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R&D activities and tertiary education in Japan

Japan is one of the world’s most active nations in terms of research and development (R&D). In 2010, it had some 840 000 researchers (including those in humanities and social sciences), of which 490 000 worked in companies, 309 000 in universities and 33 000 in public research institutes (PRIs). Although research expenditures in that year accounted for 3.57% of GDP, government-financed R&D expenditure was just 19.3% of the national total. Universities performed 20.1% and PRIs 8.3%. Universities account for the major share of publicly funded R&D.

Japan has three types of universities: national, (non-national) public and private. In 2010, national universities accounted for 45% of researchers in the university sector, public universities for 7% and private universities for 48%. In financial year (FY) 2010, national universities accounted for 41% of research expenditure, public universities for 5% and private universities for 53%. National universities are only 11% of the total number of universities, however, while non-national public and private universities represent 12% and 77%, respectively. As these figures indicate, research activities are concentrated in the relatively fewer national universities, particularly for the natural sciences.

Japan’s postgraduate system mainly involves a master’s programme (first term of doctoral programme) and a doctoral programme (second term of doctoral programme). A professional degree programme was added in 2003 (Figure 7.1).

Figure 7.1. Japan’s graduate education, with standard number of years for completion

Source: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology.

The number of graduate students has skyrocketed since the 1990s. They numbered 90 000 (of which 28 000 in doctoral programmes) in 1990; 153 000 (44 000) in FY 1995; 205 000 (62 000) in FY 2000; 254 000 (75 000) in FY 2005; and 271 000 (74 000) in FY 2010.

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