About the course
The MPhil in Japanese Studies is a two-year programme offered jointly by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) and the Faculty of Oriental Studies that combines intensive language courses, three courses about Japan, research methods courses and a 30,000-word dissertation. Native speakers of Japanese take two additional courses about Japan.
The MPhil in Japanese Studies is designed as a two-year, six-term taught programme that comprises advanced research training focusing on developing language skills and on deepening your understanding of contemporary Japan.
It acts either as a foundation for those intending to seek employment working in Japan or with Japan, or as a preparation for further research on Japan on a doctoral programme at Oxford or elsewhere. It is taught by full-time members of the Nissan and Oriental Institutes and all the courses are designed for master's-level students.
The department does not teach Japanese for beginners but rather aims to develop your existing language skill to the level at which you can use it to conduct research about Japan. The department's courses aim to take you from a minimum of JLPT Level 3 up to and beyond Level 1.
There are eight components to the MPhil degree.
In the first year, you will take:
- a core course on research methods
- two courses about Japan chosen from the following options (please note that not all options may be offered every year):
- Modern Transnational History of Japan
- Japanese Linguistics (The History and Structure of Japanese)
- Modern Japanese Literature
- Japanese Politics
- Economy and Business of Japan
- Japanese Social Anthropology
- Sociology of Japanese Society
- Classical Japanese Literature
- Classical Japanese Language
- Old (8th century) Japanese Texts
- Texts in Modern Japanese Literature
- Texts in Japanese Linguistics
- Classical Japanese Texts
- the Japanese language course (or a further course about Japan if you have native-speaker language competence).
- one or more courses on research methods in the appropriate department
- one course about Japan
- the advanced Japanese language course or a further course about Japan
- a thesis of 30,000 words.
All the courses about Japan have been designed for students at the graduate level and most students will be on the Japanese studies programme. Some courses may also be taken by students who are studying elsewhere in the university - for example, the course on Japanese politics is an option for both Japanese studies students and students on the MPhil in Politics (Comparative Government).
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies.
A range of assessment methods is used:
- the research methods course is assessed on the basis of projects and tasks set in the course of teaching;
- the language course is assessed through a combination of tests and quizzes set during the year and a final examination;
- the courses about Japan are assessed by a three-hour written examination in English in the chosen subjects; and
- a thesis of 30,000 words.
Progression to the second year is conditional on satisfactory performance in the first year.
There are three typical career courses that the department’s graduates pursue. The first is further study on discipline-based graduate programmes either in Oxford, elsewhere in the UK or overseas, including the US and Japan.
The second career pattern of the department’s graduates is to work in Japan or with Japanese employers. Recent examples include Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Fuso (Daimler Trucks) and Mitsui-Sumitomo Bank. Not only Japanese native speakers but also non-native-speaker graduates obtain employment in Japan or with Japanese companies outside Japan, making full use of their enhanced Japanese language skills and social science knowledge of Japan.
The third route is to professional careers with such companies as Accenture, KPMG, and Ernst & Young, in which the department’s alumni can utilise their presentation skills both in English and Japanese, and their critical thinking skills.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
Courses suggested by the lead school
Oriental Studies DPhil
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Oriental Studies
Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any subject or discipline, although it is preferable to have some social sciences or humanities background.
Preference may be given to those who have previously studied social sciences or humanities.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- For non-native speakers of Japanese, Japanese language proficiency equivalent to the Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Proficiency Level N4 is required, and in general, an aptitude for Japanese language learning. Please submit a copy of your test certificate with your application. If you have no certificate of your language proficiency, and are unable to take the test in time because of the COVID-19 circumstances, you will be asked to take an on-line test and have an interview in Japanese so that we can assess your level. The offer of a place on the programme will be conditional on you having an acceptable language competence equivalent to JLPT Level N4 or above.
- Evidence of training in the Japanese language is required.
- Research or working experience in Japan may be an advantage.
- Publications are not required.
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
English language requirement
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
|TOEFL iBT (Institution code: 0490)||110||Listening: 22|
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
Oxford University IT Services runs courses on various computer programmes and can offer help and guidance.
Oxford University has an extensive library system and the Bodleian Japanese Library (BJL) is the main lending service within the University for the material you will require. A large part of its material can be borrowed for a limited period. It is located within the same building as the Nissan Institute. A tutorial on using the library and IT facilities will be provided during the first weeks of the programme by the librarian of the BJL.
The Nissan Institute provides students with the use of a study room that has desk space, chairs. Individual lockers are provided for storage of student belongings. Wireless internet access is available throughout the building. The student room also contains a collection of Japanese and English books and dictionaries, DVDs and a DVD/VCR player, a TV and access to JSTV, the Japanese language television service. This room is available to all students on the MSc and MPhil courses during normal office hours.
The Nissan Institute Seminar runs weekly over the Michaelmas (autumn), Hilary (spring) and well into Trinity (summer) terms. Each week, speakers with a national and international reputation in Japanese studies are invited to present a paper about their current research. Attendance at the Nissan Institute Seminar is an integral part of the programme.
In addition, the Nissan Research Seminar provides an arena for graduate students working on Japan to meet weekly during Michaelmas and Trinity terms to exchange ideas about their work in progress. Master’s students are welcomed into this graduate research community.
The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources. Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the following faculty websites:
- Funding information from the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
- Funding information from the Faculty of Oriental Studies
Annual fees for entry in 2021-22
Annual Course fees
|Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,|
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
|Overseas (including EU)||£24,450|
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses. Standard travel insurance can be provided by the University. However, students may be required to pay any additional insurance premiums associated with travel to areas with an increased level of risk, and should factor this into their planning for fieldwork.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs).
For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges.
The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Japanese Studies:
How to apply
You may wish to communicate with the department via the contact details provided on this page to discuss course content, teaching, assessment and to ask any questions. However, it is not necessary to contact academic staff before you apply.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 500 words
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- relevant academic, research, or practical experience
- your reasons for applying to this particular programme of study
- areas of study in the subject that interest you
- the ability to present a reasoned case in English.
Your statement should focus on academic rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.
Two essays of a maximum of 2,000 words each
Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible.
If necessary, you should arrange translation of your written work into English. Where written work has been translated, you must ensure that the fact it has been translated, and the person and the method of translation, is clearly identified.
The work does not necessarily need to relate closely to the proposed area of study. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- comprehensive understanding of the subject area
- ability to construct an defend an argument
- powers of analysis
- powers of expression
- presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.
Certificate of Japanese language proficiency
A degree of Japanese language proficiency equivalent to the Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Proficiency Level N4 is required. Please upload your score report to your application as a transcript.
This will be assessed for evidence of your Japanese language proficiency.
If you have no certificate of your language proficiency, and are unable to take the test in time because of the COVID-19 circumstances, you will be asked to take an on-line test and have an interview in Japanese so that we can assess your level. The offer of a place on the programme will be conditional on you having an acceptable language competence equivalent to JLPT Level N4 or above.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least two must be academic
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
References should generally be academic, though you may provide one professional reference if you would like.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in a group and fitness for chosen course of study.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.
Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.
Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).