universities and gives them the opportunity to apply for a certain number of scholarship slots for one of their graduate or undergraduate programs in advance. It’s a tough screening process, but if approved, then that university is guaranteed to have a fixed number of scholarship places available for a period of three years.
What does this mean for you? Simple: PGP programs are your best chance to get a University Recommended MEXT Scholarship if you are eligible. It’s not even close. I have seen programs in the past that had 10 scholarship places available for one PGP program each year. However, outside of that program, the university only had 5 scholarship places for all of its other graduate schools and programs. In that case, there were 11 applicants for the PGP program, with a nearly 90% success rate. Meanwhile, there were over 200 applicants for the general scholarship, with a 2.5% success rate.
How to Find PGP Programs
PGP programs are pre-approved by MEXT to have a certain number of scholarship places available each year for a period of three years. So, any of the programs approved over the past three years (2017-2019 as I write this) would still be available.
You can find the PGP program information at the links below (all PDFs on MEXT’s website):
- 2017: https://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/koutou/ryugaku/boshu/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2017/12/01/1398647_1.pdf
- 2018: https://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/koutou/ryugaku/boshu/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2018/12/04/1411539_1.pdf
- 2019: https://www.mext.go.jp/content/1423005_1_1.pdf
MEXT Scholarship PGP Program Eligibility
The biggest problem with the PGP program is that it might not be possible to find out in advance if you are eligible. When universities apply to MEXT for approval for a PGP program, it typically needs to be very precise and focused. For example, I knew of a program once that was only available to applicants in the field of life sciences from Thailand or Malaysia at one particular university. It can be that narrow, but universities will not necessarily make those eligibility criteria available. So, even if you find a PGP program from the lists above, there is a possibility
that you will not be eligible. That is just a risk you have to take.
The Japanese government has identified a list of priority countries and universities have to ensure that at least 75% of their nominees come from a priority country. That means that if a program has fewer than 4 total slots available, they cannot recommend any students from a non-priority country.
You can find the list of priority countries in my article about the University Recommended MEXT Scholarship application process from last year.
General Category Scholarship Slots
In contrast to the limited PGP programs, in general any university in Japan can nominate students for the General Category MEXT Scholarship and there are no restrictions on nationality or major. (The only exception is that universities whose international students became illegal overstays over the previous two years are ineligible to nominate students – but that should not be a problem with any reputable universities.)
The good news is that anyone can apply. The bad news is that anyone can apply. That means that the competition is going to be intense! You will need to have top grades as well as a laser-focused, well-crafted Field of Study and Research Program Plan in order to have any hope of success.
Slots Available for the 2020 MEXT Scholarship General Category
The number of slots available to any university is based on number of privately funded (e.g. non-MEXT Scholarship) international students enrolled in the university’s graduate school, as follows:
|Number of Self-Financed International Graduate Students Enrolled||Number of MEXT Scholarship Slots|
If you have been following my articles on this scholarship from the past, you will see that this is a significant reduction in numbers! Last year, universities could recommend up to 9 applicants in some cases. With the numbers dramatically reduced, you can see that competition for success will only be that much higher!
(Actually, in the 2019 cycle, even though universities were told that they could recommend a higher number, in the end, MEXT ended up cutting the slots at the last minute, leaving many applicants who thought their scholarship was assured with an unfortunate result. This year, by starting with a lower number, I think they will avoid having that same problem again).
What the MEXT Scholarship Offers
The scholarship benefits are unchanged from last year:
- Exemption from paying tuition
- Monthly stipend:
- Research Students: JPY 143,000/month
- Master’s Degree/ Professional Degree Students: JPY 144,000/month
- PhD Students: JPY 145,000/month
- (Undergraduate Students: JPY 117,000/month)
- Cost of Living Adjustment: JPY 2,000 – 3,000 in selected areas
- Round-trip flight ticket to Japan (covered by MEXT or the university). Note: only the international portion of the ticket is covered. You are responsible for all domestic travel costs in your home country and in Japan, plus the airport usage fees and fuel surcharges.
How to Apply for the 2020 University Recommended MEXT Scholarship
Every university in Japan sets its own application process for students. In some cases, the application period may already be over before I have posted this article.
Some universities will select their MEXT scholarship candidates out of the pool of general applicants and others will have a specific application process. Once you have selected your university, as I describe below, you will need to check their website for more information. I recommend searching google for the name of the university and “University MEXT Scholarship” to find the guidelines quickly.
Technical Differences between the Embassy-Recommended and University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship
If you have applied for the Embassy Recommendation in the past there are a few key differences in the scholarship that you should be aware of. (If you haven’t you can skip down to the next section).
- You can only apply to one university.
- You can only arrive in the fall semester – except for PGP programs that start in the spring.
- There is no Japanese language training semester.
- In most cases, the university will decide if you are allowed to start as a degree-seeking or research student. If they accept degree-seeking students in the fall, then you will almost certainly start as a degree-seeking student. If they do not, then you would have to start as a research student.
Choosing Your University – The Most Important Decision
You can only choose one university to apply to, so this decision is critical and must come very early in your application process.
I have written another article about how to search for universities in Japan with English language programs in your field of study that should help you figure out which universities are even possible.
Focus on Partner Universities
However, keep in mind that you should select a university that has a partnership with your current university if at all possible. Some Japanese universities will only accept University Recommendation MEXT scholarship applications from graduates of partner universities.
Partner University Benefit: You have to submit a letter of recommendation as part of the application process. If your universities have a formal partnership, any faculty member can write the letter. If the universities have an informal partnership and history of interaction, then your letter must come from the Dean or higher. No partnership? Your letter of recommendation would have to come from the president of your university.
Even if you do find a university that accepts applications from anyone, having a partnership connection helps you stand out over the competition, makes one of the application requirements a little easier, and also makes it easier for the university to accept you, since they are under pressure by MEXT to nominate students from partner universities and have to report that partnership status.
Another advantage of applying to a partner university is that it may be easier to learn their exact application process. As I mentioned above, not every university makes this clear or public. If there is a direct connection between your current university and the university in Japan, such as a connection between professors or between international offices, then you can use that to ask about the application.
Even if there is no formal partnership agreement between your universities, the existence of informal cooperation is also beneficial. Check with your university’s international office or international planning office to see if they can provide you with a list of all the Japanese universities that your university has partnered or worked with.
Applying to Non-Partner Universities
You cannot control what partnerships your university has in Japan, so you may find yourself in a situation where applying to a partner university is not an option. That doesn’t mean that you should give up! It just means that you’re going to have to work a little harder.
If you do not have the partnership connection, it may be harder to determine which universities will accept non-partner applications. So, even though you can only apply to one university, at the research stage, I suggest you come up with a list of several Japanese universities that you would like to apply to and follow-up to find the application process for each one. (I will cover that below).
If you are interested in a more detailed description about how to research and approach universities, I covered that in last year’s article about How to Apply for the 2019 University Recommended MEXT Scholarship, so I recommend referring to that article for more details. The process has not changed.
Follow the Application Guidelines to the Letter!
As I described above, the competition for this scholarship is incredibly fierce. There could be hundreds of applicants for a mere three scholarship places. So do not expect the university to have any patience with incomplete applications, documents that do not meet their requirements, or requests for exceptions to the rules. The universities will be actively looking for ways to pare down the pool of applicants that they have to seriously consider, so do not give them any excuse to discard your application.
I do offer coaching services to review your application to determine if it is complete and make recommendations for corrections/fixes, but this service has a fee. If you are interested, you can find more information at the Coaching Services link at the top-right corner of this page. Be aware though, that this service is first-come, first-served, and my queue fills up quickly.
University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship 2020 Eligibility Criteria
The requirements below are for the University Recommendation MEXT Scholarship. As I detail in my book, How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship, there are differences between the eligibility requirements for University and Embassy Recommendation. I have published another article about the eligibility requirements for the Embassy Recommendation MEXT Scholarship as of the 2020 Application Cycle that you can find at the link above.
These are also the eligibility requirements for the MEXT Scholarship for Research (Graduate) Students. I do not cover the requirements for undergraduates below.
The eligibility requirements I describe below are the requirements set out by MEXT. However, universities may have their own, higher eligibility requirements, as well. If you find that the university you are applying to specifies higher requirements than what I describe below, you have to meet both sets of requirements. Do not bother trying to argue with the university that MEXT’s standards are lower. That won’t work!
You may also find requirements below that are higher than what the universities require, or completely new. Even if there is some discrepancy, if you do not meet the MEXT requirements, the university cannot recommend you for the scholarship, period.
You must have a minimum 2.3 / 3.0 GPA on MEXT’s scale over the most recent two years of your degree-seeking studies. For more information on how to correctly calculate your GPA, refer to my previous article.
You must have the nationality of a country that has formal relations with Japan (e.g. not Taiwan or North Korea) and must not have Japanese Nationality, including dual nationality. If you currently hold Japanese nationality as a dual national, you must give up your Japanese nationality prior to arriving in Japan.
As of the application for the 2020 scholarship, applicants would need to have been born on or after April 2, 1985.
There are only two exceptions to the date of birth above
- Inability to apply during the ages when you would have been eligible due to the situation in your country, such as compulsory military service or the total suspension of higher education due to war, as approved by MEXT. (Exceptions will never be granted for personal reasons such as family reasons, financial difficulties, health, etc.)
- Applicants who are graduates of the Young Leaders Program and applying for a Doctoral-level program that will start within 5 years of the end of the YLP.
For the University Recommendation MEXT Scholarship, MEXT requires only that you meet the admissions requirements established by the university recommending you.
Field of Study
You must be applying within the same field that you studied previously at university or a related field. Your field of study must be available at the university you are applying to.
I have discussed the meaning of a “related field of study” in detail in past articles as well as in my book, How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship, but here is a brief summary:
A “related field” is a field of research that falls within the same discipline as something you majored in previously. If your past and future fields could conceivably be majors in the same faculty, or if one is a subset of another, they are related. For example, international relations and political science are clearly related. The same could be said for media studies and communication, or mechanical engineering and robotics. If you come from a multidisciplinary field, such as area studies, then any of the related fields are fair game.
If your fields are not so obviously related, then you have to sell the connection in your Field of Study and Research Program plan by clearly showing how research in your past field provided you with a natural transition to the future one.
For both Japanese and English, you have to meet the language ability requirement at the time of formal enrollment into the degree program, not at the time of application as in the past. However, if you fail to meet the language ability requirement when you progress to the degree program, you would forfeit the scholarship. So, my guess is that regardless of MEXT’s relaxed timing, universities are still going to want to see that you have the requisite language ability at the time of application, in general. They do not want to lose one of their scholarship recommendees later!
Here are the standards you have to meet for MEXT. You only need to meet the language requirement for the language that your program will be taught in! So, if you are applying for a program taught in English, the Japanese language requirements are irrelevant to you.
Japanese Language Ability Requirement
You must meet one of the following (in addition to meeting the admission requirements for your degree program, of course).
- JLPT N2 or higher at the time of starting the degree program
- Completed your qualifying degree* in Japanese
- Have equivalent or higher ability in Japanese language to a person meeting criteria 1 or 2 above, as determined by the nominating university.
*Your “qualifying degree” is the degree that you earned as a prerequisite to the degree you are applying for. If you are applying for a master’s degree, your qualifying degree would be your bachelor’s degree. If you are applying for a doctoral degree, then your qualifying degree would be your master’s degree.
English Language Ability Requirements
- Have a formal language proficiency test score in English equivalent or higher to B2 on the CEFR scale at the time of starting the degree program.
- Completed your qualifying degree* in English
- Have equivalent or higher ability in English language to a person meeting criteria 1 or 2 above, as determined by the nominating university.
CEFR B2 Equivalency Table
Here are the scores that MEXT has determined to be equivalent to the CEFR B2, based on the PDF linked above:
- Cambridge English (Preliminary, First, Advanced, Proficiency): 160 or higher
- Eiken (Jun-1 kyu, 1 kyu): Any passing score
- GTEC (Advanced, CBT): 1190 or higher
- IELTS: 5.5 or higher
- TEAP: 309 or higher
- TEAP CBT: 600 or higher
- TOEFL iBT: 72 or higher
- TOEIC L&R/TOEIC S&W: 1560
The requirements above are only MEXT’s minimum requirements. Universities are well within their rights to establish higher standards.
Must be fit to study in Japan as determined by the nominating university. In general, this means that each university will have a medical form that they require you to have completed.
Even if you have a pre-existing medical condition, in general you would only be disqualified for medical reasons if your home country doctor was unwilling to sign off that you are fit to study abroad in Japan. If your doctor agrees that you can continue your care or medication regimen in Japan, then there should be no problem.
Ability to Arrive in Japan on Designated Date
You must be able to arrive in Japan during the period specified by the nominating university, no more than 2 weeks before or after the official start of the semester. Failure to arrive by the end of the designated period will be considered voluntary withdrawal from the scholarship. In the event that nominees arrive prior to the designated period, their travel fees will not be paid.
Essentially, you need to follow the arrival dates designated by your university. The “2 weeks” mentioned above is an instruction for the university’s reference as to when they are allowed to set your arrival date. Arriving late will mean that you lose the scholarship. Arriving early is possible, but you would forfeit the travel benefits.
In principle, you must apply for and obtain a “Student” visa at the Japanese diplomatic mission in the country where you hold nationality then arrive in Japan using that visa. Applicants who already hold other residence statuses in Japan, such as “Permanent Resident”, “Long-term Resident”, etc., must give up that status, apply for a “Student” visa, and return to Japan with that visa. After completion of your degree, it is not guaranteed that you would be able to reobtain a “Permanent Resident” or “Long-term Resident” status again, even if previously held.
Applicants who arrive in Japan without a student visa will have their scholarships suspended.
Anyone meeting any of the criteria below is ineligible to apply for the scholarship:
- Active duty military or military-employed civilian at the time of arriving in Japan or at any point during the scholarship award period.
- Unable to arrive in Japan by the deadline determined by MEXT or the nominating university.
- Previous recipient of the Japanese Government MEXT Scholarship (including those who withdrew from the scholarship in the past after arriving in Japan). However, applicants who have over 3 full years of education or employment history between the month after the end of the previous scholarship award and the commencement of the new award are eligible to apply. Past recipients of the Japanese Studies MEXT Scholarship who returned to their home universities and graduated after receipt of that scholarship (including those expected to graduate before the start of the new scholarship), past recipients of the Japan-Korea Joint Government Scholarship Program for the Students in Science and Engineering Departments, and past recipients of the Young Leaders’ Program scholarship are eligible to apply. Past receipt of the MEXT Honors Scholarship does not disqualify applicants.
- Applicants who are simultaneously applying for any other Japanese Government (MEXT) scholarship to begin in fiscal year 2020. (e.g. the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship).
- Applicants who are already enrolled at a Japanese university with a residence status of “Student” at the time of application or who will enroll in a Japanese university prior to the start of the scholarship award period. However, applicants who are currently enrolled in a Japanese university (or who will enroll in a Japanese university) as fee-paying students and who have definite plans to complete their studies, return to their home countries, and obtain a new student visa before returning to Japan are eligible.
Essentially, this requirement means that you cannot be enrolled in a Japanese university with the intent to quit if you receive the MEXT Scholarship. The exception applies to students who enrolled in Japanese university (or language programs) and will complete their course of studies/graduate before the start of the scholarship.
- Applicants who are projected to receive (have been accepted/approved to receive) a scholarship from any other source, including their home country governments, after the commencement of the MEXT scholarship payment period.
- Applicants who have not yet graduated from their qualifying degree at the time of application and who fail to graduate before the start of the scholarship award period.
If you have not graduated, you are still eligible to apply and would have to submit a “Certificate of Expected Graduation” instead of a Certificate of Graduation. However, if you do not graduate as expected, you would lose the scholarship.
- Applicants who have dual nationality, including Japan as one of the nationalities, at the time of application and who fail to renounce their Japanese citizenship prior to the start of the scholarship.
- Applicants who intend to conduct fieldwork or internships outside of Japan or take a leave of absence during their studies for a long period of time.
“Long period of time” is undefined, but I would interpret this as meaning any period of time that interferes with coursework during the semester or the MEXT Scholarship payment cycle (one month). Fieldwork outside the country could be possible during vacation periods, for less than a month, but if you fail to sign in at your university each month, you would forfeit the monthly scholarship payment for the months that you do not sign.
- Applicants who intend to study only as non-degree students and do not plan to advance to the degree program. Applicants who have already obtained a doctoral degree and do not intend to earn another degree (e.g. post-doc research).
Willingness to Participate in Intercultural Interaction
During your studies in Japan, you must be willing to actively participate in interaction events with schools and communities to contribute to the strengthening of relationships between your home country and Japan. After graduation, you must remain in contact with your university, participate in follow-up surveys and studies, and join in activities conducted by the Japanese diplomatic mission in your home country to promote relations with Japan after returning home.
Of course, this is unmeasurable, but stating your willingness/excitement to participate in such activities during the application process where possible would help you application.
How to ApplyAs mentioned above, the application guidelines will be different for each university, so you’ll need to check with the university where you will apply. They may have a different process, more forms you need to complete or even ask you to submit forms at different times during the application process.
Ultimately, though, here are the documents that you will need to submit by the end of the application. This is the list of documents that MEXT requires universities to obtain. I have written in detail about each of these documents in the past, so I will include links to those previous articles for your reference.
- Application Form: The 2020 University Recommended MEXT Scholarship application form is essentially identical to the 2019 Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship application form. You can find my article about how to complete that form at the link above and, of course, if you have joined my mailing list (see the link at the bottom of this article), I have already sent you a link to download a sample form. You should get the official form from the university that you are applying to, but you can also find it on MEXT’s website in Excel format for the general category scholarship or PGP.
- Field of Study and Research Program Plan: The Field of Study and Research Program Plan for the University Recommended MEXT Scholarship is the same as last year’s University Recommended MEXT Scholarship, and you can find my article about it at the link above. If you applied for the 2020 Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship, you’ll know the FSRPP format was different for that application. If you have purchased my book, How to Write a Scholarship-Winning Field of Study and Research Program Plan, the chapter about formatting your final plan is based on the embassy format, but you can still use if for the University format! Simply move the “Research Goals,” “Previous Research in the Field”, and “Existing Research” to question 2 and move the rest to question 3.
The rest of the documents below are described in my article University Recommended MEXT Scholarship Application 2019: Application Documents
- Passport Copy or Government-Issued Identification Record
- Certificate of Grades from last institution attended
- Certificate of Graduation from last institution attended
- Proof of outstanding academic achievement from the last institution attended: Usually, this is simply an explanation of the grading system at the university.
- Certificate of Graduation from last institution attended
- Letter of Recommendation
- Abstract of Thesis: Either your graduation thesis from your last degree or a thesis from a capstone course
- Proof of Linguistic Ability
There will probably also be some form of proof of medical health. While MEXT does not have a specific requirement for this, they do require that universities confirm that applicants are sufficiently physically and mentally healthy to be able to study in Japan, as I described earlier. Many universities will use the Certificate of Health form from the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship application process, though this is by no means necessary.
When will the application results be out?
Application results for the University Recommended MEXT Scholarship come in two stages: University Selection Results and Official MEXT Results.
University Selection Results
Universities must select the applicants that they are going to accept and nominate to MEXT and submit those nominations by March 26, at the latest. That means that universities must finish their internal selection procedures, inform applicants of the results and confirm that all applicants are still willing to participate in the scholarship no later than the beginning of March, in general. The results may be even earlier if the university has not yet asked you to submit all of the documents above and need to ask you to send them after the results are out.
Because of those facotrs, different universities may release their initial results at different times. Do not get discouraged if you hear that results are out at different universities, but not at yours. However, if you do not receive a notification from the university by mid-March that you have been selected and nominated to MEXT for the scholarship and their final decision, then I’m afraid that means you were not successful this year and you should start preparing for the next Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship application process, which will likely begin in April.
Caution: Results Notification
In some cases, I have seen situations where individual faculties at the university each select one candidate and then that candidate is sent forward to a university-wide screening board for final decision about the university’s nominees. If you are informed that you were selected as the faculty’s candidate and that they will then screen your application at the university level, that does not mean that you will ultimately be selected for the scholarship.
Final Selection Results
After universities select their nominees, they are sent to MEXT for final screening. MEXT claims that results will be out some time in June, but I have never known them to be on time over the last 10 years of following the scholarship. So, expect the results to be released in early to mid-July. That is also the date when results are released by MEXT to the universities. It may take universities another few days to communicate those results to their applicants. Again, this may take some universities longer than others, so if other applicants have heard their final results and you have not, that might be the cause.
Since universities know in advance how many nominees they can have accepted each year, usually all nominees receive the scholarship in the end, but this is not a guarantee. Last year, due to budget problems, MEXT ended up cutting down the number of slots at the last minute, so some applicants received the shocking news that they were not accepted. This year, the maximum number of slots is already quite small (maximum of 3 instead of 9!), so I do not think this should be a risk this time, but nothing is sure with MEXT, anymore.
Want to Maximize Your Chance to Win the MEXT Scholarship?As I’ve described above, the University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship is especially competitive. If you want to increase your chances of earning the scholarship, my book, How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship, breaks down the scholarship details and application process and also includes chapters on developing a successful applicant mindset and an application strategy that will help you stand out from the crowd. You can purchase it in ebook or print format – or ask your university library to stock it, instead! The information you need to request it at your library can be found at the link above.
Special thanks to the TranSenz supporters on Patreon who help me cover the costs to keep this website and my email list running so that I can share these articles and advice with you! You can show your support for TranSenz on Patreon for as little as $1 (0.08% of a MEXT monthly stipend) per month. If TranSenz has helped you in your application process and you want to “pay it forward” to keep this site running to help future applicants, every contribution helps!
If you want to show your support but Patreon is out of reach, I’d appreciate it if you say hi on social media or in the comments below to let me know if you appreciate these posts. You can find me on facebook at @TranSenz or on Twitter at @tagsenzaki. I look forward to saying hi!
Let me know in the comments below!
Ads by Google: