Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2020/2021

MA Honours in Japanese

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: The University of Edinburgh
Final award: MA (Hons)
Programme title: Japanese
UCAS code: T210
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Language and Related Studies
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Head of School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
Date of production/revision: May 2012

External summary

The programme aims to enable students with little or no previous knowledge of Japanese language and culture to acquire and develop interest in and understanding of Japan, including the Japanese language, history, literature, culture and society.  It offers society the resource of intellectually trained individuals capable of acting as conduits of knowledge and understanding between Britain and Japan.  The programme is taught within the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.

The first year of study provides a structured introduction to Japanese grammar and also enables students to read and write hiragana and katakana, the Japanese syllabary, as well as approximately 200 Japanese characters (kanji).  There are practical exercises in using Japanese for simple spoken and written communication. In the second year, Japanese 2A is a continuation of Japanese 1 and is aimed at enabling students to speak, read and write Japanese at intermediate level.  Work in the Languages Microlab, introduced in the first year as an optional complement to the teaching, provides students with the opportunity to develop word-processing skills and to acquire computer literacy in Japanese. 

For the third year, the Japanese section has 14 partner universities for exchange programmes, from which students can choose their destination of study, - pending on exchange arrangements with the University’s International Office. Students are prepared for their study abroad in a series of workshops providing individual advice about administrative procedures for each University as well as general briefings.

The main programme aims of the programme are

  • to enable students to understand, evaluate and compare a range of theoretical and methodological frameworks.
  • to enable students to develop and apply their knowledge and skills to the understanding and evaluation of issues and problems in the contemporary world.
  • to enable students to develop and apply key generic skills in critical thinking, research, oral and written articulation of information and argument.
to equip students for progression to a wide variety of careers or to further academic study.

Educational aims of programme

The programme aims to enable students with little or no previous knowledge of Japanese language and culture to acquire and develop interest in and understanding of Japanese speaking countries, including the Japanese language, history, literature, culture and society.  It offers society the resource of intellectually trained individuals capable of acting as conduits of knowledge and understanding between Britain and Japanese-speaking countries.  The programme is taught within the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

  1. Modern spoken and written Japanese
  2. Modern and classical Japanese literature
  3. Japanese history and thought
  4. Political and social issues related to Japanese speaking countries
  5. Linguistic issues related to the Japanese language (its structure, functions, registers, writing systems etc.)
  6. Key methods and concepts of literary, historic and linguistic analysis

Teaching/learning methods and strategies

Japanese language is acquired through small-group classes, tutorials and regular, assessed coursework.  Additional support is provided through the self-access facilities for language learning at the Language and Humanities Centre and the Languages MicroLab.  The third year abroad provides total immersion in the Japanese language and culture.

Knowledge of Japanese literature, history, thought, culture and society is acquired through a combination of lectures and tutorials or seminars including group discussion and individual or joint presentations.


Testing on the knowledge base is through unseen written examinations in all areas, combined with assessed regular language exercises and oral examinations in Japanese language; and essays, coursework assignments and a dissertation in Japanese studies.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

  1. to reason critically and cogently
  2. to apply linguistic, literary and historical concepts
  3. to identify and solve problems
  4. to analyse and interpret information and texts
  5. to find information on and use information technology
  6. to use the Internet and bibliographic resources in both Japanese and English
  7. retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of sources and media, including those in the target language;

Teaching/learning methods and strategies

Intellectual skills are developed through the teaching and learning programme outlined above.  Each course, whatever the format of the teaching, involves discussion of the key issues, practice in applying concepts both orally and in writing, analysis and interpretation of material and individual feedback on work produced.


The variety of assessment methods employed all place great emphasis on the learner’s ability to demonstrate the above skills through the production of cogent and coherent written and oral responses to problems and tasks set.  Essays and dissertations produced in the Honours years provide an especially valuable vehicle for the training of those skills.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

  1. to work independently
  2. to be self-reliant
  3. to assess and respond to the ideas of others
  4. to demonstrate and exercise independence of mind and thought
  5. distinguish relevant from irrelevant considerations in argument
  6. construct clearly organised arguments

Teaching/learning methods and strategies

All courses require written work, usually in the form of essays, and regular feedback is given to the learners in order to develop their understanding and power of expression.  Teamwork and leadership skills are acquired through active contributions to tutorials and seminars, both as group members and discussion leaders.  Time management is learned through the expectation to submit coursework by prescribed deadlines notified at the outset of each course.  Teamwork and assessment and response to the ideas of others are developed in classes, seminars and tutorials, which rely on discussion and interaction, as well as presentations by individuals and groups of students.  Independent work and self-reliance are developed during the year abroad.  IT skills are developed through University-wide training courses and individual learning.


Effective communication of ideas is an important criterion in assessing all areas of a learner’s work, and the regular feedback and the final mark both reflect this.  Additionally, penalties are levied for late submission of essays and coursework assignments.  Structuring and communication of ideas, independent work, self-reliance, IT skills and assessment and response to the ideas of others are all assessed through regular coursework, essays and dissertations.  Although these are supervised they are nevertheless a manifestation of the independent thought and research by the learner.  IT skills are assessed through the assembly of necessary information for essays, etc. and their production on PCs.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

  1. To speak, write and read Japanese at an advance level of proficiency
  2. To translate and interpret from and into Japanese
  3. To communicate effectively in English to inform and educate others about Japanese language and culture
  4. to structure and communicate ideas effectively in both oral and written form
  5. to be a constructive and efficient member of a team

Teaching/learning methods and strategies

The language work includes advanced translation from and into Japanese, composition in Japanese (in which students learn to employ a variety of written styles), and oral work, which deals with a wide range of modes of expression. Joint sessions with second year students who are planning their year abroad, have been established as part of the final-year advanced spoken course as a way of encouraging academic and practical collaboration between the two groups, who might not otherwise meet much.

Classes are given on literary, historical and linguistic concepts and on approaches to translation.  Throughout their studies, students take classes and receive instruction in Japanese language.  The year abroad further promotes the active learning of the Japanese language to an advanced level.

Comprehensive bibliographies are provided for each course, as are guidelines for the production of essays, coursework assignments and dissertations.


All skills listed are primarily assessed through essays, coursework assignments and dissertations.  Use of the Japanese language and translating and interpreting from and into Japanese are assessed by class and home exercises, tests and degree examinations.  The ability to gather information on Japanese speaking countries and to present it effectively in English is assessed through degree examinations on Japanese literature, history, thought, culture and society.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

  • the confidence to rely on one’s own intellectual capacities
  • the ability to motivate oneself, to plan one’s own work, and to set one’s own goals and deadlines
  • ability to work autonomously
  • to manage time and work to deadlines
  • to exercise leadership skills
  • time and priority management skills
  • be sensitive to ambiguity and multiplicity of meanings
  • plan, undertake and (in a scholarly and literate fashion) report on a piece of self-initiated research

The small classes in the final year of the degree allow space for extensive discussion involving all the students.

The dissertation is an important part of the final year programme. Students are given guidance about how to produce a substantial piece of work through a series of one-to-one meetings with a supervisor appointed from the academic teaching staff. The production of a lengthy piece of work, on a topic chosen by the student, provides individuals with a major sense of achievement.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Students should acquire skills that can be used in a wide variety of intellectual contexts and forms of employment.  These include: -

  • computing skills – the ability to use computers for word-processing, information, storage and for retrieving information from the world wide web
  • use of libraries – the ability to use libraries for the recovery of information, and related research skills, including the ability to discriminate between different sources of information, suggested readings, and so on.
Students are given instruction in how to access material in Japanese through the use of internet resources. Students routinely use Japanese word processing software to insert Japanese characters into essays and dissertations.

Programme structure and features

Full details of the degree programme, structure and courses can be found at: - http://www.drps.ed.ac.uk

Courses are taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials.  Optional courses in Year 4 are taught through seminars.

Progression Requirements: Students are normally expected to have gained 120 credits from each year of study. 

Students who do not progress into Honours may graduate after three years of full-time study, or a longer prescribed period of part-time study, with a B.A. in Humanities and Social Science.

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching and Learning strategies employed at the University of Edinburgh consist of a variety of different methods appropriate to the programme aims.  The graduate attributes listed above are met through a teaching and learning framework (detailed below) which is appropriate to the level and content of the course.

Teaching and Learning Activities

In Year 1

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

In Year 2

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

In Year 3

  • Year Abroad Work
  • Independent Study

In Year 4

  • Seminars
  • Lectures
  • Presentations
  • Group Work

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 123770
Year 226740
Year 323266
Year 417830

Assessment methods and strategies

Courses can be assessed by a diverse range of methods and often takes the form of formative work which provided the student with on-going feedback as well as summative assessment which is submitted for assessment.

In Year 1

  • Written Examinations
  • Oral Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Coursework Exercises

In Year 2

  • Written Examinations
  • Oral Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Coursework Exercises

In Year 3

  • Year Abroad Work
  • Dissertation

In Year 4

  • Written Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Oral Examination
  • Dissertation

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 1221365
Year 213780
Year 307624
Year 441383

Career opportunities

Graduates have a broad range of careers available to them. Graduates in Japanese can use their language skills to work as translators, interpreters or teachers. Many Japanese graduates choose to work in areas like finance or investment, or go into publishing and management consultancy. There are also opportunities to continue studying.

Other items

All students are assigned a Personal Tutor on admission to the degree programme, who oversees the course of the student’s degree programme, offers advice on academic matters (including degree-progression) and should be the student’s first port of call for course-related worries or concerns

Student opinion is actively sought through participation in Staff-Student Liaison Committees, through the election of class- and tutorial-representatives, and by the wide circulation and review of detailed student questionnaires each semester. 

LLC have a student support office, where students can go for advice on degree transfers, course changes, authorised interruption of studies, confirmation letters and general support. Information can be found at: - http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/literatures-languages-cultures/current-students/undergraduate-support

Further information about Asian Studies can be found at http://www.asianstudies.ed.ac.uk/