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Graduate Schools School of Cultural and Social Studies

Department of Regional Studies - National Museum of Ethnology
Department of Comparative Studies - National Museum of Ethnology
Department of Japanese Studies - International Research Center for Japanese Studies
Department of Japanese History - National Museum of Japanese History
Department of Cyber Society and Culture (applications currently not being accepted)- Center of ICT and Distance Education
Department of Japanese Literature - National Institute of Japanese Literature

School of Physical Sciences

Department of structural Molecular Science - Institute for Molecular Science
Department of Functional Molecular Science - Institute for Molecular Science
Department of Astronomical Science - National Astronomical Observatory
Department of Fusion Science - National Institute for Fusion Science
Department of Space and Astronautical Science - Institute of Space and Astronautical Science

School of High Energy Accelerator Science

Department of Accelerator Science - High Energy Accelerator Research Organization
Department of Materials Structure Science - High Energy Accelerator Research Organization
Department of Particle and Nuclear Physics - High Energy Accelerator Research Organization

School of Multidisciplinary Sciences

Department of Statistical Science -Institute of Statistical Mathematics
Department of Polar Science - National Institute of Polar Research
Department of Informatics - National Institute of Informatics

School of Life Science

Department of Genetics - National Institute of Genetics
Department of Basic Biology - National Institute for Basic Biology
Department of Physiological Sciences - National Institute for Physiological Sciences

School of Advanced Sciences

Department of Evolutionary Studies of Biosystems - Doctoral courses run in conjunction with inter-university research facilities as described above, at HAYAMA Campus

The Graduate University for Advanced Studies

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History and Outstanding Features

The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, or Sokendai, was the first university to offer only doctoral courses in Japan. It was established in October 1988, and does not include any undergraduate courses and facilities. 

The main facilities of Sokendai are located in Hayama in Kanagawa Prefecture, and the doctoral education and research opportunities it provides are made distinct by the university’s unique structure: it works in close cooperation with the following organizations: 16 Inter-University Research Institutes operated by four Inter-University Research Institute Corporations; the Center of Information-communication Technology and Distance Education (The Open University of Japan); and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, a research institute of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

It is an exceptional university structure that allows students to immerse themselves in cutting-edge research and advanced academic fields. Enrolling in the university gives students access to education and research opportunities at highly specialized research institutes. This structure is based on a wholly unique concept, not seen anywhere else in the world.

Some examples of the institutes that accept Sokendai doctoral students include: the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, which owns the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, one of the most powerful telescopes in the world, provides instruction and research guidance for the Department of Astronomical Science, School of Physical Sciences, while the National Institute of Polar Research, which operates the icebreaker Shirase, provides instruction and research guidance for the Department of Polar Science, School of Multidisciplinary Sciences.

Inter-University Research Institutes provide access to large-scale measuring instrumentation and supercomputers that are too expensive for individual universities to purchase independently, or are used to collect and store valuable literature and materials; they are publicly funded in accordance with national policy in order to contribute to the development and promotion of academic research. These institutes are provided with the necessary personnel and research funding required to conduct large-scale research activities as a priority, in view of enhancing budgetary and research efficiency. The institutes carry out creative and cutting-edge research.

Sokendai is unique in that it allows its students to engage in education and research on the frontline of that research infrastructure where the most advanced research is conducted. By utilizing the leading research bases on the international field, home to the world’s most advanced research, Sokendai is able to foster in its students the necessary expertise and global perspective required of researchers today. 

The university is also distinguished by the fact that it conducts doctoral-level education and research in diverse fields, encompassing culture, history, information, life sciences, energy, materials, and astronomy, as a single facility. Within this framework, students are able to locate their own research within a broad perspective, and can work towards more comprehensive, interdisciplinary research. For example, Departments in the School of Cultural and Social Studies are operated based on a shared objective to progress cultural studies beyond philological and literature research—the previous focus of such research—to incorporate elements of historical and geographical research based on scientific perspectives.

Sokendai is a unique and distinct university—thus it is no surprise that it attracts a very high class of student. Sokendai receives a large number of applications from talented students in Japan and from overseas, particularly from Asian countries, and high competition rates allow the university to select the most outstanding students. Students who enroll are able to enjoy everyday access to multiple groups of researchers on the frontline of research from Japan and overseas. The university provides a guidance-intense framework, with 2–3 members of faculty for each student. Students who are given the opportunity to hone their skills in this environment are expected to perform outstandingly upon graduation as talented researchers. Ever since Sokendai’s first graduates left the university, in March 1992, almost all graduates have gone on to work in research, with many taking up positions as professor, assistant professor, or in research institutes. In particular, 70% of Sokendai graduates of the year 2010 were in research positions.

At present, in Japan, there are three other national universities founded for the purpose of high-level graduate education. Only Sokendai, however, allows students to undertake advanced research at leading international research institutes. This distinctive framework will doubtless ensure that Sokendai will continue to produce outstanding graduates who go on to become leading researchers in Japan and the rest of the world.

Jun 28, 2012

About the author
Hiromi Jitsukata is a reporter for Japanest NIPPON