Asian Studies

What and how you’ll study

Degree combinations, teaching methods, and a year-by-year guide to your learning.

Degree combinations

We are unique in Scotland in offering four-year MA honours language programmes that include a full year studying abroad. Our University is ranked third in the UK, and 12th in the world, for Modern Languages in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020, and 11th in the world for Arts and Humanities.

Even as a complete beginner, you can study Japanese to degree level with us. You can take it as a single honours programme, or as a joint honours programme with Linguistics. There is also the option to study an MA in International Business with Japanese; it doesn’t follow the same structure as the other two programmes, but it’s still a four-year degree, with a year abroad element.

One of the most attractive characteristics of the MA degree at the University of Edinburgh is its flexibility. In the first two (pre-honours) years, you’ll likely get to choose other outside subjects drawn from a broad list of disciplines. This may enable you to change the focus of your degree, if you discover that your outside subject is one that you want to take on into the final two (honours) years.

Teaching and assessment

Japanese is taught in small groups by a friendly team, many of whom are native speakers. Language learning is intensive, with regular classroom tuition – including through computer-assisted learning – and access to a wide range of video and audio recordings.

We’ve designed our degree to introduce skills and knowledge step-by-step, with a focus in the first year on helping you transition from school to university. Our courses are mostly taught in seminars and tutorials, so you will have plenty of opportunity to contribute to class discussion and receive feedback on your progress.

You will be assessed by a combination of exams, class exercises and coursework. On your year abroad, you will either be assessed by your host university or will submit written assignments to us, depending on your placement.

There are lots of support systems to help you with your learning, from your Personal Tutor to our web-based hub, Support for Success in LLC. We have an in-house Screening Room, computing labs and Study Resource Centre, and the Main University Library is just across the square from us, housing over 5,000 Japanese language titles in its East Asian Studies Collection.

Our Japanese Studies Peer Support group is an award-winning resource, and the Students’ Association provides further scope to get involved in group learning. Its Tandem Language Exchange Programme was voted the inaugural winner of the Student Collaboration Award.


You’ll study Japanese for four years, taking courses worth 120 credits each year*. 

Years one and two

Depending on your existing language skills, you will study Japanese language at beginner, post-beginner or advanced level, learning both spoken and written Japanese. Teaching will cover kana writing (the Japanese phonetic writing), and an introduction to some kanji (Japanese characters).

Each year, these courses count for 40 credits out of a total of 120 you must complete

In year one, single honours students will take compulsory courses in Academic Skills for Asian Studies, and Modern East Asian History: a political, social and cultural history of Japan from 1600 to the present day.

In year two, single honours students will take a compulsory course in Researching Japan: Skills, Methods and Critiques.

If you are taking a joint honours degree in Japanese and Linguistics, you can choose to take these courses in addition to the compulsory courses (worth 40 credits) you’ll have for your partner subject. If that’s the case, you’ll simply take fewer outside courses.

Each year, these courses count for 40 credits out of a total of 120 you must complete

You’ll gain the rest of your credits from outside courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh. Each year, these courses count for 40 credits out of a total of 120 you must complete

Year three

You’ll spend your third year abroad in Japan, turning classroom learning into living engagement with Japanese and East Asian culture.

You’ll spend a minimum of 30 weeks in Japan, where you’ll develop your language skills and cultural awareness, and start work on your own research project.

We currently have exchange relationships with some of the country’s best universities.

The year abroad is a truly transformative experience, and one of the highlights of your degree. Our graduates have told us how much it has benefitted their broader life experience and skills, as well as their understanding of Japan and East Asia.

Year four

In your final year, you’ll refine your advanced language skills in Japanese, including in translation, writing and oral communication.

You’ll also take specialist option courses taught by research-active experts. There’s a wide range to choose from, from Japanese Buddhism to Contemporary Japanese Cinema, and including comparative coursework on Japan’s relations with Korea and China.

If you are doing a joint degree, you’ll have option courses for Linguistics too.

If you’re taking Japanese as a single honours student, you’ll be expected to engage with research by writing a dissertation of between eight and ten thousand words. Joint honours students may choose to do a dissertation in language sciences. A dissertation is your chance to focus on a subject that’s of particular interest to you and must involve independent research, but you’ll be supervised and directed by one or more members of staff.

You can look in-depth at current courses on our Degree Regulations and Programmes of StudyPlease note that this site is currently showing courses for the 2020/2021 academic year and will be updated in spring 2021 for entry to university in September 2021.

* International Business with Japanese has a different year-by-year structure to our other programmes, including a different Study Abroad component. You can find out more about what you'll study on this programme on the University of Edinburgh's online Degree Finder.

Take me to more information about International Business with Japanese


Find out more and apply

There’s lots of information about our undergraduate Japanese Studies programmes on the University of Edinburgh website. For example, you can find out about entrance requirements, English language requirements, fees, and funding opportunities.

Take me to the University of Edinburgh web page on undergraduate programmes in Japanese Studies

If you’d like to study on any of our undergraduate programmes, you must apply through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

Take me to the University of Edinburgh web page on making a UCAS application

Related links

Read our feature about Support for Success in LLC