MPhil in Japanese Studies
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 Asian and Middle Eastern Studies that combines intensive language courses, three courses about Japan, research methods courses and a 30,000-word thesis. 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 (within the Oxford School of Global Area Studies) and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 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)(There are prerequisites to study this option)
- Modern Japanese Literature
- Texts in Modern Japanese Literature
- Japanese Politics: Domestic Institutions and International Relations
- Economy and Business of Japan
- Japanese Social Anthropology
- Sociology of Japanese Society
- Classical Japanese Literature
- Classical Japanese Language (There are prerequisites to study this option)
- Texts in Japanese Linguistics (There are prerequisites to study this option)
- Classical Japanese Texts (There are prerequisites to study this option)
- 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).
Handwriting as a competence standard
Mastering the ability to handwrite in Japanese has been identified as a competence standard for an assessment for an optional component of this course. This means that students will be required to produce handwritten work for assessment and it will not be possible to complete the assessment for that optional component in an alternative format.
If you are interested in this course and your personal circumstances mean that handwriting may present a challenge, please contact the school/faculty for further information using the contact details provided in the Further information and enquires section of this page.
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.
You should try to see your supervisor two or three times each term.
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 written examination in English in the chosen subjects; and
- a thesis.
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.
For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.
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
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- 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 were unable to take the test because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 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.
English language proficiency
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, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*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.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
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.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
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.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also 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 and 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. 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 around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. 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 December or 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 any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
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 Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Annual fees for entry in 2023-24
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
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 changes 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.
Where can I find further information about fees?
The Fees and Funding section of this website provides further information about course fees, including information about fee status and eligibility and your length of fee liability.
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 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
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:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
However, of you wish to discuss course content, teaching, assessment and to ask any questions, you can contact the course administrator via the contact details provided on this page.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
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.
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 were unable to take the test because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you will be asked to take an online 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.
Start or continue your application
You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.