In Japan, public universities refer to schools that are not national universities but are run by local governments, either prefectural or municipal. According to the Ministry of Education, public universities have "provided an opportunity for higher education in a region and served the central role of intellectual and cultural base for the local community in the region", and are "expected to contribute to social, economical and cultural development in the region"; this contrasts to research-oriented aspects of national universities.
As of 2010, there were 95 public universities, compared to 86 national universities and 597 private universities, and 127,872 students attended the schools. The number of the public universities has increased sharply in recent years; in 1980 there were only 34 public universities and in 1993 there were 46. Since July 2003 when the Local Independent Administrative Institutions Law was put into effect, public universities have been allowed to be incorporated. The average tuition in public universities for 2007 fiscal year was 536,238 yen, the average entrance fee 399,351 yen and the average application fee 17,095 yen.
As of 2010, there were 86 national universities (国立大学 kokuritsu daigaku), 95 public universities and 597 private universities in Japan. National universities tend to be held in higher regard in higher education in Japan than private or public universities.
In 2004, the national university system underwent partial privatization. Since 2004, every national university has been incorporated as a "national university corporation" (国立大学法人 kokuritsu daigaku hōjin) and given considerable autonomy in its operations. Faculty and staff are no longer government employees (国家公務員 kokka kōmuin) working for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. University names which shifted are "graduate university" (大学院大学 daigakuin daigaku).