MSc in Japanese Studies | University of Oxford
Nara Park
A parasol in Nara Park, Japan
(Image Credit: Kok Leng Yao / Flickr)

MSc in Japanese Studies

About the course

This is a twelve-month programme offered jointly by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA) and the Faculty of Oriental Studies that combines courses about Japan, an intensive language programme, a research methods course and a 12,000-word dissertation. Native speakers of Japanese or those with native speaker competence are also encouraged to apply.

The MSc in Japanese Studies is intended to be both a stand-alone course for those seeking to improve their language skills and an interdisciplinary introduction to the study of modern Japan. 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 language for beginners. However, it does offer language teaching which will equip you to do research about Japan. The levels range from JLPT Level 3 up to and beyond Level 1.

The course acts as either a foundation for those intending to seek employment working in Japan or with Japan, or as a preparation for further research on Japan either on the follow-on MPhil course or on a doctoral programme at Oxford or elsewhere. It is taught over three terms.

There are five components to the MSc degree:

  • a core course on research methods
  • two courses about Japan chosen from the following options (NB not all options may be offered every year):
    • Modern Translational 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, if you have native speaker language competence, a further course about Japan
  • a dissertation of 12,000 words.

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 students in Japanese studies and students on the MPhil in Politics (Comparative Government).

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 an end-of-year examination. The courses about Japan are assessed by a three-hour written examination in English in the chosen subjects. The research project (dissertation) is examined for its competence, conceptual grasp and innovation soon after submission on 1 September.

Supervision

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.

Graduate destinations

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on 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.

Oxford 1+1 MBA programme

This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

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.
  • 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 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.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

Supporting documents 

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.

Supervision

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: 

Financial Declaration

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.

Resources

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 at 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, 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. 

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£10,880
Overseas£23,505

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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

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.

Living costs

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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

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:

Official transcript(s)

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.

CV/résumé

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:
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. 

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.

Written work:
Two essays 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.

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. 

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.

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).

Application GuideApply

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