Ochanomizu University was founded in 1875 as Tokyo Women’s Normal School, Japan’s first institution of higher education for women. Before becoming Ochanomizu University in 1949, named after the neighbourhood of Tokyo where it was originally situated, the institution also went by four other titles.
The original campus was destroyed in an earthquake in 1932 and rebuilt four years later in the Ōtsuka neighborhood of Bunkyō, Tokyo. The university gained full university status under Japan's National University Corporation Law in 2004.
Ochanomizu University campus also houses a kindergarten, an elementary school, a junior high school, a senior high school, as well as the university and graduate school.
The university’s course offerings have evolved substantially over the years. Ochanomizu now offers a baccalaureate degree for first and second year students across its faculties of letters and education science, human life and environmental sciences, called the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century programme. It provides understanding in the fields of humanities and natural and social sciences. Meanwhile, the Multiple Programme Elective Course system offers a greater flexibility to mix and match courses over various programmes.
Graduate programmes are available across: comparative cultures societies and cultures; human developmental sciences; gender and social sciences; life sciences; advanced sciences and a cooperative major in human centered engineering. Doctorates are available in: comparative studies of societies and cultures; human developmental sciences; interdisciplinary gender studies; life sciences and advanced sciences and cooperative major in human centered engineering.
In 2017, Ochanomizu University introduced "integrated education tracks", a curriculum connecting the baccalaureate degree programmes and the master’s degree programmes in some course areas. The intention is to help specialisation.
Another recent addition, in response to a shortage of women in engineering, is the establishment of a joint doctoral programme in cooperative major in human centered engineering with Nara Women’s University, Japan.
Ochanomizu University has established the Research Organisation for the Promotion of Global Women’s Leadership educational research bases to raise global female leaders. Meanwhile, the Organisation for Human Life Innovation and Development focuses on the growth area of well-being. Other centres supporting education and research include: Centre for Institutional Research, Educational Development, and Learning Support; Centre for International Education; Centre for Soft Matter Physics; IT Centre; Marine and Coastal Research Centre; Centre for Intellectual Property; Students and Career Support Centre; Science & Education Centre; Life-World Watch Centre; Centre for Instrumental Analysis; Radioisotope Research Centre; and Institute of Experimental Animals.
The university currently has 71 partner institutions in 25 countries and runs a number of support programmes and special events for international students.
In 2018, Ochanomizu University became the first women's university in Japan to accept transgender students.