OIST – Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology is an interdisciplinary graduate school offering a 5-year PhD program in Science. Over half of the faculty and students are recruited from outside Japan, and all education and research is conducted entirely in English. OIST research units take a cross-disciplinary approach to research, and the PhD program encourages students to explore the intersections of disparate fields of science and technology. OIST further encourages transdisciplinarity by featuring a department-less organizational structure.


The plan to establish the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) was announced in 2001 by Mr. Koji Omi, Former Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs and Former Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy. In 2005, the Japanese Diet approved a bill to establish Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Promotion Corporation (OIST P.C.) as the organization to prepare the graduate university. That same year, the late Dr. Sydney Brenner was designated as the first President of OIST.

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) was inaugurated in November 2011 following the enactment of OIST School Corporation Act (Act No. 76 of 2009). Dr. Jonathan Dorfan was selected as the first President of the new Graduate University. In September 2012, the OIST Graduate Program officially began with 34 PhD students.

In January 2017, Dr. Peter Gruss succeeded Dr. Jonathan Dorfan as President and CEO of OIST. The following year, the first OIST Graduation Ceremony took place to recognize the achievements of the first OIST students.

Following the groundwork outlined in the Framework Document II, President Gruss set a goal of recruiting top scientists to OIST, with the aim of doubling the number of faculty and students over the next five years.

Vision and Mission

The purpose of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University has always been to conduct internationally outstanding education and research in science and technology, and thus contribute to the sustainable development of Okinawa, and promote and sustain the advancement of science and technology in Japan and throughout the world.

At OIST, we abide by a core set of values that underpin everything that we do:

  • Excellence: We strive for excellence in everything that we do
  • Respectfulness: We are committed to fostering a community which respects the rights of individuals,
  • Responsibility: We accept responsibility for our actions, and for the health, safety and wellbeing of ourselves and others
  • Transparency: We embrace transparency and authenticity, acting honestly, fairly and properly while maintaining the highest ethical standards in all things
  • Sustainability: We aim for sustainability of the environment and in the promotion of Okinawa
  • Diversity: We believe that creativity thrives in a diverse environment in which different cultures come together free from prejudice and discrimination
  • Courage: We want to be pioneers in transdisciplinary research
  • Freedom: We are committed to academic freedom which encourages innovation in a multidisciplinary environment

We are a pioneering graduate University. We do research that bridges disciplines to explore new frontiers of scientific knowledge. We educate a new generation of scientific leaders. We are a catalyst for an Innovation Hub in Okinawa.

Our vision is the advancement of knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

Size and Scope

In the few short years since OIST welcomed its first students in September 2012, we have grown from 44 to 65 Faculty Units, enrolled more than 200 students and graduated more than 24 of them, published over 1000 papers in academic journals, accumulated over 90 patents, constructed a Marine Station, an Engineering Building, a laboratory building and nearly completed another, and currently employ nearly 1,000 administrative and research staff,. We are building a pioneering University to do outstanding research, educate a new generation of science leaders and delivering the benefits to Okinawa, Japan and the rest of the world in a uniquely beautiful physical environment and an innovative multi-disciplinary intellectual environment.

OIST is a rapidly growing university, aiming to reach 100 Faculty Units in 2023, and continuing to expand by roughly 10 Faculty per year until the eventual goal of 300 is achieved.


In July 2015, an External Peer Review Panel consisting of renowned scientists produced a report detailing OIST’s progress. The panel acknowledged the outstanding scientific success of OIST and recognized “that the rapid achievement of the initial phase of the University results from the Japanese government’s steadfast commitment to the bold vision and to the generous financial support that has been provided”. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also recognized the potential of OIST, noting the “prominent faculty whose work has Nobel prize potential and top-class students” in a speech.

Additionally, OIST has been recognized by Nature Index as one of top academic institutions in Japan (2018) and as one of the most international (2019), and was shortlisted by the Times Higher Education Awards Asia 2019 for “Outstanding Support for Students”.

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