Global Studies Consortium

Sophia University : Graduate Program in Global Studies (GPGS)

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Established 2006
Key features
  • four degrees, offering a range of scholarly and practical courses of study (MA, Ph.D in Global Studies, MA in International Business and Development Studies, MA in Japanese Studies)
  • Tokyo based (location in center of global city facilitates student research on related topics)
  • encourages study and research on Japan, as well as other areas, in the context of global themes
  • English taught (one of few comprehensive English-taught graduate programs in Japan) with courses offered in Japanese as well
  • cosmopolitan personnel (bout half of the faculty are Japanese nationals while the rest represent half a dozen nationalities and the student body has several dozen nationalities)
Number of faculty: 30

In addition to the 30 full-time members, 20 members of other Sophia programs cross-list their courses in the GPGS, and 9 adjunct instructors from other universities and organizations offer courses.

Backgrounds of faculty
  • Most members of the GPGS faculty have doctoral degrees from non-Japanese universities, mostly North American and European.
  • Disciplinary backgrounds cover the range of the humanities and social sciences (anthropology, art history, business, history, economics, literature, political science, religious studies, and sociology).
  • Area specializations include Japan, China, Cambodia, England, France, Indonesia, Africa, and Russia.


Degrees awarded
  • MA in Global Studies
  • PhD in Global Studies
  • MA in International Business and Development Studies
  • MA in Japanese Studies
Organization of the MA curriculum

Note: Each of the three master’s degrees requires 30 credits to graduate.

  • MA in Global Studies curriculum: (1) Foundational Courses are multi and interdisciplinary offerings on theoretical, methodological, and historical theme; (2) Elective Courses cover globalization on topics (nationalism, migration, capitalism) and world regions.
  • MA in International Business and Development curriculum: (1) International Business Core Courses take a global perspective on business management and operation (eg., global marketing, international information system management, etc.); (2) Development Studies Core Courses apply business methods for managing and evaluating development projects. Note: All students take a statistical methods course.
  • MA in Japanese Studies curriculum: (1) Arts and Culture courses are offerings in art history, literature, and classical Japanese; (2) Thought and Society courses are offerings from anthropology, history, and religious studies. Both pre-modern and modern periods are covered.
Academic disciplines in curriculum
  • Social science (55%): anthropology, economics, history, political science, religious studies, sociology.
  • Humanities (30%): art history, literature, religion
  • Business studies (15%): statistics, management, marketing
Number of courses: 69
  • MA in Global Studies: 37 courses (about half are cross-listed courses from other graduate programs that conducted in Japanese but readings are mostly or entirely in English.)
  • MA in International Business and Development Studies: 18 courses
  • MA in Japanese Studies: 14 courses
MA graduation requirements

Students pursue either the credit track or thesis track to obtain 30 credits for graduation. In the credit track students take courses and submit a graduation project. In the thesis track students take courses and write an academic thesis based on primary data and scholarly literature. All students enter on the credit track and can then choose to seek entry to the thesis track. Most opt for the credit track. Those who enter the thesis track usually intend to pursue the Ph.D, either at Sophia University or another institution.
A standard course is 4 credits and meets 3 hours a week. Students may take up to 8 credits outside of their MA degree curriculum elsewhere in the university.
Students are encouraged to study a foreign language from the many offered. International graduate students usually study Japanese in the intensive or regular course. Language courses appear on a student’s transcript, but do not count towards the 30 credits required for graduation.

Time to complete MA

The credit track typically takes 3 semesters and the thesis track takes 4 semesters.

PhD program

The Ph.D in Global Studies admits about three students annually with preference for MA students in the GPGS.
The Ph.D emphasizes the study of global themes in the context of one of the disciplines represented among the faculty members (history, political science, sociology). This recognizes the fact that within the Academy hiring is still largely along traditional disciplinary lines and that the established traditions have long traditions of theory and methodology. Therefore, the PhD program only admits students with solid backgrounds in one of the aforementioned three disciplines.
Students typically spend the first two years preparing for and taking qualifying exams and defending a dissertation prospectus. There is no formal coursework, although students may audit courses. Following the prospectus defense, students work on the dissertation.
There are three Ph.D qualifying exams:

  • Global Studies exam. To prepare students read through a bibliography of books. On the day of the qualifying exam, students are given 7 questions. They choose five questions and write 750 word answers for each. The exam is held on-campus from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  • Disciplinary exams. Students choose two specializations in their discipline. For political science this is International Relations and Comparative Politics. For sociology this is typically the Sociology of Japan and another subfield related to the student's dissertation and supervisor's expertise (sociology of culture, political sociology, economic sociology, social theory, leisure, gender, sexuality). Disciplinary tests take place over two consecutive weeks. For each subfield, have three days to write answers to three questions.
  • Foreign Language exam. The Ministry of Education requires proficiency in two foreign languages for doctoral candidates. Japanese is one of the required languages for international students.
Academic schedule

Courses are on a 15-week semester system. The academic year is from April and courses run to the end of July. The fall semester is from early October to early February. Students can enter the GPGS in either semester.

Students can enter program in:
  • April
  • October
Language(s) of instruction

Courses are taught in:

  • English
  • Japanese
  • English: Graduate Program in Global Studies
  • Japanese: Graduate Program in Area Studies, Graduate Program in International Relations


Student numbers and profile

An average of 30-40 MA students and 3 PhD students enter the English-taught GPGS every year. There are currently (as of December 2008) about 140 MA students (including exchange and non-degree) and 5 PhD students.
Students are primarily from Western Europe, North America, Latin America, and Asia. We also admit about half a dozen students a year from Asian countries that are funded by the Japanese government as part of its Overseas Development Assistance to these countries.
Students are mostly in the twenties although a sizable minority are older and come from the long-term international community in Japan, the foreign diplomatic community, and mid-career persons from abroad (see JICE fellowship students below in #23)
Note: GPGS students are mostly international students with non-Japanese citizenship. The other two programs in the Graduate School in Global Studies, Area Studies and International Relations are Japanese-taught and the bulk of their students are domestic students.

Sources of funding available for students
  • All international students receive partial tuition waiver as part of Japanese government policy.
  • Japanese Ministry of Education Scholarships (Monkasho Fellows) that cover from 2 to 5 years of tuition and living stipend. Usually 3-6 such students enter annually.
  • JICE (Japanese International Cooperation Center Fellowships). Fellowships given by the Japanese government as part of its overseas development assistance to Asian countries.
  • New Student Fellowship. The GPGS can give one full tuition waiver to an incoming MA student and an incoming Ph.D students each semester. This is awarded on the basis of merit. The practice is to divide the fellowship in thirds among the three M.A. programs. When combined with the aforementioned Japanese government tuition waiver the result is a significant discount.
Exchange students

Sophia University has exchanges with over 100 universities in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. Every year about up to two dozen exchange students come to study in the GPGS. However, few GPGS students go abroad on the exchange programs, as most are international students who come to Japan to study about Japan.

Graduate careers

The program is too new to have a track record. We anticipate that Global Studies MA students will pursue careers in think tanks, NGOs, journalism, or seek further graduate schooling, while graduates of the PhD program will likely pursue academic careers in universities.


Institutional Background

Sophia University, located in central Tokyo, is a private liberal arts university founded by the Jesuits in 1913. It is a medium-sized university with approximately 10,000 undergraduates, 1,000 graduate students and 600 full-time faculty members. From the beginning it had an internationally-oriented curriculum, quickly becoming renowned for its foreign languages and literatures curriculums and, after WWII, for its Area Studies curriculum.  
The Graduate School of Global Studies grew out of an initiative by Area Studies faculty members scattered among different programs who wanted to cooperate in research and graduate education. In 2002 they won a 5-year Center of Excellence grant from the Ministry of Education. The Sophia initiative was called “Towards an Area-Based Global Studies” and led to the founding in 2006 of the Graduate School of Global Studies.
The Graduate School of Global Studies consists of three graduate programs. The GPGS is an English-taught program that superseded the 20-year-old Graduate Program in Comparative Culture, Japan’s first accredited English-taught graduate program. The Graduate Program in Area Studies and the Graduate Program in International Relations are Japanese-taught curriculums that were established earlier.  Altogether the three programs that constitute the Graduate School of Global Studies have approximately 50 full-time faculty members and over 200 graduate students.

Administrative status

The GPGS is a stand-alone entity. Its faculty members also belong to the undergraduate Faculty of Liberal Arts, Japan’s oldest English-taught comprehensive liberal arts program. Members typically teach 3-4 courses in the undergraduate program and one course in the GPGS. While the GPGS has its own budget, it also draws on the budget of the Faculty of Liberal Arts (at Sophia budget allocations and faculty appointments are through undergraduate faculties. The information on this sheet from here on is only about the English-taught Graduate Program in Global Studies.

  1. Graduate Program in Global Studies
    • English-taught curriculum
    • MA, PhD in Global Studies (9 faculty members: anthropology, history, political science, religious studies, sociology)
    • MA in Japan Studies (13 faculty members: anthropology, art history, history, literature, religious studies)
    • MA in International Business and Development Studies  (8 faculty members–economics, management, marketing, sociology, statistics)

2.  Graduate Program in Area Studies


    • Japanese-taught curriculum
    • MA, PhD in Area Studies (10 faculty members: anthropology, history, economics)

3.  Graduate Program in International Relations

    • Japanese-taught curriculum
    • MA, PhD in International Relations (8 faculty members: economics, political science, sociology)
Support for research activities by faculty and students

The GPGS is a teaching program. However, individual faculty members have their own research agendas and belong to the Institute of Comparative Culture, which provides seed money for research activities, hosts visiting faculty and Ph.D. candidates, and sponsors a speakers program.

Cooperation with other programs in the university
  1. Students have the option of pursuing 8 credits elsewhere in the university. These courses count towards the 30-credit graduation requirement.
  2. There are about two dozen cross-listed courses from the Area Studies, International Relations, Economics, and Sociology graduate programs. Credits earned count towards graduation.
  3. Students can take Japanese and other language courses but they do not count for graduation.
  4. With the permission of the professor, graduate students may audit courses in the undergraduate Faculty of Liberal Arts. Students do not receive credit for this. Such auditing  occurs when:
    • students in the Japanese Studies MA  wishing to expand their knowledge of Japan select from among the approximately 100 course offerings on Japan.
    • students in the Global Studies MA seeking qualitative field research skills audit  undergraduate anthropology/sociology methods courses in survey methods, symbolic analysis, ethnographic interviewing, visual methods, statistics.
    • students in the International Business and Development Studies M.A. wishing to enhance their background in economic fundamentals audit advanced undergraduate economics courses.
Cooperation with programs outside the university
  • Every year one to two dozen international graduate students, mostly from Europe and the North America, study in the GPGS through bilateral exchanges.
  • Sophia University belongs to a consortium of universities in Japan that supports courses in development taught at the United Nations University in Tokyo. Every fall the UN University offers three courses on development-related issues and several Global Studies MA students take a course and receive 2 credits towards the 30-credit graduation requirement.
Publicity and marketing
  • The website is oriented to prospective applicants and all application forms can be downloaded.
  • The GPGS snail mails a hardcopy Bulletin of Information upon request.
  • A biannual information meeting is held for prospective applicants.
Website strategy

The website provides information on the GPGS to prospective applicants regarding description of courses, faculty backgrounds, application procedures, answer to FAQs, etc., as well as  downloadable application forms. It also provides information for current students on graduation requirements, bibliography for Ph.D global studies test, United Nation courses, administrative deadlines, etc.

Global Studies Consortium meeting participation:
  • Santa Barbara 2007
  • Tokyo 2008
  • Leipzig 2009
  • Shanghai 2011
  • Moscow 2013
  • Roskilde 2014
  • Cairo 2015
  • Pittsburgh 2016

Contact details

Graduate Program in Global Studies
Sophia University
7-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 102-8554, Japan

Program email address:
David Wank, Professor of Sociology