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Joint Degree Master in Transcultural Studies (JDTS) with Kyoto University – Graduate School of Letters

About the Programme

Inaugurated in the spring of 2018, the study programme is situated at two partner institutions, the Graduate School of Letters (GSL) of Kyoto University and the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS) of Heidelberg University. Students enrolled in the programme begin their studies at one of these two partners, their home institution, but spend an equal amount of time at the other university. Supervised by international faculty of both, the GSL and the HCTS, students submit a single master thesis to receive a Master of Arts degree jointly awarded by both universities upon completion.

The transregional outlook of the JDTS is based on the perspective that cultures are not contained within ethnically closed, linguistically homogenous and territorially bounded spheres. Instead they are constituted through transformations and entanglements that follow from contacts and relationships between various agents, concepts and institutions. Transcultural Studies combine methodological and theoretical approaches from a broad spectrum of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.

The study programme expands the regional and disciplinary competences students have obtained in their Bachelor degrees or another Master degree. Students of the JD Transcultural Studies acquire empirical knowledge on historical and contemporary moments of exchange as well as on theories and methodologies to frame and analyse such processes.The JDTS is primarily designed to train its students for a successful career in international academia.

Programme Structure

The basic structure of the programme is as follows: 

  • Student quota: 10 students between both partners per year (5 students enrolled at Heidelberg University as their home institution, and 5 students enrolled at Kyoto University as their home institution)
  • Degree awarded: Master of Arts
  • Standard duration: 2 years (one year at the home institution and one year at the partner institution)

There are two ways of entry into the JDTS: you can apply either at Heidelberg or at Kyoto. The following information regards to the case of an application at Heidelberg. If you are interested in applying atKyoto, please check the website of JDTS at Kyoto University.

Students who want to start their MA at Heidelberg, are asked to apply first for the regular MA in Transcultural Studies (MATS; for the application for MATS at Heidelberg, see here). In their first semester, students can apply for transition  from the regular MATS at Heidelberg to a joint MA (JDTS) at Heidelberg and Kyoto. Once accepted, and being in good academic standing, joint degree students from Heidelberg will spend their third and fourth semesters at Kyoto. In their two years of study, split between the two institutions, students choose one of three study foci: “Society, Economy and Governance,” ”Knowledge, Belief and Religion,” and “Visual, Media and Material Culture.” In their fourth semester, which is their second semester spent at Kyoto, they will work on their Master’s thesis, jointly supervised by faculty members of both institutions.

Application Process

Applications to the JDTS with Heidelberg as home institution can be submitted only by those who have begun their MATS at Heidelberg. They can apply for joining the joint degree program during their first semester. The applications will be reviewed by both Heidelberg and Kyoto University. The applicants will be notified of the final decision by the end of February at the latest.


Find more information on the application process here.


In order to be considered for the JDTS with Heidelberg as home institution, the first-semester MATS students are asked to submit the following materials by email to Applicants should carefully read and follow the instructions given in the application form.


  • JDTS Application Form (digital)

    • In addition, applicants need to submit the original signed form to the Cultural Economic History secretariat at Room 110 at Karl Jaspers Centre.
  • Language Test Score Certificates (digital)

  • Letter of Motivation, 800-1.000 words in English (digital)

    • You need to include a formal statement on an extra sheet confirming that you wrote the letter of motivation by yourself without the help of others and that you have properly indicated the use of all ideas from additional sources (e.g., via citations).
  • BA Degree Certificate (in English, digital)

  • BA Academic Records (in English, digital)

The deadline for the JDTS application for the year 2020 is January 31, 2020.


Special Regulations

As JDTS students are fully enrolled in both universities, the rules and regulations of both universities apply to them. This means that the MA thesis needs to be submitted to Kyoto before July 15, i.e. the end of their fourth semester (which is the second semester spent at Kyoto). In addition, the JDTS students from Heidelberg need to have a pro forma oral examination in which they defend their MA thesis after submission.

It is strongly advised that they choose their study focus and find a supervisor for the MA thesis in Heidelberg before their departure for Kyoto. 

They need to fulfil the requirements to qualify for the joint degree. Specifically, they will need to earn at least 30 ECTS / 15 credit points from Kyoto University, mostly via modules “Mobility & Research 1+2.” For further information about modules, see here.

If a MATS student from Heidelberg becomes a joint degree student but fails to fulfil the requirements, they will fall back to the standard MATS and receive a MA from Heidelberg University only, upon the successful completion of the requirements from Heidelberg.