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I am currently enrolled at a Japanese university in the doctoral program of Mathematical and Life sciences, and have already been a student for last 4 years. I am waiting for the acceptance of research paper, and based on it, will submit the thesis for defense soon.

But I came to know that Japanese universities have a system where one can actually quit the university, but if the paper has been accepted, one can apply within one year for a thesis defense. A PhD degree will be awarded in the case of successful defense.

My question is, has anybody here been such a situation, and is aware of a possible difference between the technicalities of the difference in PhD degree, while remaining a university student, and after quitting the university? I know the concerned university or department should be the best place to answer it, but just in case anybody here can clarify that, I would be grateful for it.

At the minimum, will the degree obtained after quitting the university, would it be considered equivalent to the degree obtained while as a student or not? I guess other country universities don't have such a system in place. Thank you very much.

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    I doubt you'll get a good answer here about such a technical issue... you could even get a wrong answer! As you state, go to the university administration. – Emilie Jul 1 '15 at 14:11
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    Thank you for your response. your point about I could get a wrong reply is so true. I have approached the administration sometimes back, but still waiting for the reply :) – prabhat Jul 1 '15 at 22:25
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Disclaimer: my Japanese is quite good, but I'm not a native speaker, so please keep that in mind.

Based on the degree statutes of your university (広島大学学位規則), you need not be enrolled in the graduate program to submit a thesis and apply for a defense (Article 2 Section 3). However, non-matriculated students must pay a fee of 57,000 JPY for the defense. This fee can be waived if the applicant is not currently enrolled, but has completed the program and left the university without defending within the past year (Article 4 Section 3). If you wait longer than one year you can technically still submit and apply to defend, but you would have to pay the fee.

I spent 10 years at a Japanese university, although not the same as yours. I can recall one person who got their degree in the non-traditional way, so it is possible but uncommon.

I assume you don't have Japanese citizenship, so have you considered what will happen to your residency status? I can't recall the procedures, but you could run into trouble unless you have a job lined up and can change your status easily. I would discuss this with your adviser, but I can almost guarantee things will go more smoothly if you just wait for the paper to be accepted. You may need to revise the paper based on reviewer comments as well. In the meantime, maybe you can apply for positions or spend time making your CV and dissertation look amazing.

  • thank you very much for the extremely helpful reply. I cannot upvote or downvote currently being a new user, so sorry for that. Can I reach you via email or pm? thanks a lot. – prabhat Jul 1 '15 at 22:31
  • If I quit the university, I would become a non-matriculated student. Though the fees of 57,000 can be waived as I have completed the program, the PhD degree I would receive, that would be equivalent to the degree I would have received in case I haven't quit, right? My only concern is any subtle distinction in the two cases, which may make me ineligible for applying for academic positions? About the residency status, that is not an issue, as I plan to switch to another academic workplace. Thank you for the advise in this regard. – prabhat Jul 1 '15 at 22:36
  • There would be no difference in degree obtained by either method, and the fee would be waived if you defend within a year of leaving. However, once you are no longer enrolled as a student you need to notify your city hall (via 退学届け or something). Your residency status might be uncertain if you don't already have a job lined up. – erik Jul 2 '15 at 15:37
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I don't personally have experience with this, but let me point out a potential issue. Generally it's not a good idea in academia to do something non-standard that may make you look strange. Moreover, Japanese academia seems a bit more rigid to me in many ways than Western academia, and it is rather tightly knit. If you quit, people from other universities will know this (plus it will likely be clear from your CV), and this will color their perception of you, not to mention how your advisor might feel. This may make it harder for you to get an academic job in the future, especially in Japan.

I don't know what your reason for quitting would be, or how your advisor would take it, but even having such a conversation with your advisor has potential risks, particularly if you do not have a very good reason. I suggest you think it over carefully privately first. If you want to quit, then it might not be bad to try to talk to someone you that you trust and very familiar with Japanese academia (and preferably your advisor/group) before broaching the subject with your advisor.

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You see this right: it is a question your adviser / university can answer best. If you advisor do not recommend it, do not do it.

Regular Japanese PhD programs in Science/Tech fields are 3 years. However a great number of students do not finish by that time, and defend latter. Some of them even get promoted in academia, and do the defense at a later point. So it is a tricky, but not impossible situation. If it is an option for you highly dependent on your professor, department etc support. Discuss it with them.

The good news is that once the defend is successful, everyone consider it more or less the same degree.

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Thank you everybody who replied and gave valuable suggestions. I have obtained a reply from the university, and posting the relevant parts here, which pertain to the differences in the wording in Degree certificate in two cases I have mentioned. First comes the degree without quitting the university. enter image description here

Next, the degree after quitting the university. enter image description here

The difference seems to be about affiliation to a particular department of the university. I hope that should be fine for most of the cases.

Thank you very much once again.

  • It seems that specialized in xxx is also missing from the second one (the degree after quitting). – scaaahu Jul 7 '15 at 10:07
  • Just curious: Was there a doctor diploma awarded after? I am just asking because the real certificate of the degree is the actual diploma (and its English version for international purposes) with ID # and so on. – Greg Jul 7 '15 at 12:37
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    These may not be significant differences: certificates in Japanese universities are often given ad hoc basis, whatever translation is found (own experience), sometimes even translated by the person who requests the certificate (own experience). So the difference may come from accidentally using two different templates. – Greg Jul 7 '15 at 12:39

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