Tohoku’s Hidden Gem: Akita International University

Akita International University has been recognized in Japan as well as in the world despite being a ‘newcomer’ as compared to other established universities in the country. Established in the earlier part of the 21st century, it promotes an approach to liberal arts that is very relevant to today.

Top Photo credit: 掬茶, CC BY-SA 3.0, ウィキメディア・コモンズ経由で

Table of Contents

  1. History and Philosophy of Akita International University
  2. Academics at Akita International University
  3. Campus life at Akita University
  4. Summary

History and Philosophy of Akita International University

You may have never heard of Akita or Akita International University, but AIU is one of the best colleges in Japan, which is evident with its ranking and recognition. This academic establishment was ratified by the Ministry of Education in November of 2003, making it a younger university compared to some of the well-known schools in Japan. It finally opened to the public in April 2004 and has since opened many programmes for its local and foreign students. After all, it was the first university in Japan to offer classes in all subjects in the English language - for comparison, most universities in Japan even today only have a few courses available that are entirely in English - thus AIU lives up its name as an international academic establishment.

※Akita International University, "About AIU - History"

AIU spirit and institutional philosophy

Students admitted are encouraged to explore liberal arts which equals getting out of their comfort zone, indulging their mind in new opportunities of knowledge enhancement. “AIU Spirit” is one of the motivations to be a better person, scholar and global leader.

And AIU proves that it’s a great place to do so as it’s earned the following in previous years:

  • Recognized as a Leading International University by the Japanese Ministry of Education for the Top Global University Project (only 24 of 775 universities in Japan are recognized as such)

  • Ranked #1 in Times Higher Education’s Japan University Rankings 2020 for environment and engagement while being #10 best University in Japan in the same year

  • Designated the best global university by Daigaku Tsushin, a publishing company specializing in university entrance exams and educational materials

※ Akita International University, "About AIU"
※Top Global University

Academics at Akita International University

Photo Credit: Peguim, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So now that we’ve established that AIU is a great university, especially for international students and those interested in becoming international leaders, here’s a brief look at their academics and how to apply.

AIU offers 4 major undergraduate programs - Japan Studies,  Global Business, Global Studies and Global Connectivity (this last one was just added in 2021). Degrees are offered in Global Business and Global Studies. As mentioned above, all courses are offered in the English language. Half of the professors at the university are of a foreign background.  Along with their programs, you can also take their extensive offerings of Japanese language courses. 

The university also has three graduate programs - Japanese Language Teaching, English Language Teaching, and Global Communication practices.

And no matter what program you're in, you can study at one of the most beautiful libraries in Japan, pictured above! 

The International Commitment of AIU

Students are required to study outside Japan for one year in one of the 200 partner universities of AIU. Most of the foreign students are transfers from their affiliated institutions in their home country as AIU offers short term programs as well, involved in the Japanese Language and other degrees offered in both graduate and undergraduate programs.

In 2019, AIU had almost 200 foreign exchange students from different continents, showing its strong ties in the multicultural system. 

But of course, you can apply to study for the full 4 year program at AIU as well. 

※ Akita International University, "About AIU"

Acceptance rates at AIU

AIU is a small yet competitive public university and upholds the highest standard when it comes to scholastic performance. In accordance with the summation of candidates and students admitted for the 2019 school year, AIU has an acceptance rate of 9.3% for the class of 2023. And since only about 20 out of around 800 students are international students, the competition is quite fierce to study at this high ranking school. Of course, chances are much much higher for transfers and exchange students.

※ Akita International University, "About AIU - Quick Facts"

Applying to AIU

Please check the following page in terms of the application process to AIU, whether applying as an international transfer or as a degree program applicant. They accept students twice a year, in April and September and there are 16 - yes you read that right - different types of entrance exams available to fit the needs of different students. Please check the link to get all the information. And yes, applications are in English!

Campus life at Akita University

Photo Credit: 掬茶, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

And of course, campus life is also key to choosing a university. Well, Akita University has lots to offer in this regard. 

First of all, let’s talk about location. AIU is located in Akita City, Akita Prefecture. It’s near the top of Honshu, one of the main islands in Japan. So while you’re a ways away from perhaps the much more recognizable Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto, you’ll be in the capital city of the prefecture. But you’ll also be in the midst of nature as well. So you have the options of both hiking in nature AND shopping, both not more than 10 minutes from campus. Plus an airport is just right off campus! So access to the rest of the country is right there and easy. 

Now let’s talk about the campus itself.

The university campus has both contemporary structures and the raw beauty of trees, flowers, and fresh air. Living in modern times within the premises of a natural environment is achievable in this institution.

AIU consists of 43 clubs where students are engaged in fun activities while socializing with the diverse student body; and allows participants to be immersed in relative public services and community engagements well.

A variety of modern facilities where you can enjoy common leisure activities such as basketball, baseball, and tennis are just a few minutes of walk from the university.

Sum Up of Perks of Living on Campus and in Akita

Here are just some of the fun perks to look forward to as a student at AIU:

  • Themed dormitories called Themed Houses

  • Winter sports as Akita gets abundant snow and has great sports facilities - the campus is close to some ski trails as well!

  • Great food, as Akita borders the sea and promises the best of both seafood and hot meals to warm residents up for winter

  • Being surrounded by nature - close to the mountains and the sea and the campus itself being in a forest

  • Plenty of campus events, field trips, community outreach and the options to take part in Akita’s many festivals 

  • Ample support offered in terms of health, medical issues, disabilities, counseling and career counseling

  • Easy access to a shopping mall, the main station, and the airport

And many more things that only students who attend will be able to fully experience!


Photo Credit: Peguim, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Akita International University has made its reputation as a globally conscious and outstanding school. This could be the dream school of anyone who has discovered the beauty of this institution, from the buildings to the location to the support on and off campus. But what makes it truly essential is the sentiment and careful attention given to every student, which, in fact, is not common to all universities. Definitely a university worth considering. 

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