About OIST

About OIST

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What is OIST?

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) is an interdisciplinary graduate school offering a 5-year PhD program in Science and Engineering . It was founded by the Japanese government to contribute to science and technology worldwide, attract leading researchers from Japan and around the world to conduct high-quality research, advance the development of a world-class research hub, and nucleate a knowledge cluster that will catalyze technology transfer and industrial innovation in Okinawa.

Read the Strategic Plan to learn about OIST ideals and guiding principles.

What makes OIST unique?

  • Governance structure unique to Japan and modeled on international best practices
  • Cross-disciplinary approach to education and research
  • International and diverse faculty, administration, and student community, with English as the common language
  • High-trust funding for education and research
  • Faculty independence and freedom of research
  • Commitment to economic development of Okinawa


The university’s unique governance structure is designed to allow OIST to innovate in governance as well as in science and technology.

Go to Leadership and Governance for details about the university’s leaders and the structure of the organization.


There are no departments, and courses are not restricted to a single discipline. To describe research topics within OIST, faculty-defined research specialties are used.

Explore OIST research through research specialties

International and diverse English-language community

Over half of the faculty and students are recruited from outside Japan, and education and research are conducted entirely in English. All employees and students are required to be able to use English, but many take voluntary Japanese classes offered for free by the university. OIST is actively working to increase the diversity of the faculty, students, and staff.


As of May 2024, OIST has 1,108 employees from 69 countries and territories.

  Total International Women
Faculty 89 57 (64%) 17 (19%)
Research Unit Staff 495 342 (69%) 186 (38%)
Research Support Staff 67 32 (48%) 24 (36%)
Administrative Staff 457 84 (18%) 330 (72%)
Total 1,108 515 (46%) 557 (50%)

PhD Students

As of May 2024, OIST has 272 PhD students from 53 countries and territories.

Total International Women
PhD Students 272 80% 39%

Go to Facts and Figures for more details about student and employee numbers and nationalities.


OIST is a Special Private School Corporation, funded mostly by the Japanese government. High-trust funding enables faculty to focus on research and explore ambitious, long-term research topics. Funding is not tied to a project, allowing freedom and flexibility to pursue high-risk but high-reward ideas. Students receive financial support that covers tuition and living expenses, allowing them to focus on completing their degrees and contributing to the research output of the university.


Each faculty member, including assistant and associate professors, lead independent research units with their own budgets and are responsible for their own research agenda.

Economic Development of Okinawa

OIST is committed to accelerating the economic growth of Okinawa and Japan through industry partnerships and entrepreneurship, with the goal of developing a diversified economy in Okinawa with global entrepreneurial talent to make Okinawa an innovation hub.

Learn about OIST Innovation and the university’s economic impact on Okinawa.

The university also contributes directly to Okinawa through outreach programs and activities that address problems important to Japanese and global society, such as:

  • Health and Aging
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Climate Change
  • Education

Learn more about all the ways in which OIST contributes to Okinawa.


Okinawa includes around 150 islands in the East China Sea, between Taiwan and the Japanese mainland. The southern-most prefecture in Japan, it has a subtropical climate, coral reefs, and rain forests.

OIST is located on 500 acres of subtropical hillside in rural Onna Village, famous throughout Japan for diving and snorkeling. The campus buildings evoke a futuristic Okinawan castle, with soaring skywalks, shimmering lakes, ramparts overlooking beautiful forest, and curved rock walls.

World map showing the location of Okinawa and OIST