I’ve red that some universities in Japan offer a non-degree program called research student. I want to know:

  1. Why do students usually apply as a research student?

  2. Do research students work on things that haven’t been done before? Or do they work on anything that interests them (of course) but that is not necessarily new?

  3. How does a research student differ from a master student? What does a research student presents in his/her last year?

  • 10
    Please provide the source from which you heard of the term "research student".
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 8:09
  • 1
    A research student is one who is learning how to research by doing research under the supervision of a more senior academic. Of course, if you're not simultaneously a bachelor, Master, or PhD student, then you're not going to get any formal qualification out of it.
    – Moriarty
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 8:34
  • @scaaahu, i've known about it from some Japanese universities websites... Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 17:06
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    Comment as this is about a different meaning of the term "research student": I'm chemist in Germany. Our bachelor and master courses include internships in research groups before the theses projects are started. Those students are sometimes referred to as "research student"/Forschungsstudent (also "research intern"/Forschungspraktikant) in analogy to "bachelor student" (= students currently doing their their thesis project). Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 12:12

2 Answers 2


I've only encountered the term "research student" in Japan (研究生), most (all ?) graduate schools in Japan offer it (see for example the Graduate School of Information Sciences of Tohoku University). As I understand it

  1. A student will apply as a research student if they wish to conduct research at the university under the supervision of a faculty member, but are not interested in taking classes or obtaining a degree. You could want to do this for example as a "gap year" between undergrad and Master's (or Master's and Ph.D.), this could be a way to get some research experience under your belt, and perhaps improve your application for Masters or Ph.D.

  2. Anything goes, as long as it is agreed between the student and supervisor.

  3. You are not required to present anything. Since there is no degree to be obtained, there are no requirements to be fulfilled.

  4. is subjective.

  • 2
    "I've only encountered the term "research student" in Japan", this is what I suspect and why I asked the OP to identify the source (see my comment above).
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 8:43
  • You have mentioned that research student is not required to present anything, then on what basis he/she is going to be judged _ i mean if the research student did well or not? if he/she have agreed on a specific subject with his supervisor, then shouldn't he/she present what they have worked on during his/her stay in the university? Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 18:47
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    Whether the student "did well or not" is very subjective, and depends on what his or her goals are. It would be pointless to require the student to do anything, because what if they just don't do it? The university can't really say "you don't get the degree", because you were not supposed to get one in the first place.
    – fkraiem
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 18:58
  • 1
    That is also subjective. Different professors might have different standards (Shinichi Mochizuki requires anybody wanting to work with him to have studied all of Hartshorne's book first) and it probably also depends on your level. If you are applying right after undergrad, you will want at the very least to demonstrate that your subject of interest align with theirs (even better, to have a good term paper written about it).
    – fkraiem
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 19:20
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    I've studied in Japan as a "research student". I had a scholarship to immediately start study Japan, but (living outside of Japan and all) hadn't yet sat the entrance exam for the masters program. I spent the research student year taking classes, researching for my masters, and preparing for the entrance exam. (The supervisor liked my masters research proposal and took me on as a research student with the understanding I would pass the entrance exam in a year and go on to complete the masters.)
    – Robin
    Commented Jan 12, 2019 at 21:52

Usually, students who go through a research program, aim for a research project or a project the output of which may be a research report or a scientific publication. As far as this program is only offered in a few number of universities or research centers; I just want to add some comment to the questions you asked.
In some universities, non-degree programs are offered as some students want to attend to the university not going through the official class-attending programs. I mean, in a non-degree program, the student may not have to attend all the courses offered in a degree leading program. The student has the opportunity to choose the courses he likes and the ones mostly near the field of research he likes to do. It may be noted that in a degree program, the student may have to pass a few number of courses which may be chosen by the group or department; but in a non-degree program, he has the opportunity to choose from a wide range of different courses which he likes more. I insist that that because these programs may not lead to a degree, each university may have its own regulations and the student may or may not have the opportunity to choose as many different courses as he wants. It is better to check the universities' websites.
The answer the your question about why students apply for such programs varies. Some students prefer to enjoy the freedom of the program, choosing a number of courses and pass them,while they do some research activity in the research institute. Some researchers prefer to apply for this programs as they have passed some courses before and they are coming with a good research background; so they apply for a non-degree program just to expand their researches and do some publications at the end of the research period. Some other students are the ones who work in industry and do not have enough time to attend a complete degree leading program and have a research topic in mind; so they apply for such program and do research in the field of their desire.
When we are talking about research, It means that we are looking for something new. When something is done before and the researchers looks for it; it is called research but the output may be a Review Paper not a Research Paper.
A non-degree program may differ as a matter of time. The research period may be three months, six month, one year or more. But as the research non-degree program student does research under supervision of a professor at the university; the output should be something like a publish paper, conference paper or a research report or book. If the person applies for a non-degree program and does not have any publication at the end of the research period, why does he attend the university?
The research student may take most of the research period, by talking to the other researchers and students at the university. Go to some courses and read as much as papers and reports as he can. Develop new ideas for his future projects and gain ideas to make his work better.


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