- Annual Enrollment:
- total 149 students (MA & PhD), including 24 students entering in April 2018
- Average GPA:
- 4.0 (average)
- % International:
- Employment sectors:
- International corporate enterprises, media companies, think tanks, international authority agencies, national government institutions
- Degrees offered:
- MA (Master of Arts in International Relations), Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)
- Info here (PDF)
Fostering Global Citizenship from Kyoto
The Graduate School of International Relations (GSIR) at Ritsumeikan University was established in 1992, and now has a history reaching back quarter of a century. GSIR is proud of being the only full member of APSIA (Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs) in Japan, and challenges to establish an international academic forum where international students gather and exchange view and idea for global networking.
The past 25 years have seen many major global changes since the Cold War has ended, liberalized, market-based economies have progressed, and technological innovation led by ICT has had a profound impact on our economy and the daily lives of people in both developed and developing countries. This liberalized and globalized society has amplified the effects of pressing issues like income disparity and poverty, financial crises, environmental degradation, terrorism and conflict, immigration and refugees; these issues which remain challenges yet to be tackled by the international community.
At the UN Summit in 2015, the global community agreed the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The international community thereby committed itself to building a sustainable society. Any solution to these global issues requires a multifaceted approach beyond the individual academic disciplines of International Politics, Economics, Law, Culture and Sociology. This interdisciplinary approach is embodied in the study of International Relations, which is the most relevant field of study to the needs of today’s society. Our mission at GSIR is to educate self-reliant human beings who will tackle global issues based on a sound foundation of professional knowledge.
We provide thoughtful, personalized guidance and in-depth education through a diverse set of program options with pursuing a Dual Master Degree Program (DMDP) with related overseas graduate schools, and internship programs and field study. Thus we promise to respond to individual students’ leaning objectives and to do our utmost to satisfy them. GSIR looks forward to receiving applications from enthusiastic students, and to having an opportunity of sharing our enthusiasm, knowledge and experience.
To receive information directly from the Admissions Department, click here.
The Graduate School of International Relations at Ritsumeikan University (GSIR) is located in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. Kyoto not only has a considerable number of world-class historical sites but is also home to more than thirty higher educational institutions. Students have the advantage to pursue their own study and research in a unique environment where tradition and innovation co-exist in harmony.
How are you preparing students to adapt to a rapidly changing world?
In 2020, only a handful of our students from abroad could enter Japan due to the pandemic. To cope with the ever-changing situation, GSIR delivered classes combining online conference, on-demand, and in-person classes. The pandemic has cast questions over the existing framework of university and research institutions, urging us to reconsider the significance and our role. This led us to launch a new curriculum that we had been working on for several years, which has a strong focus on classes conducted in English.
Within the English-based program, GSIR offers four newly established clusters: ‘Global Governance’, ‘Sustainable Development’, ‘Culture, Society and Media’ and ‘Global Japanese Studies’. These clusters cover broad academic disciplines, such as politics, economics, sociology, and cultural studies. Our highly qualified academic team with extensive experience in their fields of expertise conduct the various cutting-edge courses. As our graduate school has been admitting more students not only from Asia but also from Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and North America year by year, students can immerse themselves in a culturally and ethnically diverse environment, where they learn from each other on a daily basis.
What does GSIR offer to students who are seeking advantages for their careers?
In addition to providing ways for upgrading academic knowledge and skills through the programs, GSIR invites experienced external lecturers, such as diplomats, economists, journalists, managers of nongovernmental organizations, and entrepreneurs from private sectors. This gives students opportunities to promote their understanding of what is really happening in Japan and in the world as well as encourages them to find clues to address global issues. Moreover, we are preparing various off-campus academic and practical training opportunities in Japan, which will also help students realize how the Japanese political and economic system are operating in both public and private sectors.
Furthermore, GSIR has been in the process of strengthening the dual master’s degree program, which offers qualified students an opportunity to study at overseas partner universities and research institutes in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and in various Asian and European nations. Through this program, students are able to earn two master’s degrees in as short as two years.
Our alumni are engaged in professions in the fields of international organizations, public and private sectors, civil society groups, and research and educational institutions. GSIR is ready to offer committed students every opportunity to acquire high level of knowledge and skills for their future careers.
How are you preparing students to navigate changes in the geopolitical landscape?
We are going through an immense geopolitical change, and it represents both opportunities and challenges to Japan and established graduate programs—such as GSIR—located in the country. The geopolitical center of gravity has shifted away from the Atlantic to Asia, particularly in terms of China’s rise. Japan now sits at the center, rather than at the periphery, of global affairs. However, it challenges us to develop programs that go beyond the traditional Western-centric model based on the old geopolitical reality that had dominated the field of international relations for so many decades.
Ensuring the diversity of our faculty and students is a vital part of developing the program and intellectual community needed in this age of rapid change. In this regard, our great advantage is GSIR’s location in the center of Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan and recently voted the world’s best city by influential travel magazine Travel + Leisure. Thanks to our location, GSIR has attracted top international students and faculty members, who now make up over two-thirds and one-fourth, respectively, of our vibrant intellectual community. This allows us to offer innovative programs that prepare students to navigate changes by acquiring diverse skills, perspectives, and experiences.
What does GSIR offer to students seeking an edge to their studies and their careers?
We have two English-based master’s degree programs: the Global Cooperation Program (GCP) and the Global and Japanese Perspective Program (GJP). GCP students gain a sound foundation in international cooperation through learning and discussions with our range of scholars and practitioners and by studying side-by-side with a growing number of international students from over thirty-two countries, many of whom are working policymakers from overseas, sponsored by prestigious Japanese government scholarship programs.
We offer academic courses that help students make better sense of the new geopolitical reality, such as global politics. We also offer more practical courses like professional training that provides hands-on training in international development in Asia and beyond from practitioners who have experience working for national, regional, and international organizations. GJP encourages students to learn from the experiences of Japan and other Asian countries, developing alternative and critical insights into global affairs going beyond the Western paradigms. Additionally, GJP’s courses and perspectives around culture, society, and media are featured more prominently than the traditional international relations programs. Such focus is crucial as the new geopolitical shift is driven not just by politics and economics but also—if not more—by cultural changes and global media technology.
Furthermore, GSIR is in the process of strengthening our dual master’s degree program, which offers qualified students the opportunity to study at two institutions—currently, six partner universities in Asia, Europe, and the United States—further enriching their skills and experiences. This program improves students’ ability to respond to changing situations and prepares them to work around the world. We believe we are adapting well to a new geopolitical reality and invite potential graduate students and colleagues to join us in this exciting new challenge!
What innovative ways has your program found to prepare students for an age of uncertainty?
We are living in a period of transformation. The world has witnessed dynamic changes, and continuity of the postwar liberal order has been called into question. Such times of profound change create opportunities as well as uncertainties.
Our Graduate School of International Relations (GSIR) offers innovative programs and courses that prepare students for an age of uncertainty by introducing them to different perspectives and experiences. The dual master’s degree program, which offers qualified students the opportunity to study at two institutions, enhances our students’ flexibility in approaching an uncertain world and in addressing the issues they may face.
For instance, in the global cooperation program, which is taught in English, students learn the theoretical foundations and the practical applications of international cooperation from seasoned academics and experienced professionals. They study side-by-side with domestic students, international students from over thirty-two countries, and foreign government officials who come to GSIR via prestigious scholarship programs offered by the Japanese government. Courses like “professional training” provide hands-on experience concerning the rapidly changing world of international development in Asia and beyond by specialists who have worked for national and international organizations. The dual master’s degree improves the students’ ability to respond to developing situations and prepare them to work anywhere in the world upon graduation.
The merit of learning from and understanding diverse perspectives now takes a more important role than ever. How is your school responding?
Understanding diverse views and perspectives is a strength in uncertain times, and that is a skill we foster and champion at GSIR. Located in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan and home to multiple World Heritage sites, our school attracts many international students as well as faculty members, who make up over two-thirds and one-fourth of our intellectual community, respectively.
In order to enrich our students’ educational experience, we recently launched the global and Japanese perspectives program (GJP), which is taught in both English and Japanese. The program specifically prepares students to examine global issues from the Japanese and Asian perspectives, along with other established approaches to these issues. Students focus on the experience and history of Japan and of Asian countries to develop alternative and critical insights to world affairs. They will also have the opportunity to acquire Japanese language skills through courses such as the “GJP platform”, where students learn about Japan and international relations either in Japanese or in English, depending on the language that they wish to improve.
For students who want to build a career in Japan after their studies, the program offers courses in business management and the economy in Japan as well as Japan’s role in East Asia, Japan in world history, and Japanese politics and foreign relations, which give them the understanding necessary to develop a successful career in Japan. GSIR also connects students to internship opportunities that complement their education and increase their skills in the global market place.
How is your curriculum adapting to the changes in the world and preparing for the future?
In looking at Asian region, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has sustained high economic growth under the political stability, peaceful relations, and economically developed and emerging power, China. Being held in spotlight, however, faces issues of territorial disputes and middle income trap caused by an aging society. Japan is also not immune to these growing concerns.
In this dynamic change seen in Asia and the globalized world, our Graduate School of International Relations (GSIR) has strengthened our research and educational capacity by launching the Global Cooperation Program (GCP, English-based) and the Global and Japanese Perspectives Program (GJP, English and Japanese mixed) to attract international students who are interested in international politics and economics, as well as cultural studies from Asian and Japanese perspectives.
We enrich our teaching staff by recruiting foreign scholars and experienced practitioners in the fields of diplomacy, development finance, and journalism. The newly launched “Professional Training” course aims at supporting foreign students to understand Japanese ways of economic development, politics and diplomacy, business management, and culture and traditions through seminars and field visits. Another course named “Development Strategies” focuses on a progressed ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) as a regional economic integration mode, and discusses the economic and political interdependency among ASEAN, China, and Japan. The curricula is conducted by Dean Koyama who has rich expertize of development finance and wants to provide an academic forum which enhances interaction between international and Japanese students. We have constructed an academic foundation focused on an emerging Asian economy interlinked with Japan and China.
How is your institution keeping competitive in the face of new challenges?
Kyoto, Japan has geographical features attracting students from the world. Kyoto is a rich culture with many World Heritage sites. Japan is considered a peaceful and safe country. And Asia is an emerging region, politically and economically. Two-thirds of students and one-fourth of faculty are not Japanese, which shows that our GSIR at Ritsumeikan Univeresity is a highly globalized academic institute in Japan. Students could learn International Relations and multidisciplinary courses under in a learning environment of peace, freedom and innovation.
The second advantage of GSIR is that we offer a Dual Master’s Degree Program (DMDP with American University SIS, for example) and many internship opportunities such as UN Volunteer in Bonn for qualified students; they aim at enhancing students’ international mobility to acquire a diversified way of thinking and more professional skills. These experiences could contribute to nourish global citizenship for student pursuing an international career.
Lastly, we offer a world-class education and research opportunity to work alongside a distinguished academic staff that includes diversified practitioners with rich field experiences. We assign students to the most relevant academic supervisor in line with their research topic.
We accept prospective students, including government officials from Asian countries supported by Japanese government scholarships, so that both domestic and international students can interact easily and exchange their ideas for establishing an international network for the future, valuable assets for soft diplomacy.
How is your school distinct from other schools of international relations?
Thanks to globalization, the mobility of students and professors—as well as knowledge—is immense today. Two-thirds of Ritsumeikan students and one-fourth of its faculty are in fact not Japanese. Both the Ritsumeikan community in Kyoto and its programs meet high international standards. In this respect, the school is no different from other Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs institutions. To some extent, a certain similarity is inevitable if a school claims to be a great one.
It would not be ideal, however, if all schools of international relations were the same. Even in an era of globalization, local distinction is important. Ritsumeikan thus emphasizes Asia-Pacific regional studies, in part because of its location and in part because the region is growing economically. This year we have launched the Global and Japanese Perspectives Program (GJP). A two-language (English and Japanese) course, it provides opportunities for international students whose Japanese language level is still intermediate to improve to a working level while deepening their understanding of Japan and Asia by taking courses in English. GJP paves the way for students to earn a career, for example, at a Japanese multinational corporation active in the Asia-Pacific region. GJP is designed for both international and Japanese students. It provides, for example, English discussion courses solely for non-native English students as well as others in Japanese for international students. Because of this added instruction, Japanese and international students can meet midway in the end. By that, I mean that eventually they will be able to study in the same classroom. GJP is designed to bridge international and Japanese students, and thus Japan and the world as well.
Why did your students choose to study in Japan?
Ritsumeikan undoubtedly has a few rivals in Asia. But Japan as a whole is the ideal learning environment in which to study Asia. In terms of modern science, our society has the longest intellectual tradition among non-Western nations. It is the cornerstone of Japan’s educational foundation.
Japan’s experience as the first industrialized economy in Asia has led to a decidedly modern yet non-Western ambience in Japanese society. Kyoto is a representative city. Japan’s leadership in the economic growth of the entire East Asian region through Official Developmental Assistance, Foreign Direct Investments, and trade has added a region-wide perspective to the Japanese discussion of international relations. In this way, Japan plays an important role in connecting Asia with rest of the world.
For disciplines in the social sciences such as international relations, freedom of expression is a must. It should of course be based in a mature and stable democratic society. A safe and peaceful environment is also an important necessary condition for advanced study. Japan is one of a few countries in Asia that meets all of these conditions. In the end, a favorable educational environment is a proud aspect of Japan’s soft power.