Sakura Mentor

Applying to the PhD program at OIST
Johannes Nicolaus Wibisana Updated in July 2024

For students interested in pursuing a PhD in Japan, OIST (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology) offers a compelling opportunity. OIST is a young, rapidly developing international institute located on the island of Okinawa, in southern Japan. The campus boasts a diverse and interdisciplinary research environment with highly competitive funding schemes for PhD students. Applicants only need a bachelor’s degree to apply for the 5-year PhD program.

Photo: OIST


OIST provides generous support for its PhD students. All PhD students receive a research assistantship of 2.52 million JPY per year, which increases with academic progress. The tuition cost of 648,000 JPY per year is also covered. Housing is mostly subsidized, typically costing around 21,500 JPY per month. Additionally, moving costs are covered, and for those with children, there is a childcare facility on campus. Students also receive travel support for conferences once a year. These benefits are highly generous compared to other universities in Japan.

Other support services available to international students include Japanese and English classes for the entire OIST community, translation support for documents often provided only in Japanese, an on-campus clinic, mental wellbeing support, and free access to the gym for students.

Application process of the PhD program

There are 3 enrollment periods in a year, in May, September and January. The application to the PhD program is free of charge and applicants need to submit at least 2 letters of recommendation, academic transcript, statement of purpose, and an English proficiency score. In my experience at least, I was not required an English proficiency score as my previous education was in English.

Shortlisted candidates will be flown to OIST campus for interviews with OIST faculty members where costs for transportation, accommodation and food will be covered by OIST. This will be a very good chance for candidates to see how research is conducted at OIST and meet the community to see if OIST is a good place for them.

I hope this information will be helpful for students trying to decide on a PhD program in Japan. The admissions team at OIST ( is also very helpful and you should reach out to them if you have any other questions that are more details.

Upon use, please cite “Photo: OIST”.