How to Apply for the 2023/2024 University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship


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Will the 2023/2024 University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship be your ticket to a future in Japan?

This is your University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship application guide for 2023 and 2024. Each year, MEXT releases the University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship application guidelines around November/December, which is usually after most universities have finished their selection. So universities often start their recruiting based on the previous year’s guidelines.

If you are reading this in 2024 (applying to start your studies in Japan in fall 2025) and I do not have a newer article on the subject, this is still your best guide!

Updates from Previous Years

If you’ve applied in the past, or read my guides in the past, here are the changes from previous years. If you’re reading for the first time, you can skip this part.

  • PGP Programs: Added the 2023 PGP Programs (updated on December 5).
  • Priority Countries: Updated the list of priority countries based on the 2023 list. Almost all of Europe (except Russia and Belarus), all of Oceania, and Canada are now included!
  • Eligibility: Applicants who received a MEXT Undergraduate Scholarship as a university-recommended PGP scholar may apply for the university-recommended MEXT scholarship for graduate students with no required waiting period.
  • Number of slots available: While the calculation method is the same, the number of slots available is now based on the number of international graduate students enrolled as of May 1, 2022, which was the first semester that international students were allowed back into Japan after the pandemic. Hopefully that should mean a slight increase in slots over the previous year’s calculation, which was based on pandemic times!
  • Eligibility to Apply: Clarification that English language proficiency scores must cover all four skills.
  • Students Applying from Inside Japan: It is possible to apply while residing in Japan, but only for PGP programs. Up to 40% of a university’s nominees for their PGP programs can be from within Japan (an increase from 25% last year).

Article Overview

Here’s what this article will cover:

  • Priority Countries and Eligible Nationalities
  • Available scholarship types (General Category and PGP) and number of slots.
  • What the scholarship offers
  • Scholarship eligibility
  • Forms and documents you will need to submit

Priority Countries and Eligible Nationalities

Why am I starting with this? Because if you are not from a Priority Country, your options are going to be limited, and you should know that before you start.

Japan has identified a list of Priority Countries and requires that all General Category nominees be from these countries.

As of the 2023/2024 application cycle, no more than 25% of each PGP program’s nominees may be from one of the priority countries. Note that if a university has multiple PGP programs, this percentage is not cumulative across programs. Each program is considered separately.

This means that applicants from non-Priority Countries can only apply for PGP programs that have over 4 places available and, even in that situation, there would only be one place available for all non-Priority Country students.

Fortunately for most of you, most countries in the world are Priority Countries, but you should check from the list below.

List of Priority Countries

Priority Countries

Africa
Algeria Angola Benin
Botswana Burkina Faso Burundi
Cabo Verde Cameroon Central African Republic
Chad Comoros Cote D’Ivoire
Democratic Republic of the Congo Djibouti Egypt
Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Ethiopia
Gabon Gambia Ghana
Guinea Guinea-Bissau Kenya
Lesotho Liberia Libya
Madagascar Malawi Mali
Mauritania Mauritius Morocco
Mozambique Namibia Niger
Nigeria Republic of the Congo Rwanda
Sao Tome and Principe Senegal Seychelles
Sierra Leone Somalia South Africa
South Sudan Sudan Swaziland/eSwatini
Tanzania Togo Tunisia
Uganda Zambia Zimbabwe
Americas
Argentina Bolivia Brazil
Canada Chile Columbia
Ecuador Guyana Paraguay
Peru Suriname Uruguay
USA Venezuela  
Asia
Bangladesh Bhutan Brunei
Cambodia India Indonesia
Laos Malaysia Maldives
Mongolia Myanmar Nepal
Pakistan The Philippines Singapore
Sri Lanka Thailand Vietnam
Europe
Albania Andorra Armenia
Austria Azerbaijan Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Croatia
Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark
Estonia Italy Finland
France Georgia Germany
Greece Hungary Iceland
Ireland Kazakhstan Kosovo
Kyrgyzstan Latvia Liechtenstein
Lithuania Luxemburg Malta
Moldova Monaco Montenegro
The Netherlands North Macedonia Norway
Poland Portugal Romania
San Marino Serbia Slovakia
Slovenia Spain Sweden
Switzerland Tajikistan Turkmenistan
Ukraine United Kingdom Uzbekistan
Vatican City    
Middle East
Afghanistan Bahrain Iran
Iraq Israel Jordan
Kuwait Lebanon Oman
Palestine Qatar Saudi Arabia
Syria Turkey UAE
Yemen    
Oceania and Pacific Islands
Australia Cook Islands Fiji
Kiribati Marshall Islands Micronesia
Nauru New Zealand Niue
Palau Papua New Guinea Samoa
Solomon Islands Tonga Tuvalu
Vanuatu    

*This list is available (in Japanese) in a tab on the “List of Nominees” spreadsheet that universities have to submit to MEXT.

There are several notable countries not on that list, including (but not limited to): China, South Korea, and significant portions of Latin America and the Caribbean. And, of course, Russia and Belarus, which were removed based on the ongoing unlawful invasion of Ukraine.

MEXT Scholarship for Research Students: General Category and PGP

First, let me make one thing clear: This article only covers scholarships for graduate students (master’s degree, PhD, and professional graduate degrees, like MBA, JD, MD, etc.), also called “Research Students.” I do not cover instruction for undergraduate students.

These are the two categories for the University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship: General and PGP.

The application process and scholarship amount are the same for both categories, but there are a few important differences.

  • Eligibility to Apply: As mentioned above, only applicants from Priority Countries (see chart above) are eligible to apply for General Category slots. For PGP programs, up to 25% of nominees for each program (not cumulative if a university has multiple PGP programs) may be from non-priority countries.
     
  • Eligibility to Apply: PGP programs have limited scope. They may be limited to a certain field of study, degree level, and may even have nationality restrictions, so you have to meet all of those requirements to qualify. Of course, since fewer people qualify, the competition is much lower!
     
  • Eligibility to Apply: Applicants who are living in Japan at the time of application may only apply for PGP programs, not General Category slots.
     
  • Requirement to Keep Up Your Grades: For the PGP scholarship only, universities are required to report your GPA to MEXT at the end of each academic year. If your annual GPA falls below 2.30 on the MEXT Scale, you will lose your scholarship.
     
  • Eligibility to Extend Your Scholarship: Different rules apply to extending PGP scholarships. See my article about How to Extend Your MEXT Scholarship for more details.

What are the MEXT Scholarship PGP Programs?

PGP programs refer to specific degree programs that MEXT has approved to have a guaranteed number of slots available each year for three years. These programs can be very narrowly defined. For example, there might be a PGP program for Master’s Degree students from Malaysia or Thailand in Health Sciences who are studying in English. Since these programs have restrictive eligibility requirements (low number of applicants) and a pre-approved number of slots (high supply), that means that competition is much lower and it is easier to be selected for the scholarship.

What does this mean for you? 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. (Back then, there were a lot more general category places available.)

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, for the 2023/2024 application cycle, programs approved in 2021, 2022, and 2023 are available.

You can find the PGP program information at the links below (all PDFs on MEXT’s website):

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 needs to be very precise and focused, like the example I gave above. Unfortunately, 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. If the program matches your interest, it is still better to take a chance there than at a university with no PGP program.

General Category Scholarship Slots

Unlike the limited PGP programs any university in Japan can nominate students for the General Category MEXT Scholarship and there are no restrictions on major or degree level. The only restriction is that applicants must be from Priority Countries.

Since these programs are open to all applicants, that means that the competition is going to be intense! You will need to have top grades and a focused, well-crafted Field of Study and Research Program Plan in order to have any hope of success.

MEXT Scholarship General Category Slots Available

During the 2023/2024 application cycle, the number of slots available to any university is based on the number of international students enrolled in the university’s graduate schools as of May 2022.

Number of International Graduate Students Enrolled Number of MEXT Scholarship Slots
201+ 3
11-200 2
0-10 1

The scholarship benefits are unchanged from last year:

  • Exemption from paying admission fees and 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 economy-class flight ticket from your country of citizenship to Japan. Note: MEXT only covers the international portion of the ticket. You are responsible for all domestic travel costs in your home country and in Japan, plus the airport usage fees, taxes, fuel surcharges, etc.
    Note: If you are applying for a PGP scholarship while residing in Japan, you will not receive travel benefits to Japan, even if you return to your home country before the scholarship starts.

*Note: You cannot apply for the General Category University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship as solely as a Research Student (Non-degree Student) with no intent to earn a degree in Japan. However, you might be a Research Student for one semester after arrival in Japan if your degree program does not allow new students to start in the semester of your arrival. For PGP scholars, you will arrive in Japan for the semester that you start your program, so you would never be a Research Student.

Scholarship Period

The period of the scholarship varies based on your enrollment status at the university in Japan, as described below:

  • Research Students: You cannot enroll only as a Research Student, but you may spend a maximum of three semesters as a Research Student if you arrive in the fall and your degree program does not accept new students until the spring. In most cases, you would only spend one semester in this status, but if you fail to pass the entrance exam to matriculate to the degree program, or you do not meet the language requirements to extend to the degree program, you might be in this status longer.
     
  • Master’s Degree/Doctoral Degree/Professional Degree: The standard number of years required to complete your program. Usually two years for a Master’s-level degree or three years for a Doctoral-level degree. (Some doctoral degrees in medical fields have a standard length of four years, and that would be covered in those cases)
     
  • For a Integrated Doctoral Degree/5-year Doctoral Degree (a Master’s + Doctorate but without a Master’s degree awarded in the middle): Two years if starting the degree from the Master’s level or three years if starting the degree from the third year of study

It is possible to apply to extend your MEXT Scholarship if you are moving up to the next degree level, for example, from Master’s degree to Doctoral Degree, but you cannot extend while remaining at the same level. In an Integrated Doctoral Degree, described above, you can extend your scholarship when proceeding from the second year to the third year of the program, since that is the same as moving from a Master’s to a Doctorate.

PGP Scholars can only extend their scholarship if their PGP program is approved for both Master’s and Doctoral degree slots and their university selects them for extension using one of its Doctoral level slots in the appropriate year.

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 know. (If you haven’t you can skip down to the next section).

  • You can only apply to one university. This is true even if one of your universities is a General Category university and one is PGP.
     
  • 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 may start as a degree-seeking or research student. If they accept degree-seeking students in the fall, then you will start as a degree-seeking student. If they do not, then you would have to start as a research student.

How to Apply for the 2023/2024 University Recommended MEXT Scholarship

Every university in Japan sets its own application process for the MEXT Scholarship, so the only way to be sure is to check the university website, directly.

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 (not the university’s website) for the name of the university and “University MEXT Scholarship” to find the guidelines.

Choosing Your University: The Most Important Decision

How to Find Your Best Degree Program and Advisor for the MEXT Scholarship book cover

How do you choose the best university? How to Find Your Best Degree Program and Advisor for the MEXT Scholarship is my step-by-step process to search for and evaluated universities and potential advisors in Japan to find the one that will be best for your studies.

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. Finding a university that teaches your field of study in English is the first step.

Focus on Partner Universities

Keep in mind that you should select a university that has a partnership agreement with your current university, if possible. Some Japanese universities will only accept University-Recommended MEXT scholarship applications from graduates of partner universities.

Even if a university accepts applications from anyone, a partnership connection gives you an advantage, since they will recognize your university’s name, and also makes it easier for the university to accept you. MEXT encourages universities to nominate students from partner universities and requires universities to report their partnership status with applicants’ previous universities.

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.

Applying to Non-Partner Universities

You cannot control what partnerships your university has in Japan, so applying to a partner university may not be an option. That doesn’t mean that you should give up! It just means that you 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, when you are researching potential universities, I suggest you come up with a list of several 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, my book How to Find Your Best Degree Program and Advisor for the MEXT Scholarship goes into much more detail on my recommended process for evaluating how suitable a university is for your research topic and determining if a professor is a good fit to be your advisor, plus recommendations and templates for your initial contact email!

Follow the Application Guidelines Exactly!

The competition for this scholarship is extreme. There could be hundreds of applicants for a mere three scholarship places (or fewer). 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 looking for ways to shrink the pool of applicants, 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 to 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 2023 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 2023/2024 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. However, MEXT has published the PGP application guidelines in English this year, so Undergraduate applicants can refer to that document.

Disclaimer

The eligibility requirements I describe below are the requirements set out by MEXT as of the 2023/2024 application. However, universities may have higher eligibility requirements. If you find that the university you are applying to specifies higher requirements than what I describe below, you must meet both sets of requirements. Do not bother trying to argue with the university that MEXT’s standards are lower. That won’t work! Eligibility requirements are subject to change in future years.

Societal Contribution

This isn’t measurable, but it is worth noting that in the 2023/2024 guidelines, MEXT added the following introduction to the eligibility list (my translation):

“MEXT seeks to develop persons who can become a bridge between their home countries and Japan and contribute to the development of both countries and to the world, via the research they conduct in Japan, and has therefore established the following eligibility criteria.”

What does this mean? It means that your research should have some societal benefit outputs to Japan, your home country, or both. Earning a degree for your own career benefit or because of a research interest isn’t enough. Make sure to mention the benefits to society, such as in your Field of Study and Research Program Plan.

Minimum GPA

You must have a minimum 2.3 / 3.0 GPA on MEXT’s scale during your most recent degree and be expected to continue the same level of performance during your studies in Japan.

I have another article about how to calculate your GPA on MEXT’s scale, so please read that page for more details.

Exception: Programs with no objective grading

If your degree program has no objective grading or marking system (for example, a graduate program entirely by research with no coursework), then you may be eligible if you can provide objective evidence that you are in the top 30% of students in your program. In this case, your letter of recommendation from your university would have to state your order of merit within your graduate program or university, such as “#1 of 150 students”.

This exception does not apply if you have objective grades. If your grades on MEXT’s scale are 2.3 or lower, but you are still in the top 30%, you are not eligible.

Nationality

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 hold Japanese nationality as a dual national but live primarily in the second country of nationality, then if you give up your Japanese nationality before you arrive in Japan or before the university formally registers you as a student (including as a research student) you would be eligible.

General Category

Universities can only recommend applicants from one of the Priority Countries in the table above. So if you are not from one of those countries, you would not be eligible.

PGP Category

Up to 25% of nominees for each PGP program may be from non-Priority Countries.

Age

As of the application for the 2023/2024 scholarship application cycle, applicants would need to have been born on or after April 2, 1989.

Exceptions

There are only two exceptions to the date of birth above

  1. Inability to apply during the ages when you would have been eligible because of the situation in your country, such as compulsory military service or the total suspension of higher education due to war, as determined by MEXT. (Exceptions will never be granted for personal reasons such as family reasons, financial difficulties, health, etc.)
  2. 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.

I have never heard of anyone being granted an exception for the first criteria!

Academic Background

For the University Recommendation MEXT Scholarship, MEXT requires only that you meet the admissions requirements established by the recommending university as of the time that you start your scholarship.

Field of Study

You must be applying within the same field you majored in 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 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 applies to 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 available.

If your fields are not so obviously related, (for example, if you majored in computer science in undergrad and want to do an MBA in Japan) then you have to explain the connection in your Field of Study and Research Program plan by showing how research in your past field provided you with a natural transition to the future one.

The most common changes I see work are related to business and computer science, my examples above. I have seen many applicants switch to an MBA and emphasize how they want to study the business applications of the field they studied previously, or switch in/out of computer science by explaining how they will use the computer science knowledge (programming, data science, etc.) to conduct their research in their other field.

Language Ability

You must meet one of the language ability requirements below, for the language of your selected degree program, at the time of formal enrollment into the degree program. However, if you start as a Research Student (Non-degree student) and only meet Criteria 3 as of that time, then you would have to meet Criteria 1 in order to extend your scholarship and continue into the degree program. So, if you only meet Criteria 3, expect that universities will not select you as a Research Student, only as a Degree student.

Please note that these are the MEXT requirements. If your university requires a higher level, you would have to meet their standard!

Japanese Language Ability Requirement

  1. JLPT N2 or higher at the time of starting the degree program
  2. Completed your qualifying degree* in Japanese
  3. Have equivalent or higher ability in the Japanese language to a person meeting criteria 1 or 2 above, as determined by the nominating university and demonstrated by objective evidence.

*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.

Note: If you are nominated under criteria 3 for either Japanese or English language ability, then you would have to meet requirement 1 or 2 in order to apply to extend of your scholarship (from non-regular student to degree-seeking student or from Master’s to Doctoral level).

English Language Ability Requirements

  1. Have a formal language proficiency test score in English equivalent or higher to B2 on the CEFR scale (*Slide 13 PDF in Japanese from MEXT’s website. See the English translation below) at the time of starting the degree program.
  2. Completed your qualifying degree* in English
  3. Have equivalent or higher ability in the English language to a person meeting criteria 1 or 2 above, as determined by the nominating university and demonstrated with objective evidence.

*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.

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): 2304 or higher
  • 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

Your language proficiency test must cover all four skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking), and for tests that give individual scores in these categories, all four must be at the B2 level or higher.

Health

Must be fit to study in Japan as determined by the nominating university. This means that each university will have a medical form that they require you to have completed. Often, universities will use the same Certificate of Health used in the Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship. Of course, you should be sure to fill in the document required by the university you are applying to, but the certificate linked above should be a good indication of what to expect.

Even if you have a pre-existing medical condition, 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 you have a pre-existing condition, but 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 outside of the designated period, MEXT will not pay their travel fees.

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 lose the travel benefits.

For the University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship, you will arrive for the fall semester in Japan, in September or October, depending on your university. The only exception is for some PGP programs that start in the spring semester (April), but this is quite rare.

Visa Requirement

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 had been residing in Japan with another residence status at the time of selection must change their residence status to “Student” by the end of the month before they start their scholarship.

For applicants in that situation, there is no guarantee they will be able to regain their previous residence status (“Permanent Resident”, “Long-term Resident”, etc.) again.

You must follow the visa application procedures designated by the Japanese diplomatic mission in your country of citizenship, including tuberculosis testing, if required.

Applicants who are currently residing in Japan may not apply for General Category slots, but they can apply for PGP Programs. You are considered to be residing in Japan if:

  1. You are living in Japan at the time of application with a mid- or long-term residence status. Visiting Japan temporarily as a tourist or to take an entrance exam, etc., does not count for this criteria.
     
  2. You have already been accepted to enroll in a Japanese university or other institution as a fee-paying student between the time of your application and the start of your MEXT Scholarship.

If you are living in Japan with a Student residence status, then you must definitively complete (not withdraw from) your program.

Disqualification Criteria

Anyone meeting any of the criteria below is ineligible to apply for the scholarship:

  1. Active duty military or military-employed civilian at the time of arriving in Japan or at any point during the scholarship award period.
     
  2. Unable to arrive in Japan by the deadline determined by MEXT or the nominating university.
     
  3. Previous recipient of the Japanese Government MEXT Scholarship (including those who withdrew from the scholarship in the past after arriving in Japan). Past receipt of the MEXT Honors Scholarship does not disqualify applicants.
    However, applicants who meet the conditions below are exempt from this criteria:
    • 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 start of the new award.
    • 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.
    • Past recipients of the MEXT undergraduate scholarship (University-recommended, PGP category) who completed their degrees or are expected to do so before the start of the new award.

     

  4. Applicants who are simultaneously applying for any other Japanese Government (MEXT) scholarship to begin in fiscal year 2024. (e.g. the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship or applying to another Japanese university for the University Recommended MEXT Scholarship at the same time).
     
  5. General Category: Applicants who are living in Japan.
     
  6. Applicants who are projected to receive (have been accepted/approved to receive) a scholarship from any other source, including their home country governments, after commencing the MEXT scholarship payment period.
     
  7. Applicants who have not yet graduated from their qualifying degree at the time of application and who cannot graduate before the start of the scholarship award period.
    Note: 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.
     
  8. Applicants who have dual nationality, including Japan as one nationality, at the time of application and who fail to renounce their Japanese citizenship prior to the start of the scholarship.
     
  9. Applicants who intend to conduct fieldwork or internships outside of Japan or take a leave of absence during their studies for an extended period.
    “Extended period” is undefined, but I would interpret this as meaning any period 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 lose the monthly scholarship payment for the months that you do not sign.
     
  10. General Category: Applicants who plan to study in Japan only as Non-Degree Students
     
  11. Applicants who do not intend to earn a degree.

Note: While the eligibility criteria related to studying in Japan as a “Non-Degree Student” only applies to General Category students, it is also impossible to study in Japan as a Non-Degree Student as a PGP scholar, since there are no PGP programs that are approved to accept Non-Degree Students.

Willingness to Take Part in Intercultural Interaction

During your studies in Japan, you must be willing to participate actively in interaction events with schools and communities to contribute to strengthening the relationship 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 not measurable, but stating your willingness/excitement to take part in such activities during the application process, where possible, would help you application.

How to Apply

As 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 unique 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. All documents must be written in English or Japanese or be accompanied by a Japanese translation. For the certificates mentioned below or any documents from your university, etc., if they are not available in English or Japanese, then you would have to submit the original and a certified translation into Japanese. (Note: If the original is in a language other than English or Japanese, only a Japanese translation is acceptable.)

Application Form

I have a separate step-by-step guide to the 2023/2024 University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship application form. You can find my article about how to complete that form at the link above and if you join my mailing list (see the link at the bottom of this article), I will send you a sample version of the filled form for your reference.
You should get the official form from the university that you are applying to!

Photo

You will need to attach a physical photo to the application form or digitally insert one into the form.

If you are attaching a physical photo, it must be on photo paper, not printer paper. You should attach it with a glue stick. Never use a stapler, since a photo with staple holes in it will be rejected and you may have to resend a new one. I also recommend including a second photo inside a protective bag or folded inside a piece of paper to protect it, just in case something happens to damage the original during transit.

The photo must:

  • Have been taken within six months of your application
  • Must be 4.5 cm high by 3.5 cm wide. Don’t worry if it is larger than the physical space for it on the form, just make sure it matches the required dimensions
  • Must be high resolution (no visible pixelation or color distortion)
  • Must show you facing forward from the chest up, with no hats or glasses. (Note: Hair coverings worn for religious reasons are acceptable)

If attaching a physical photo, write your name and nationality on the back, in case it falls off and they need to check which application to reattach it to.

Field of Study and Research Program Plan

How to write the field of study and research program plan MEXT scholarship guide ebook

Need help with your Field of Study and Research Program Plan? How to Write a Scholarship-Winning Field of Study and Research Program Plan will walk you through choosing a field, developing a research question, and completing the final report to give you the best chance of success!

I have a separate article about how to complete the Field of Study and Research Program Plan for the University Recommended MEXT Scholarship. 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 it 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.

Copy of Passport or Government-Issued Identification Record

This document confirms both your citizenship and your personal identifying information, such as your legal name and birthdate.

Submit a copy of your passport, if you have one. The copy of your passport should include the outside cover and the page with your photo and identifying information. You do not need to include copies of all pages or copies of pages with visas, entry/departure stamps, etc.

Make sure your photocopy shows the whole page. The edges of the passport should be visible in the copy. That will help prove that there is no other information or invalidation outside of the copied area.

If your passport has any incorrect information (e.g. Spelling of your name), you should get that corrected officially before submitting the copy, or wait until after your MEXT scholarship to get it corrected.

If you do not have a passport yet, then alternative documents can include a Family Register or Certificate of Citizenship, etc.

Certificate of Grades from last university completed and current university

Your certificate of grades is an official document issued by your university that shows the grades or marks that you have earned in each course during your degree, as well as the credit value of those courses (if applicable) and when you completed them. If you do not have one document that shows all of these items, then you may have to submit multiple official documents (for example, one showing your grades and another showing when you took each course) to meet this requirement.

Your transcript must also include or be accompanied by an explanation of the grading system so that the university in Japan can understand the relative quality of your grades and calculate the conversion to MEXT’s 3.0 GPA system, which is a requirement for recommendation.

If you have already graduated from university and are not a student, then you would submit your certificate of grades from the university degree program that you graduated from most recently.

If you are enrolled in a university, then you must submit the certificate of grades from your current degree program and the most recent university degree you have completed, if applicable. For example, if you are enrolled in a Master’s degree, you would submit your grades from that program and your Bachelor’s degree. But if you are enrolled in a Bachelor’s degree and it is your first university degree, you need only submit the certificate of grades from that program.

If you transferred universities during your degree and have transcripts from multiple universities showing the courses and grades that count toward your current or most recent degree, you would need to submit a certificate of grades from each of the universities that you attended.

The certificate of grades must be an original document, or a copy certified as being accurate by the issuing university (if you cannot get it certified by your university, certification by a notary would also be acceptable), and it must be in English or Japanese. If your document is in another language, you would need to include the original document and a certified translation into Japanese.

Certificate of Graduation from last institution attended

A “Certificate of Graduation” is not the same thing as a diploma. (Never send your only original diploma as part of the application! You will not get it back.)

A Certificate of Graduation is any official document issued by your university that certifies that you have graduated. This could be a certified copy of your diploma, but it does not have to be. A letter from your registrar that certifies that you have graduated and shows the date of graduation (or of completing all requirements) would also be valid.

In some cases, your Certificate of Grades may show the degree you earned and the date of graduation. In that case, your Certificate of Grades could also be considered a “Certificate of Graduation.” If you submit your Certificate of Grades to cover both requirements (Certificate of Grades and Certificate of Graduation), then I recommend you also include a separate piece of paper with a brief explanation saying that your date of graduation and degree are certified as part of the Certificate of Grades to let the reviewers know to look there.

Note: In some countries, a national authority issues Certificates of Graduation instead of the university. In that case, a Certificate of Graduation issued by the national authority is acceptable.

Special Case: Certificate of Expected Graduation

What if you haven’t graduated yet? This is very common, since many applicants want to start their degrees in Japan immediately after graduating in their home countries, so they have to start their applications while they are still studying.

In that case, MEXT asks that you provide a “Certificate of Expected Graduation” that shows the date you are expected to graduate and the degree you are expected to earn.

This requirement frequently results in confusion: Universities may refuse to “certify” that a student will graduate by a specific date. After all, you haven’t completed all of your requirements and they do not want to be liable if you cannot do so. But here’s the solution:

The Certificate of Expected Graduation can be conditional! It is not a problem for your university to write that your graduation is conditional on completing your remaining classes, passing your thesis, etc. The Certificate of Expected Graduation is asking the university to certify that “it is not impossible for you to graduate” by the expected date.

If your university protests that they cannot certify your graduation, the explanation above has worked in every case that I am aware of!

Proof of outstanding academic achievement from the last institution attended

In almost all cases, you meet this requirement by submitting your certificate of grades, including an explanation of your grading system. For more on what an explanation of grading system is, please refer to the article linked in the previous sentence.

If you do not have any grades because your program does not issue them, such as a research-only degree, then your Letter of Recommendation, described below, can meet this requirement if it explicitly states that you are in the top 30% of students in your college/graduate school/university, with objective facts to back up that assertion, such as your order of merit.

While the two options above will meet the requirement for well over 99% of applicants, if you have further proof of your outstanding academic performance, you can submit those as well. Examples would be statements of order of merit, awards for top graduate in your department, etc., awards earned at conferences or competitions, or publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Letter of Recommendation from the Dean or higher at last institution attended

*Please note, the requirements described below apply to the University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship only. The Letter of Recommendation requirements for the Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship are different, so if you are applying for that scholarship, please refer to my separate articles about that process!

There are several important requirements for your Letter of Recommendation, which I will cover below.

What University Should it Come From?

First, your Letter of Recommendation needs to come from your most recent university attended. That is the university where you are enrolled as a degree-seeking student or the most recent university you graduated from, if you are not a student. There are no exceptions permitted. It doesn’t matter if your most recent university was in another country, if you are closer to a professor from a past university, if you have been working as a researcher at a university, or if you were a study abroad student in Japan, etc. It has to be the most recent university where you earned your most recent degree.

Who Should Write It?

A Dean of your faculty or someone in a higher position must sign the letter.

If your university does not use the title “Dean”, then to find the equivalent person, you would need the administrative head of a “faculty”, “school”, or “college”. That person should report directly to the Provost, or head of all academic affairs for the university (unless the Dean is doing double duty as the provost).

How Do You Get the Dean to Sign It?

Let’s get this straight, first: The Dean needs to sign your letter of recommendation. The Dean does not have to (and in most cases should not) write it. This is something that trips up applicants all the time. They think that they need to walk into the Dean’s office–when the Dean does not know them personally–and convince the Dean to write them a letter.

That’s not the right way to go about it. Here’s why:

  1. You should never ask someone to write you a letter of recommendation from scratch! Always offer them a draft or, at the very least, a bullet list of your significant achievements that you want included.
     
  2. You probably should not be going directly to the Dean, either, unless you already know them. Start with your adviser. Show your adviser or a trusted professor the draft, ask for their help in editing it, then ask if the adviser will approach the Dean on your behalf. If there are multiple levels between your advisor and the Dean (e.g. department head, etc.), be prepared to talk to each person in turn.

If you were one of the top students in your field, you should have a good relationship with your adviser, and your adviser should have no trouble talking the Dean into signing the letter.

You can also have your adviser/trusted professor sign the letter and have the dean counter-sign it. That means that you would have signature blocks for both your advisor and the Dean.

What Does it Have to Include?

The letter needs to be addressed to the President of the university you are applying to–use the title!–be signed by the Dean (with his or her title, as well), and somewhere in the body include the words “I recommend [your name] for the Monbukagakusho Scholarship at [university you are applying to].”

Everything else is just window dressing. It helps to list your most significant academic achievements or activities that indicate that you would do well in an international environment, but most times, your letter of recommendation will not have much of an impact on your application evaluation since almost every applicant is going to have a superlative Letter of Recommendation and there is little room for objective differentiation between them.

Abstract of Thesis

If you have written or will be writing a graduation thesis or any other published work (as listed in your application form), you need to include a half-page to full-page abstract (summary) of it with your application. Do not send the entire thesis (unless your university asks for it). Nobody has time to read that.

Since you are only sending an abstract, you can write one even if you haven’t finished the thesis itself or gotten it approved. If you wrote your original thesis in a language other than English or Japanese, you can still write an abstract on your own in English. You would not need to translate it into Japanese!

If you have a graduation thesis, submit an abstract of that paper, even if it is off topic from what you plan to apply to study in Japan. This still applies if you graduated years ago and have since written and published academic papers that you consider to be better. Of course, if you have other published works, you should include abstracts of those, too.

No Graduation Thesis?

If you do not have a graduation thesis, then you should contact the university for further instructions (or look at their application guidelines from the previous year), but here are a few common alternatives:

  • Abstract/summary of equivalent graduation project
  • Abstract of a published paper or paper presented at a conference
  • Abstract of a term paper (in the class that was closest to what you plan to study in Japan)

Proof of Linguistic Ability

You only need to submit proof of your ability in the language of instruction for your degree in Japan. That proof should meet the requirements I listed in the eligibility section above.

This is one of those requirements that can hurt you if you don’t prepare before the guidelines come out. It’s nearly impossible to get an official language proficiency test score on short notice, and it is impossible if that language is Japanese, since the JLPT is only offered twice per year. If you are planning ahead to apply for the University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship, make sure that you have your language proficiency test done and score report available before the application period begins. Score reports are good for two years in most cases, so you do not need to worry about preparing too early.

One way to meet the language proficiency requirements is if you completed your previous degree entirely in English or Japanese. In that case, you would need a letter from your university saying so. Otherwise, you would need official language proficiency test scores.

Other Requirements

There will probably be a certificate of health required. As I mentioned above, many universities use the Certificate of Health format from the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship, but not all do. I recommend that you wait until the official application guidelines are available from your university before getting this documentation, since it can be costly in some countries. However, be prepared to make a doctor’s appointment and get the certificate in time to submit it by the university’s deadline!

Universities may also have additional requirements, such as their own forms for you to complete, or additional tests and certifications, like GRE, GMAT, etc. The only way to find out for sure is to check that university’s website, so make sure that you are doing your research in advance.

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 by the dates below. That means that universities must finish their internal selection procedures, inform applicants of the results and confirm that all applicants are still willing to accept the scholarship by those dates. The results may be even earlier if the university has not yet asked you to submit all the documents above and needs to ask you to send them after the results are out.

Deadlines for universities to submit nominations to MEXT

*Based on the 2023/2024 application cycle.

  • PGP Scholarships (April Start): January 16, 2024
  • General Category Scholarships (September/October Start): March 4, 2024
  • PGP Scholarships (September/October Start): March 4, 2024

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 early-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 unsuccessful this year and you should start preparing for the next Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship application process, which will probably 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 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 by the end of February for PGP applicants arriving in April or mid-June for all applicants arriving in the fall, but it is not uncommon for the results to be late. So, expect that the results will be a little later than those dates. Those are also the dates when MEXT releases the results 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. In 2019, 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. Since then, however, the maximum number of slots was reduced dramatically (maximum of 3 instead of 9 like it was in 2019!), so I do not think this should be a risk in the future, but nothing is sure with MEXT.

Want to Maximize Your Chance to Win the MEXT Scholarship?

I have written three books under the Mastering the MEXT Scholarship series that go into more detail than I can possibly cover in a simple blog article–even one this long! Each of these books cover different aspects of the application and should give you an advantage over most other applicants out there. They are available in ebook or print format. You can also ask your local public or university library to purchase them in print or ebook format instead, so that you can read them for free! Please see the links below for more details about what each book covers, purchase links, and the details that libraries would need to make the order.

  1. How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship: Information about the scholarship goals, eligibility, and how to create an application strategy to increase your chances.
     
  2. How to Write a Scholarship-Winning Field of Study and Research Program Plan: Everything you need to know about the most important document in the MEXT Scholarship application, from developing and testing a research question through to formatting your plan for submission.
     
  3. How to Find Your Best Degree Program and Advisor for the MEXT Scholarship: How to choose the university and supervisor in Japan that is best for you, along with contact strategies and templates.
     
  4. Special Thanks

    Special thanks to the TranSenz supporters on Patreon, who help keep this site running through their generous contributions. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your continued support! If this site has helped you in your application process and you want to “pay it forward” to keep the site running to help future applicants, every contribution helps!

    Questions?

    Let me know in the comments below!

16 Comments

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