What Can Social Science Students Expect From East Asia?

East Asian universities may seem to be a Wonderland when it comes to natural sciences, engineering, and high-tech in general. What most student populations usually do not consider are the high quality, successful departments of social sciences and humanities that the Asian sub-region offers. If we make a comparison with most of the European top Universities (for example Heidelberg in Germany and Krakow in Poland), we will notice significant differences in the approach towards fields of study like Sociology, Political Science, Law, etc. This certainly doesn’t diminish the significance of the East Asian University environment, it actually makes it more exotic than is commonly understood.

Confucian tradition had by no means a monopoly on political thought in China (although it was always important and is still influential). There was also a wide range of political thinkers and views expressed, elaborated on, argued, and so on. Schools of Legalism, Daoism, and Mohism have long provided a variety of visions not only of what was wrong in the political realm but also what was necessary to achieve stable societies. The field of Sociology emerged in China in the 1920s but was banned during Mao Zedong’s communist regime. The rebirth of sociology in China began with the reestablishment of the Chinese Sociological Association in 1979, thanks to Fei Xiaotong, a pioneering Chinese researcher and professor of sociology and anthropology.

South Korea today is quite an interesting example of a vibrant democracy, a fast-developing economy, and a republic with powers shared between the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. South Korea’s transition from stubbornly authoritarian rule, in 1987, has brought direct presidential elections and the growth of civil society. A mass movement of university students, intellectuals, and other civil society groups was the driving force behind South Korean democratization.

Finally, the Land of the Rising Sun doesn’t lag behind when it comes to important historical events that have had an impact on Japanese society: the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Samurai era, codes, etc. But recently, the status of the social sciences and humanities has been called in question following a letter from education minister Hakubun Shimomura, sent to all of Japan’s 86 national universities, which called on them to close these departments, or to modify them to serve the disciplines that meet Japanese society’s most pressing needs. Although 17 national universities have now restricted the recruitment of students to humanities and social science courses, the country’s most prestigious Universities – Tokyo and Kyoto – have decided not to act in accordance with Shimomura’s request. However, this doesn’t change the fact that Law, Economics, History, and other fields which belong to specified categories are essential disciplines for maintaining a successful community. Japanese students also claim that this move hasn’t changed the quality of education and most of all, their viewpoint on these very fields of study.

Throughout their histories, these countries have gained huge respect for contributing to the world through the social sciences. For students eager to study in such disciplines, their governments offer various scholarships, depending on the countries you live in. They also include some of the top schools, which also belong to the list of the best educational institutions in the world:



The University of Tokyo – The University of Tokyo’s strongest social sciences departments are in politics and international studies (12th in the world), statistics (14th), and economics (19th). Its Institute of Social Science (ISS) Shaken was established in 1946. The institute promotes empirical social science based on the systematic collection of data and conducting comparative studies of high academic standards.



Peking University – In recent years, the humanities and social sciences disciplines at Peking University have advanced in research and in its application to following the trends of the contemporary era. Currently, Peking University has 21 schools and departments in the humanities and social sciences, with 7 first-level national key disciplines, 6 second-level national key disciplines, and 237 research centers. Its highest ratings in the social sciences section of the Rankings by Subject are in politics (21st in the

Seoul National University (SNU) – SNU boasts a very strong global reputation among both academics and employers worldwide. The Rankings by Subject place SNU 28th in the world for communication and media studies, and 30th both for sociology and for politics and international studies.



Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) – Placing sixth overall in the Asia ranking this year, Chinese University of Hong Kong has a strong reputation. Within the social sciences, CUHK gets its strongest scores in the Rankings by Subject for communication and media studies (19=), education (25th), and accounting and finance (27th).

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